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.
Recovering from April Fool’s Day
While the Beatles were a little before this writer’s time, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were coming- of-age favorites, and who can forget the zany ways the controversial artist/musical couple found to make headlines during the 1970s? Is it any wonder they hoaxed the world with a release that they would have dual sex-change operations as their April Fool’s joke in 1970? Sorry, no photos.
Meanwhile, in Great Bend, people woke up to a blanket of snow seven inches deep spanning the entire Golden Belt area, and expected to continue all day and into the night. Schools were closed, meetings cancelled, and driving was hazardous. A Great Bend Tribune photographer with a wry sense of humor snapped a photo of the window display at a department store at Westgate Shopping Center. A mannequin clad in a bikini belied the wintery weather outside.
It was about this time, too, the nation began to get serious about the dangers of smoking, and President Richard Nixon this week signed a bill to limit cigarette advertisements effective Jan. 1, 1971. Belfast, Ireland, erupted in riots also as the Catholic residents clashed with the British Army, as reported in The Great Bend Tribune.
This was also the week that actress Maggie Smith, won her first award for Best Actress in a Feature Film at the 42nd Academy Awards (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). She still enjoys an active career today, playing the roles of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley, in the BBC series Downtown Abbey, and Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies.
County kids achieve
Mary Bartonek, an eighth grade student at St. Ann Catholic School in Olmitz, won the Barton County Science Fair. Representatives from all county schools, private and parochial, came to Harrison Junior High School that Friday and Saturday where they set up their displays. Her experiment focused on the propagation of vining houseplants. Scott Miller, the grand runner-up with a physical science experiment. He was a student at Harrison Junior High.
A former student of Claflin’s Immaculate Conception School, Barrett K. Miller, received his pilot’s license at the age of 17, it was announced this week. The high school senior, now residing with his mom in Minot, N.D., still did not have a regular driver’s license, saying he would rather walk, run, or fly than drive a car because it was safer. Patrons on the boy’s paper route had pooled together the $200 he needed to enter a flying program, and in less than a year, he had 100-plus flying hours, and was working towards a commercial pilot’s license.
The spring election was coming up, and this prompted then Mayor Robert Parrish to issue a mayoral proclamation. First, it’s important to understand that this was one year before the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. Even though young men under the age of 21 were being drafted to fight in Vietnam, they were not allowed to vote. That all changed a year later.
The proclamation designated April 5 to 11 as “The Week of the Voter,” in recognition of all residents of Great Bend, 21 years of age and older who will have the opportunity to exercise their most precious right as citizens of voting this week.”
Voter turnout seemed slow to election workers that year. A total of 542 votes from all four wards had been received by noon that day.
(Last week, readers were promised the answer to the question, “When did Great Bend adopt the city administrator-mayor-council form of government.”
We consulted with Parrish, now long retired, and learned Great Bend currently still has the mayor-council form of government, with the city administrator hired by the governing body. Howard Partington is the city administrator for the City of Great Bend.)
New high school gym
If you’ve ever wondered about the evolution of the Great Bend High School building, here’s some more trivia to add to your collection. It was in 1970 that the current gym was completed. You know, the one where the basketball games and the band performances and dances are held? Yep. That one. At the time, it was called the “physical education annex.” Since then, the Commons and the PAC have been added.
Fortunately, the gym now sports a hardwood floor. The original floor was made of vinyl asbestos tile, a very popular and widely used material at the time. It wasn’t until around 1980 that it was phased out and became illegal to manufacture or sell. Still, because the vinyl bound the asbestos fibers, there was likely little if any danger. It is currently recommended that if such materials are present and in good condition, it is best to not disturb them and to put new flooring over the old. Many structures built before that time still have these materials present.