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Opening borders in 1989
Out of the Morgue
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Courtesy Photos and Graphic This editorial cartoon appeared in The Great Bend Tribune this week in 1989, a commentary on East Germany and West Germany taking down sections of the wall to allow free movement across the border.

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. 

It was this week in 1989 that East Berlin opened its borders and together, East and West Germans began demolishing the Berlin Wall. For a brief time, the possibility of world peace felt real. Throughout the former U.S.S.R., change began, with Romanian students openly protesting before the Communist Party congress, and later in the month, with the resignation of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. 

While the news and images from abroad filled the pages and screens of major media outlets the world over, local newspapers like the Great Bend Tribune still made local news first on page one. Still, the international news from the Associated Press could be found inside, as with this report, “Berlin center of emotional gathering.”

“More than 1 million people poured across borders from East to West and all Germans were the same for the first time in 40 years embracing, laughing, singing and crying together.

“Souvenir hunters snatched up pieces of the Berlin Wall, for 28 years a grim monument to national division and now, suddenly, derelict and going to ruin. 

“East German workers cut two new gaps in it to make passage easier. Border guards reached through the holes to shake hands with West Berlin police, and revelers cheered the symbolic reunion.

“At the Friederichstrasse crossing point, known as Checkpoint Charlie, renowned cellist Mstaislav Rostropovich gave an impromptu concert in front of the section of the wall covered with graffiti.” 

President H.W. Bush was reported to have said he hoped to see the Berlin Wall “down, not just with holes in it.” 

A few days later, another breach in the wall brought additional reconciliation. 

“East Berlin’s mayor strode through a new breach in the Berlin Wall and shook hands with the divided city’s other mayor at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin’s radiant hub before the folly of Hitler, of world war and the Cold War.”

By the end of the week, West Germany had pledged massive financial aid to East Germany provided the Communist nation revamped its centralized economy. It helped to fuel the peaceful revolution happening within East Germany. Still, not all people in that country were ready to embrace change. Leaders of the opposition groups tried to advance protection from AIDS, crime and other western problems as a reason to keep the wall in place. 

30 years later

Today, the wall is gone, but the divisions between East and West are still felt, especially in the areas of wealth and health, even as they continue to grow together once more. The Guardian reported how each side was measuring up in 2015, and you can read more here .

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Jim Daily, Barton County Sheriff in 1989, observes his staff as they train with new Glock 17 pistols they received that week. - photo by File image, Great Bend Tribune
New guns

Meanwhile, in Great Bend, Barton County Sheriff’s Office personnel began carrying and training to use new uniform firearms – Glock 17 semi-auto pistols to be exact. A photo of officers at the shooting range, along with Barton County Sheriff Jim Daily, appeared on the front of the Nov. 9, 1989 edition of the Tribune. 

It wasn’t the newest gun on the block, but it rated high for lightness, accuracy, and safety. Plus, it sounds “cool.”

Daily was a fairly new sheriff at the time, having been sworn into the position earlier in the year in 1989. He served as sheriff until 2001. Today he serves as a Barton County Commissioner, having been appointed to the position last year when Alicia Straub was appointed to the 113th District at the Kansas House of Representatives to fill a seat vacated by Rep. Greg Lewis, who resigned for health reasons. 

Gunpowder concerns

Speaking of guns, the start of the fall hunting season prompted Great Bend Fire Chief Richard Meisinger to urge people to take care in storing gunpowder used for reloading ammunition that week, after learning of a “local resident who stored over 50 pounds of powder ... a lot more than the fire chief would like to see residents keep on hand.” 

Guidelines for those retailing the powder were stringent, but for residents, the regulations didn’t apply, and it was left to their own judgment. Meisinger hoped their judgment was sound. Ordinances published by the National Fire Protection Association are now available for municipalities to adopt, so it’s a good idea to check city ordinances to make sure you are in compliance. 

In the article, Meisinger recommend a maximum of 5 pounds of smokeless powder or 1 pound of black powder be kept on hand, and suggested primers or percussion caps be stored separately. Also, keep in a cool, dry spot where children can’t get near, far from accelerants and close to the floor. 

“Meisinger said he saw one incident in which a person had stored black powder in a closet and it was ignited. The resulting blast tore through the closet, an interior wall and blew out a section of the exterior wall of the house.” 

It’s that time of year again. Gunpowder hasn’t changed in the past 30 years, so take heed. 

Just for fun

Seventh graders sound off about movies

Every Monday, USD 428 students sat down with reporters, and that week, the students at Roosevelt Junior High School shared their ideas with Dale Hogg about movies they’d make if they could. Josh Brooks, Kari Wahlgren, Brandon Espinosa, Jason DeBerry, Krissie Thompson and David Rasenen were all in seventh grade. Their films reflected Hollywood offerings at the time, including movies about Vietnam, space, action adventure, and drama. Kari Wahlgren envisioned a movie about biologists studying wolves, and the star of her movie would be Michael Craword from the Broadway musical “Phantom of the Opera.” Her friend, Krissie Thompson, preferred a movie about friendship, and would cast Kari as the star of her movie. We Googled both girls, and while we were unable to find a lead on Krissie Thompson, we did find Kari Wahlgren, who went on to become a popular voice actress. Check out her filmography here.