Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.
This week in 1954, President Eisenhower offered aid to South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. According to the website, History.com, “Eisenhower made it clear to Diem that U.S. aid to his government during Vietnam’s “hour of trial” was contingent upon his assurances of the “standards of performance [he] would be able to maintain in the event such aid were supplied.” Eisenhower called for land reform and a reduction of government corruption. Diem agreed to the “needed reforms” stipulated as a precondition for receiving aid, but he never actually followed through on his promises. Ultimately his refusal to make any substantial changes to meet the needs of the people led to extreme civil unrest and eventually a coup by dissident South Vietnamese generals in which Diem and his brother were murdered.” Thus, the course was set for the Vietnam conflict.
Meanwhile, in Great Bend, young men prepared to enter the military service.
Last bird out of the nest
Mrs. Hugh Carmichael prepared for her seventh son, Jerry Magie, 19, to by sworn into the armed forces the day before the election in 1954.
“Mrs. Hugh Carmichael, mother of the boys, in addition to three girls, took a calm view of her youngest son entering the service. “He wants to go and I’m proud that he feels that way. I’m sure he’ll get along alright,” she said. “Of course I’ll be lost around the house without him and the knowledge that he’s liable to come busting through the door at any minute,” she explained.
Jerry was ready. “Like many another youth, he grew tired of waiting to be inducted and volunteered. And Monday morning he’ll do the same thing his six brothers have done before him. He’ll be on the train when it pulls out and take a long look backward at Great Bend...”
Jerry graduated from Great Bend High School in 1952, and he did make it back from service, taking part in VFW boxing activities, marrying and settling in West Covina, Calif.
Bond issue sought
The annual November election was only a few days away, so then as now the pages of The Tribune were full of election related stories and advertisements--albeit much more informative and less cut throat than today. One of the issues on the ballot was to make provisions for the building of a new Kansas National Guard armory. The upcoming vote prompted a parade of tanks and other military vehicles along Main Street in Great Bend the Saturday afternoon before the vote.
It was a cold day, but the photo opportunities were too tempting to miss. First, the parade.
“Equally impervious to the climate were officers and city officials of the reviewing stand set up on the back of a big guard truck parked in front of the court house square. On hand for the review were Mag. Gen. Joe Nickell, Kansas adjutant general; Major Elva Gray, fifth army officer attached to the local unit; Merle Jordan and Bill Whorton representing Veteran of Foreign Wars; Harold Hollis, commander of the American Legion and Lt. Paul A. Fuhr, commanding the Great Bend National Guard unit.”
The bond issue passed, and today, the armory stands on the north side of 19th street, south of Brit Spaugh park and across the street from Great Bend High School.
Painting the town...orange
Then, the Halloween activities. Great Bend observed Halloween a day early, as it fell on Sunday that year.
“Halloween reached a climax here Saturday night with a student dance at the city auditorium, after a day of excitement that really got off to a good start in the afternoon when children from all over the city descended upon the downtown store windows, armed with paint brushes and bottles of show card colors, to transform the plate glass into an autumnal wonderland of black cats, blue skies and orange hob-goblins.
“Ghosts and skeletons were especially rampant as the young artists wielded their palettes and brushes all over the windows without fear of being molested by the owners or the police.”
Paint for the plate glass and prizes for the kids were courtesy of the Great Bend Jaycees, chaired by Dr. B. L. Gregory.
The cold made for an enticing reason to get out to the park that night. The Jaycees also provided wood for a giant bonfire at Brit Spaugh park. The wood came from 25 old outhouses, sheds and other discarded buildings.
“In the early part of the evening, after the window decorating and before the dance, children of the city gathered at the park for an old fashioned Walpurgis night of it with a bonfire started by the fire department as a means of giving a silent lecture on fire safety. (Editor note: Walpurgis is the German term for Hallowe’en).”
The police gave special commissions to 14 GBHS letter men for the night, enlisting them to assist with patrolling the areas where activities were ongoing. That was pretty wise, because the result was a fun evening with only a few minor disturbances.