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.
Amazingly, little attention was paid to the developments at NASA this week in 1985. The Space Shuttle Columbia carried Spacelab into orbit, paving the way for numerous off-planet scientific mission. And the Challenger vehicle moved to the launch pad for the STS 61A mission. The space shuttle program was beginning to feel like yesterday’s news in fact. Meanwhile, Intel introduced a 32-bit microcomputer chip, and made obsolete the wildly popular Commodore 64 8-bit computers that brought personal computing to the masses.
Attention was instead focused on the plight of tourists unlucky enough to have been cruising on the Achille Lauro. Passengers were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists who hoped to have orchestrate a prisoner exchange. The tense situation resulted in the shooting death of one elderly and disabled passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, New York, before the rest of the passengers were rescued. Developments were front page features on the Great Bend Tribune throughout the week.
One such AP story, “America wins one round in war against terrorism,” heralded the conclusion of the situation as something experts marked as “a turning point in the battle against international terrorism.”
“It should dispel the notion once and for all that the United States is a paper tiger in the face of terrorist attacks, these experts say...And it demonstrates that international cooperation can and does work in halting terrorists.” Not quite.
But Tribune News Editor Bob Fairbanks, wasn’t fooled. In one of his editorials that week, he wrote, “There is lots of talk about combatting terrorism and respect for life, but when it comes to internationals politics and trade, it’s all talk.”
Oil man recognized
Locally, George McKown, president of DaMac Drilling Inc., was elected first vice president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC). According to the Oct. 13, 1985 story, the IADC consists of over 750 oil and gas drilling contractors operating more than 6,000 rigs in 33 countries and employing more than 125,000 people. McKown was scheduled to speak at each chapter in the coming year, and travel internationally to Norway and Singapore. In addition to his drilling company, McKown served on the city council, the Boy Scouts, and First Congregational Church.
He was the son of four boys, and named the family business for his first son, David McKown. David was part owner in the recently closed but popular barbecue restaurant Johnsons Barbecue. He was also the father of Bill McKown, now deceased, who is credited as a major donor of the recently unveiled sculpture, “Winged Aspiration,” located at the Shafer Art Gallery at Barton Community College. George McKown died in 2008, donating his body to science for the study the effects of Myasthenia Gravis; an incurable, debilitating, and insidious disease that he battled for over fifteen years, according to his online obituary.
That same paper carried a quarter page ad from Peoples State Bank and Trust Co. featuring agricultural lending specialist Craig Neeland. He made a career of banking, now listed as the Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending at Farmers Bank and Trust.
Cabbage Patch Kid spin-off
Ah--there is some Space Shuttle related news, it turns out. It’s really a long shot though. The coming weekend would be the EHU Holiday fair, and EHU chapters were busy preparing for the event. Pictured in a collage of photos leading up to the event, Leslie Mingenback, Carol Deema and Sally Allison were busy setting up their display of “Pumpkin Patch Pals.” The soft-molded toys were a take off on the 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon. The pumpkins even came with adoption papers. In 1985, a Cabbage Patch Kid was the first toy taken into space. The doll, “Christopher Xavier”, named after the creator of the first hand-made doll Cabbage Patch Kids were based on, dressed in an astronaut costume, travelled with the Space Shuttle crew. At least, that is the popular mythology. We tried to confirm the date and the mission, but were unable to.
EHU stood for Extension Homemakers Unit, which was one incarnation of the present-day FCE, Family and Community Education.
Cabbage Patch Kids were recently forever linked to the 1980s when the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with one of the notoriously “so ugly they’re cute” dolls featured, along with photos of the Space Shuttle and the Berlin Wall.