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
The Republican National Convention was happening this week in 1948, with many supporting the Dewey-Warren ticket, in lieu of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was not inclined to accept a nomination that go around.
It was also starting to look more and more bleak for Berliners residing in the Soviet controlled portion of that city. With the countries that controlled the other three sectors of the city moving forward with plans to introduce a new currency, the Soviets were stepping up searches of anything and everything coming into their area to ensure the old currency was not being dumped. It wouldn’t be long before a true “Iron Curtain” was in place.
But, politics aside, it was also this week in 1948 that listening to music at home became a whole lot nicer thanks to the introduction of the 331/3 LP, which stands for “long play.” With its introduction, plans were put into place to phase out the shorter 78’s.
The numbers 45, 33.3, and 78 refer to rotations per minute. The new albums spun much slower than the common 78, which lasted about 4 minutes per side (compared to 22 minutes per side on the 33), and replaced those strange vertical tubes that were the first recordings produced by Thomas Edison.
Great Bend had a record shop near the library downtown, but there was no mention this week about the big change. The advertisement that ran in the paper this week in 1948 listed several popular selections available from artists like Peggy Lee, Buddy Clark, and Hank Williams. There were also children’s recordings like “Mickey and the Beanstalk (from “Fun and Fancy Free”) performed by Johnny Mercer.
Later in the 1950s, the smaller and less expensive 45 rpm was released, making it easier for younger people to own the songs they wanted. But, they were still pricey compared to today, when a song can be had for a dollar by downloading its code from the internet...if you’re inclined to pay for it, that is.
Memorial Stadium contract
Today in 1948, the contract was signed between the school district and contractor Chief Manufacturing Co. of Salt Lake City to construct Memorial Stadium. At the same time, Buford Bissell, member of the Quarterback Club, announced a new fundraising drive to raise $7,000 for additional improvements on the stadium. It was anticipated the stadium would be complete in time for the 1948 high school football season.
“The contract for the stadium, which will be of steel and concrete construction with a seating capacity of 2,070, was for $23,701.50 The school board, in addition to the stadium, has purchased 4,000 wooden bleachers which will line the north, east and south sides of the football field. The stadium will be located on the west side. The bleachers plus the stadium will thus seat more than 6,000 persons.”
The combined total was later estimated to be $45,000.
Since then, wooden bleachers have been replaced with an addition to the stadium on the east side of the field, artificial turf installed, and the track encircling the field has recently been redone. It is clear, Panther pride continues to run strong in Great Bend.
Local girl’s fashion sense celebrated
Often during the 1940s and 1950s, photos of young Hollywood ingenues could be found throughout the Great Bend Tribune with little bits of gossip in the captions. So, it was our happy surprise when we read the caption under one such photograph, only to learn that the person pictured was a local, and Instead of gossip, she was being celebrated not for her acting or modeling talent, but for her creativity and skill in the realm of fashion.
“Mary Ann Merten, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd W. Merten of Route 1, Great Bend, is shown modelling the gown which she designed as a student at Lindenwood college, St. Charles, Mo., and which won for her honorable mention in a recent contest conducted by the St. Louis Fashion Creators, a group of 110 St. Louis apparel manufacturers.”
In the same edition, in the Society column, we learn that Mary Ann also knew hospitality. “Breakfast and Bridge for College Classmate given by Miss Merten,” topped the column that day.
Miss Mary Ann Merten was hostess at a 9 o’clock breakfast, followed by bridge at the Gateway Country Club Monday morning as a courtesy for Miss Retta Desmond of Independence, Mo. Miss Desmond and Miss Merten were classmates this past year at Lindenwood college.
Great Bend was lucky to welcome Miss Merten back into the fold, it turns out. She went on to marry, becoming Mary Ann Mull, and raise a family, serving many roles in the community, among them Sunday School teacher and “church mother,” according to Barton County Historical Society Museum researcher Karen Neuforth, who remembers her in that role fondly. We attempted to reach Mary Ann via telephone in Colorado, where she now resides, but were unsuccessful prior to publication.
Just for fun
In the June 21, 1948 Tribune, we found an public service announcement reminding readers not to throw away used fats.
This prompted an internet search that turned up a piece in The Atlantic, “Turning Bacon into Bombs: the American Fat Salvage Committee,” which included the following.
“The American Fat Salvage Committee was created to urge housewives to save all the excess fat rendered from cooking and donate it to the army to produce explosives. As explained to Minnie Mouse and Pluto in one wartime video, fats are used to make glycerin, and glycerin is used to make things blow up.”
Women, it turned out, were reluctant to turn in the fat, though. During the war, rationing was stiff, and vegetable oils expensive. Then, it was practically routine to save fats to reuse. The committee encouraged saving the fats until they filled a 1 lb. metal can, and then they could be turned in for $.04 That’s right, four cents. Oh, plus a few extra ration points.
The Atlantic article didn’t mention anything about after the war though, but simply the practice ended after the war ended in 1945.