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 NFL championship game reached double digits this week in 1976 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17 in Miami. For many, a winter trip to Florida would have been tempting enough, but the glitz and glamour of football’s championship game made it for some a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For others, readers of the Great Bend Tribune learned, it provided the perfect foil for scam artists make their marks.
“Swindler takes superbowl fans,” the headline on the Miami Associated Press story, shared the plight of victims of cons.
“Up to 5,000 football fans sulked in hotel rooms or threw themselves at the mercy of scalpers after learning they had been swindled out of Super Bowl tickets in a “too-good-to-be-true”package tour to Florida, police say.”
A group calling itself Super Tours International and claiming to be associated with the International Travel Bureau contacted travel agents in several states and offered the package deals,police said.
Tempers flared the most at the Fort Lauderdale Sheraton Hotel, where police had to quiet several hundred fans who learned shortly before the game that they had no tickets.
Days later, the world witnessed the first commercial flights of the Supersonic Concorde jet by Britain and France. This provided the average person a chance to experience speeds and comfort that for the previous seven years only those in elite positions had privately had.
According to Business Insider’s online magazine, “Its maximum speed was twice the speed of sound, reaching up to 1,370 mph, and it transported passengers from New York to London in less than 3.5 hours...Concorde saw its last flight on October 24, 2003, and flying has only gotten worse since.”
While the plane could fly twice the speed of sound, it burned an awful lot of fuel, and was expensive to maintain. The Concordes, thus, were taken out of surface in the early 2000s when gas prices started to go up, and economic concerns caused corporations to tighten their belts. Also, a tragic crash in 2000 which killed 113 passengers brought flights to a halt--though it was the only crash the plane had ever had. Today, top speeds are around 600 to 700 miles per hour for commercial flights, and will likely remain so as long as belt-tightening continues.
Zoo on chopping block
Tightening belts, actually, was the concern of the day in Great Bend in 1976. As city council people considered how to pen the budget for the coming year, some darling projects were scrutinized and calls were made to cut them. One sacred cow was the city zoo.
“Seeking places to cut the budget, the city of Great Bend is considering closing the zoo, charging a sewer tax, and giving up the ambulance service among other things,” read the front page lede.
The city was faced with cutting $295,000 in the 1977 budget. Due to laws at the time, the city could not raise more taxes. Admission to the zoo was considered, as were charges to permitted teams to use the lighted ball parks. Closing the entire zoo could save $50,000 to $60,000, it was noted.
Predictably, stops were pulled to ensure these services were not cut, and that is why today the Great Bend Brit Spaugh zoo continues to provide a free entertainment option to visitors and residents. Ambulance service, too, is something the community is proud to offer, and many would be shocked to learn it’s elimination was ever actually considered.
Sewer fees, however, are part of life today, so some of the measures went through at least.
TV gaining popularity
The second in a three-part series by Great Bend Tribune Area Editor Gary Wright addressed the ways television was beginning to affect area students in school. The story highlighted concerns that it was not unusual for students to read at below-grade level, and many were also faltering in writing skills.
“It isn’t totally the school’s fault that many students read sluggishly and write poorly. The parents’ role in the declining language art skills is as instrumental, if not more, than any other factor. The example parents set can have profound impressions on how a child gets along in school. A child’s attitudes about school and work are formed at home as well as in school. High School Journalism Teacher John Mohn, along with high school counselors Sandy Teeple and Dale Carpenter, and junior high teacher Lucille Lucas.
And for many students, work was a higher priority than school. For others, leisure activities like television were the culprits. All this led up to the district’s renewed dedication to focusing on reading and writing skills.
And now, 40 years later, reading and writing are again the focus as schools attempt to help students catch up to the rest of the world in academics. Part of the push includes a new technology initiative, as reported last month in the Tribune.
“Thanks to a $327,405 grant from the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation, Great Bend USD 428 is preparing to buy hundreds of Chromebooks and iPad tablets in 2016.”
Just for fun
This week was spirit week at GBHS, and candidates for Basketball Homecoming Queen, as well as attendants were announced in the Great Bend Tribune. Today, while homecoming still takes place between girls and boys basketball games, other sports are acknowledged by default. Winter Homecoming is the official name now. And the focus is shared equally between boys and girls, with the crowing of a king and queen. Go Title 9. The ground breaking legislation was interpreted and implemented throughout the 1970s, and continues to be interpreted today, and it’s done a lot to promote sports, healthy living and healthy attitudes.