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Out of the Morgue
Fall fun in 1935
otm vlc louis-baer illustration
The Albany, N.Y. Evening News featured this illustration of Joe Louis and Max Baer on the front page of its Sept. 25, 1935 edition. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

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 1935, Earl Bascom and brother Weldon Bascom of Columbia, Miss., elevated the American cowboy to new heights of fame when they produced the first rodeo ever held outdoors under electric lights.
According to the blog, Screen Doors and Saddles, Earl Bascom posthumously received the prestigious 2014 Cowboy Keeper Award in honor of his international contributions in the promotion and preservation of the pioneer and cowboy culture.  He was a cousin to bronze sculptor Charles Russell, and followed in his footsteps creating his own bronze sculptures, subjects taken from his life as a cowboy.  He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in fine art, and Bascom was declared by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Artists Association to be the first professional rodeo cowboy to become a professional cowboy artist and sculptor.

Louis - Baer fight mania
The occasion went completely under the radar in Great Bend, where attention was on the sports enthusiasts on Sept. 24 were excited about the upcoming heavyweight fight between former champion Max Baer and the “Brown Bomber,” Joe Louis.   The following day, after “...the million dollar spectacle last night featured by Louis’ four-round knockout of Max Baer,” the world learned Louis had married shortly before the fight, and would be heading out on a world tour with his new bride in November.  Some honeymoon.  But Louis did go on to become one of the best boxers in the history of the sport.  In fact, the only boxer that has won more fights is Muhammad Ali.  
People made unusual bets on the fight, and the losers of a couple were featured front page Sept. 25. According to the AP wire story from Kansas City, “Dominick Peppe, 16, pushed Paul Lapuma, 16, in a wheelbarrow for an hour because he lost a bet on the Baer-Louis prize fight.  At Temple, Texas, Gene Johnson lost also.  He is to climb a tree Sunday and remain aloft 48 hours.”
Locally, the feature column, Town Talk, told the story of Jimmie James and Tom Maher, who were arguing about the Baer-Louis fight, “which ended so disastrously for the former last night.  Jimmie was scoffing at Baer’s inability to hit Louis while the latter was poking him with about eight straight lefts. Jimmie said that even if he was probably the worst fighter in the world he could hit any man before he got hit eight times straight.  He even offered to bet $25.00 on the proposition and Tom decided it was a setup.  They haven’t decided on the price of admission, the place for the bout, and several other details and they have agreed to wait until after the circus so they can draw a good crowd.  There is a “slim” possibility that the event will never reach a head according to the two men, because of the difficulties in clearing up minor details, such as delinquent insurance policies, wills, etc.”
According to Lee Groves, a writer for The Ring magazine, “Although Louis was a military veteran, he did not qualify for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. President Ronald Reagan, recognizing Louis’ unique contributions to the nation, waived those requirements and cleared the way for the Brown Bomber to be laid to rest with full military honors.”

September circus circuit
In the fall, circus trains made their circuit through the central states on their way home to Texas and other sunbelt states, and Great Bend was visited by many over the years.  In 1935, the circus was the Hagenbeck Wallace & 4 Paw-Sells Bros Combined Circus.  It would be set up at the Pritchard grounds on South Main Street, where most circuses were featured in town, due to its close proximity to the railroad.  The circus promised a chance to see Alice and her baby hippopotamus.  The Great Bend Tribune, like most papers, benefitted from the circus because of the huge, quarter and half-page advanced advertisements.  The paper responded with special priced admission for children bearing the advertised coupon.  That year, a man, likely fictional, named Bon Turner offered to give away two tickets to the circus to the winner of an essay contest.  
“Tell ‘em that my tractor and one-way is still in the bottom of Walnut creek and I’ve been so busy attending the medicine show I haven’t had time to figure out how to get ‘em out of the creek.  I will leave two tickets to the circus with you here and you give ‘em to the person who writes the best 50-word letter on how to get my tractor and one-way out of the creek.  That letter must be at The Tribune office before noon Friday and addressed to me.  The tickets will be ready for the inner at 1 o’clock Friday afternoon, so he can go to the afternoon show with my compliments.  I read in The Tribune where Mr. Dodge ways it’s going to rain by October 1st and I want my machinery out of the creek before then sure.”
Bon Turner, it was noted, had a son named Popeye, who was responsible for running the machinery into the creek several days before.  

Bottoms project on the table again
Discussion about designating the Cheyenne Bottoms as a wildlife refuge were once again underway.  A fresh start had been made on a critical biological survey needed to determine how the government should proceed.  From 1930 to 1935, the Bottoms had dried up due to drought, so the survey had been halted.  
“Residents of this territory welcomed the news from Washington today that the biological survey had renewed its interest in the Cheyenne Bottoms game refuge project.”
This news coincided with the news that Don (Noodles) Seward planned to leave that day for Jamestown, near Concordia.  He was taking a job with the state that would put him in charge of that duck hunting “pond” which covered 750 acres.  
“There are 42 double blinds on the lake,” the article mentioned.  “Mr. Seward said he had been informed that ducks were already beginning to arrive at the lake.  Several Great Bend hunters have made arrangements for Seward to keep them informed as to hunting conditions, indicating that they would participate in shooting there.”
Since then, the Jamestown Reservoir and Jamestown Wildlife Refuge were created thanks to the granting of land from private individuals.  It, too, is a critical migration stop, and a favorite hunting spot for dove, waterfowl, and deer in North Central Kansas.  
Just for fun
The University of Kansas had a strange custom in 1935, readers of the Great Bend Tribune learned in an article, “Paddling Scheduled For Freshmen Without Caps”.
“Freshmen, both men and women, will be inducted into the college at a traditional ceremony tomorrow night in the college stadium.  The newcomers will repeat the pledge of fidelity to the university.
“Yearlings then are to don their caps and wear them until the close of the football season.  Those caught on the campus or at football games run the risk of running the gauntlet between lines of husky upperclassmen armed with barrel-stave paddles.”