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, the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team became the first major league team where the majority of players were black. Only a few years earlier, the color line had been broken with the team’s signing of Jackie Robinson. Pressure to open the league was a result of World War II, with white and black soldiers fighting together.
It was also this week that construction began on the iconic American theme park, Disneyland. A year later, the first guests experienced the magic that was nearly a quarter century in the making. And television, still in its infancy, had paved the way. The fledgling network, ABC, had made a deal with Disney to be a partner in the venture in exchange for weekly television programming, and other good and valuable consideration.
Water in the news
The Kansas summer was taking its toll on the surrounding area. The Great Bend Daily Tribune carried stories daily on the effects of the ongoing drought and 100-plus degree days. Many cities in neighboring counties (83 statewide according to the United Press) instituted severe water restrictions Russell made headlines because it would be supplementing the city’s supply with water from Cedar Bluff Reservoir. Hays congratulated residents for their conservation efforts and the city manager was reported to be planning to ask the city to construct a one-million gallon reservoir to supplement the city’s existing water supply.
Clearly, the residents of Great Bend had a good thing going for them due to their geographical positioning, and The Great Bend Daily Tribune’s publisher, William Townsley, weighed in with his editorial commentary.
“If all the other good things about Great Bend were eliminated from consideration, Great Bend’s abundant water supply alone would make it one of the best towns in the state in which to live.”
In 2014, after an extended drought, Great Bend continues to maintain an ample water supply and has not seen the mandatory conservation measures of other Kansas cities, once again.
Sink or swim
Great Bend continued to have a wealth of water at its disposal. Enough to fill the city pool and enough to water the grass at Brit Spaugh Park.
Swimming lessons went on as usual, and lifeguard training was part of that. Instructor Glenn D. Opie was preparing to teach senior and junior life-saving and water safety classes at the city pool and put out the call to the community for some help.
“Opie asked that anyone who has a canoe or small boat that might be used in the final tests call him at 4078 after 5 p.m.”
It’s getting harder today to find a Red Cross Lifeguarding class. In fact, a quick look on RedCross.org reveals that the only water-related safety classes available within 25 miles of Great Bend are courses with online content only. So, how does the Great Bend Rec find certified lifeguards to work at the city pool today?
Since the City of Great Bend took over management of the Great Bend Aquatics Center, Terry Hoff now hires the lifeguards. Devan Boeger, the pool manager, is certified by the Red Cross as a Lifeguard Training Instructor, and each year in March, usually over spring break, she teaches a week-long class for lifeguard certification. So, mark your calendars for next March if this interests you.
City officials and residents alike were concerned about children drinking from sprinklers. The headline, “Don’t Drink from Sprinklers!” stated “City officials and numerous residents of the city joined Wednesday (July 21) in a warning to boys and girls not to drink water from lawn sprinklers over the city.
“Many of the sprinklers, it was pointed out, draw their water from shallow wells, some of which are higher than the city sewer lines...Garth Russell, city sanitarian, pointed out,”This first water from which many wells draw their supply is very likely to be contaminated and it should not be drunk under any circumstances,” he said.
And today, the same is true. People should refrain from drinking out of sprinklers around Great Bend. Since the city does not require well-users to post a notice, it’s impossible to be absolutely certain where the water is coming from. According to Charlie Suchy, Utility Superintendent with the City of Great Bend, the city water supply comes from a depth below 100 feet. The average homeowner’s well goes down only 25 to 30 feet.
Meanwhile, baseball was in full swing. According to the July 18 edition,”The Great Bend BAn Johnson western division first half champions announced Saturday the signing of two new players, though one is still the property of the Denver WEstern League club and must secure his release.”
The Great Bend American Legion Juniors were racking up victories, 17-2. Manager Al Burns had recently brought in Harold Curtis, Hudson’s contribution to the Legion team. Curtis was the winning pitcher is a series against Ness City. But another pitcher, Twily Leek, was named as the most likely by Burns to pitch in a game coming up against Pratt.
“The American Legion post is organizing several carloads of fans to make the trip to Pratt Friday and pull for “their kids.” A victory over Dodge City (Usually a jinx team for Great Bend clubs) would qualify Burns’ pastimers for the state tournament.”
Recreational softball was active too, with games reported by local teams with names like The Railroaders, the Lutherans, the Eagles and the Drillers. Local stories mingled with stories about Major League games.
Today, the Great Bend American Legion Argonne post continues to sponsor league baseball, with the AAA Chiefs. The city, too, has gone to great lengths to provide state-of-the art baseball and softball facilities at the Great Bend Sports Complex on the south west end of town.