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 also no joke that one of the largest tsunamis on record, generated by a quake in the Aleutian Trench, struck Hilo Hawaii on April 1, 1946. A few days later, it was reported that Mr. and Mrs. Harry Mitchell of Honolulu, former residents of Great Bend and Mr. Mitchell the former manager of the country club, who were en route to Hoisington to visit his brother, John Mitchell and wife, might have been in the midst of the tidal wave.
Mitchell’s son, Glen, his wife and two children lived in Hilo, the center of the wave, and another son, Donald, a school teacher in Honolulu, were mentioned.
Thanks to the research expertise of Karen Neuforth, Barton County Historical Society, we learned no one in the Mitchell family did not die in the tsunami. An obituary in the Great Bend Daily Tribune, dated June 20, 1952, confirmed Harry Mitchell died June 18, 1952, in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he made his home for the previous 19 years. His funeral and burial was held in Honolulu. It also noted that he and his brother John were the first twins born in Great Bend.
According to Wikipedia, “ In response an early warning system, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, was established in 1949 to track these killer waves and provide warning. This tsunami also caused the end of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway, and instead the Hawaii Belt Road was built north of Hilo using some of the old railbed.”
In the aftermath of World War II, President Harry Truman this week made an announcement that he would extend the draft and would push for the authority to draft the nation’s youth for one year of military training in order to provide a reserve of trained citizens against future emergencies. He also would announce the early enactment of army-navy merger legislation to create a single department of national defense in which the air forces would have equal status. The announcement would be made April 6, which was declared Army Day. That day, he would convene a special news conference in Chicago’s Blackstone hotel for about 100 writers fro high school and college papers in the Chicago area. At that conference, it was reported, Truman was asked by young people about his position on the voting age, which was still 21 years.
He told them:
“He didn’t see why any intelligent boy or girl of 18 should not have the right to vote if they prepare themselves since they proved in time of war that they can shoulder citizenship’s highest duty. There’s no reason why the ballot shouldn’t be extended to them in every state, he added.”
Still, it would take 25 years to constitutionally change the voting age throughout the country. The 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed into law July 1, 1971. It was the fastest amendment ever to be ratified.
Spring election time
In Barton County this week, it was time for Municipal elections, and all over the state citizens would be asked to decide on bond issues and tax proposals for things like waterworks improvements, garbage disposal systems, recreational programs, schools, airport improvements and city buildings and parks.
In Great Bend, the issue was school bonds. The Mayor, H.P. “Hody” Thies, took out a large ad in the paper the day before the election urging citizens to go to the polls, and to vote yes on school bonds.
A reminder ran in the paper, “Good Citizens Vote.”
“One of the obligations every individual takes when he or she reaches 21 is the responsibility of deciding what kind of government the people shall have. That can be done only by voting. There is an election Tuesday. Do your duty.”
This year will be the last spring election in the State of Kansas, thanks to a new law created in 2015 that will require all regular elections to happen in November.
The bond issue, by the way, passed, and other good news for schools included the school board’s vote to increase teacher salaries by 9.25 percent. No fooling. The meeting ran late--until after midnight in fact. At the time, the base annual salary for a teacher was $1,650, plus an additional $100 for a bachelor’s degree and still another $100 for a master’s degree. An additional $100 per year up to four years service to Great Bend’s schools was also added.
New business starts
Optimism was high all over the country following the war, and Great Bend was no exception. It was reported Barton County was doing very well with oil starts at this time, with several new producers coming on line each week, and several new test wells being dug as fast as they could be started.
Returning veterans were itching to get to work in the civilian world, so several new businesses were in the works. This week alone, it was announced that Navy veteran C.E. Renner would open a pasteurizing plant,
Harold Powell, a long-time Great Bend grocer, announced plans to build a meat processing plant a quarter mile west of the Arkansas river bridge. He located his business on the road that led to the Thies Packing Plant. He also had plans to expand into fruits and vegetables.
Albert Foeigner, Jr., returned from the Army where he was a baker, with plans to reopen the family bakery, Moore Bakery, which was active around the turn of the century. His mother was part owner of the building at 2021 Forest where it once operated. He would go into the venture with his cousin’s husband, Bob Smith.
Here is a trivial fact gleaned from the 1946 Tribune: Ten times as many Americans paid an income tax after World War II began than before - the number of taxpayers rising from 4,000,000 to more than 40,000,000.”
Housing units needed
With 109 war veterans returning soon from overseas, Great Bend had an immediate need for housing. The need prompted a meeting of contractors and material men from around the region at the City Auditorium to discuss “not only the housing problem, but also industries and natural resources in the hopes of increasing the attractiveness of this area as an industrial center.”
A committee was formed to set up a program for getting houses constructed for veterans.
Prefabricated Lustron houses were part of the answer. Today, you can visit a Lustron house at the Barton County Historical Society village, and see several that still exist in town here and around Barton County. Most we’ve seen still have the original exteriors, a testament to their durability. They really don’t make them like that anymore-the Lustron Corporation declared bankruptcy in 1950. They had everything going for them, but production delays and a viable distribution plan played a part. Plus, they were so good, there are rumors that the housing industry conspired to stop the creator and his corporation.
Just for fun
A regular Tribune column was Town Talk. It was kind of like the junk drawer - a catch all of trivia and happenings, jokes, sayings, you name it. We found this little nibble of life in 1946:
“These hit tunes on records at Komareks: “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” “Sympnony,” “Coax Me a Little,” (The Andrews Sisters sing it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RIwqi63HaE ) “When Did You Learn To Love,” “Atlanta, G.A.,” “Give Me the Simple Life,” “Brooklyn Boogie,” by Louis Prima, “Onezy, Two-zy,” (very cute rendition by Phil Harris at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKg2UnZv2zk ) “Oh What it Seemed to Be,” “Come to Baby Do,” and “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian-Chief.”
Louis Prima also did “Just a Gigalo,” which we found a video of performance on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CodmlmxpZeQ .
Komareks was a jewelry store, but they sold records in the basement, we’ve been told.