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.
Baseball and softball season is right around the corner, and soon people of all ages will be choosing teams and heading to baseball diamonds at parks and schools to practice this great American pastime. Despite this weekend’s snowy weather, warmer days are ahead. Looking back 80 years, the announcement that baseball legend Babe Ruth was leaving the New York Yankees and signing with the Boston Braves was a big deal in the sports world.
“Babe Ruth, for 21 years brightest star of the American League, today was given his release by the New York Yankees, and immediately signed a three-year contract with the Boston Braves of the rival National League as vice-president and assistant manager.”
This was the news that readers of the Great Bend Tribune read on Monday morning, Feb. 26, 1935. Ruth, apparently, took care of business as soon as he returned state side after a round-the-world cruise. No one was talking about the terms Ruth was making the move, although it was acknowledged he would make more in 1935 with the Braves than he made with the Yankees in 1934--$35,000. That sounds like small change by today’s standards, but according to DollarTimes.com, “$35,000.00 in 1935 had the same buying power as $613,314.93 in 2015. Annual inflation over this period was 3.64%.”
And, according to HardBallTalk.nbcsports.com, it’s only been in very recent years that baseball players have made the big bucks. It is estimated that adjusted for inflation, Babe Ruth’s best year was probably $1.4 million dollars. Like most people that make the big time, he was one of the top couple of percent, but only for a short time.
But Babe Ruth didn’t get where he did because he loved money. He loved the game. And he was happy to return home to Boston, where he began his major league career in 1914 with the Boston Red Sox.
“If the old legs will hold out I think I should be able to play at least 100 games this year,” Ruth told reporters.
His name today is on one of the largest youth development leagues around--Babe Ruth Baseball. Cal Ripken Baseball is part of that corporate brand, and kids in Barton County enjoy the game and all its benefits every year. The organization puts kids first, encouraging them to play baseball by the rules and with class, lessons to take into the other aspects of their lives.
A gruesome discovery was made along the ditch adjacent to Hwy 4 northwest of Hoisington Monday morning, Feb. 25.
“Ed Hawkins was murdered, found dead in a ditch on Hwy 4 Northwest of Hoisington, after apparently crawling 300 yards and bleeding profusely. It was also apparent he’d been punched in the face.”
Police were actively looking for his step-father, Fletcher Summerville, who worked as a porter for the Zarah Hotel in Great Bend. The two had left Great Bend Sunday in Mr. Hawkins’ car, presumably to go to Hoisington. They began to piece together a picture of their last hours, that were apparently spent in Olmitz the night before.
“ ‘Some’ suspects had been picked up and were being questioned in the sheriff’s office this afternoon relative to the death of Ed Hawkins, and the disappearance of Hawkins’ step father, Fletcher Summerville, according to Herbert Diets, county attorney.”
The two men were described in the Tribune as the best of friends, and gone to spend a day of fun. It was Summerville’s car, a 1929 Chevrolet coach they’d taken. Hawkins drove because Summerville could not.
“Diets said officers believed at least one or two other men joined them later Sunday night and an argument ensued, followed by a fight.”
Justice was trying to move quickly. An inquest was begun at Hoisington the day the body was found. After looking over his body, and seeing the other evidence at the scene, the jury found Hawkins had met with foul play.
A few days later, the Hutchinson News picked up the story, and added a few other shades to the story. For one, Hawkins was found without shoes, thinly clad, and as it was described, had gravel and road grit under his nails and had clearly drug himself several yards before losing a lot of blood and freezing. Through their reporting, it was clear Fletcher Summerville, whom they disclosed was a black man, was being tried in the press for the murder of his step-son, despite the fact that he was found a few miles further west on the same highway near his abandoned car, frozen to death.
“But Summerville had also frozen to death. Apparently he had abandoned the car only two miles away from the spot where Hawkins had fallen or been thrown from the car. He started to walk, and then fell dead or dying, to freeze later. But there were no marks on his body and no evidence of foul play.”
There was no mention of the suspects picked up for questioning. Sadly, we were unable to find more. Could the men have picked up the wrong “friends” who took out the younger and stronger of the two and left him for dead, and then perhaps robbed and abandoned the old man and ditched his car? The world will likely never know.
Summerville was likely missed for a brief period at the Zarah, but we imagine it wouldn’t be long before a new man took the job of porter. Today, the Zarah building is where Perks Coffee and Silverback Labs are located.
While buffalo herds are becoming more commonplace today, 80 years ago, what was left of the buffalo was confined to reservations and lands in the western part of the state. A story out of Garden City suggested that buffalo steaks could be had again. But only for a limited time. One bull who would not stay put had already been slaughtered, and out of the remaining herd of 10, the other two bulls would soon be slaughtered.
“The buffalo bulls, which are being turned into steaks, are those which could not be kept in the confines of the reserve. They broke out of the fence and roamed the hills of western Kansas, possibly seeking the lost herd.”
Today, there are very few full blooded buffalo left. Most have at least some cattle blood. According to Wikipedia, “Though approximately 500,000 bison exist on private ranches and in public herds, some people estimate that perhaps only 15,000 to 25,000 of these bison are pure and are not actually bison-cattle hybrids.”
Stronger fencing and larger ranges are needed to contain them but their meat is in demand because it is naturally lower in fat and has a unique taste.