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, on May 2 1936, Bold Venture won the 62nd Kentucky Derby in 2:03.6. According to the story “Four Horses Scratched: Crowd Out for Derby” that ran on the front page of that day’s Great Bend Tribune, the field of three year olds was reduced to 15 when a fourth horse was withdrawn from the race. “The balmy weather brought out the crowd much earlier than usual. By the time the first race was run off, at 12:30 p.m. the stands were jammed and the lawn was almost a solid mass of spectators, fronting the quarter-mile finishing stretch.”
That same Saturday in Great Bend, a marble tournament sponsored by the Great Bend Lions Club got underway at 2 p.m. in front of the grandstand at City Park.
Imagine a crowd of more than 300 boys and girls aged 14 and under from all parts of the county vying to be named champion marble shooter.
Prizes would include trophies for the county champion and runner-up, while winners of the six divisions, Claflin, Hoisington, Ellinwood, Pawnee Rock, Great Bend and rural schools would be presented gold medals.
Everyone, however, would walk away a winner because each participant would get a complimentary ticket to the Plaza theater for the next Saturday.
The game was “ringer”, the object being to knock 13 marbles out of the ring, the one hitting the most out declared the winner. Members of the Lions Club and high school students supervised each game.
“Officials of the club said 500 marbles were bought for the tourney and that they would be thrown out to the boys and girls at the conclusion of the tournament. It was expected that the contest would not be completed before 5 o’clock this afternoon.”
According to an advertisement later that week, the movie that would be playing at the Plaza was “Captain January,” starring Shirley Temple, with Guy Kibbee and Slim Summerville.
It would be preceded with smaller features, including an Our Gang comedy, “The Pitch Hitter,” and an all color cartoon, “Miss Glory,” and a Pathe News newsreel.
Marbles, though not widely popular any longer with the advent of video games, is still a beloved game. And thanks to apps like Oh! Marbles!, it can even be played on a smartphone today.
But, if you still prefer the feel of real colorful marbles in your hand, and the feel of shooting the real thing, there are traditional tournaments organized by aficionados, including the National Marbles Tournament held each year in Wildwood, N.J. Emily Simkovich of Lansdowne, Penn. and Devon Loewendick of Cumberland, Md. were the champions of the 2015 event. The 92nd annual event will be held June 20-23, 2016.
On May 3, Joe DiMaggio made his major league debut. It was reported in the Great Bend Tribune via The Associated Press, “DiMaggio of Yanks Makes Big Showing In His First Game.”
“The baseball world knows today that Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees, the most publicized rookie of the season, is a baseball player of the first water.
The black-haired, quiet lad who came up from the Pacific coast heralded as the find of a decade, has been accepted into baseball’s upper crust after a debut that was as impressive as his lavish advance notices.”
In that game, he made a triple and two singles, to help the Yanks beat the Browns 14-5.
“The fans overlooked the performances of Lou Gehrig and Ben Chapman, each of whom punched out for safeties. They were watching the kid from the coast.”
With 21 years to wait before Kansas City had a major league team, readers in Great Bend followed what today we would consider a limited slate of teams in the National and American Leagues, as well as the American Association.
This year, Great Bend will field a professional league team of its own on May 19 when the Great Bend Boom play the Salina Stockade here. Tickets are on sale now for $6 at http://www.greatbendboom.com
Highs and lows of traveling
The German Zeppelin Hindenburg began its first flight across the north Atlantic to America this week. It left Frankfurt on May 6, and arrived at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 9, travelling an average speed of 75 mph.
According to airships.net, “Hindenburg’s first flight to the United States was filled with journalists, prominent notables, frequent zeppelin travelers, and members of the Nazi elite.”
Almost a year to the day, on May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg was destroyed in a fiery disaster caused by an electrostatic discharge (i.e., a spark) that ignited leaking hydrogen. Thirty-five passengers on the airship, and one member of the ground crew were killed. Miraculously the other 62 passengers and crew survived.
At the other end of the travelling spectrum, members of the Barton County Rural Youth Club met Wednesday, May 6 at the Dundee bridge for a “hobo hike.”
“The group hiked to the entrance to the sand dunes on the John Heuelsen place where they were met with cars and drove to the sand dunes for a picnic supper.”
It’s unknown what happened to the Barton County Rural Youth Club, but likely many of its younger participants went on to safely travel the world by one means or another.
Racing and bridge building
As the week came to an end, horse racing made news again when a 19 year old professional jockey, Ralph Neves, became legend for being resurrected from the dead.
Racing at Bay Meadows in California, he was nearing first place in an early race that would win him $500 and a watch presented by Bing Crosby. Another horse broke its leg, and collided with other horses causing chaos on the track. Neves was thrown off his horse, Flannakins, and knocked out.
It was believed he was killed, and was removed from the track and taken to a hospital where he was given a shot of adrenaline to his heart, reviving the youth who then asked to be allowed to finish out the day of racing. He was denied, only being allowed to return the next day. Neves went on to win over 3,000 races in his career, dying in 1995 at the age of 78.
While Neves was taking in hundreds per win, WPA workers in Barton County were earning just under $2 a day building bridges in the county.
In a report in the Tribune, readers were informed an average of 62 WPA workers received approximately $3,400 each month as employees on Barton County road and bridge projects, according to officials in the county engineer’s office in the courthouse.
This included projects like the construction of a new bridge across the Wet Walnut creek a short distance north of Albert. Or the Galatia-Olmitz road project, which included grading, sanding, bridge construction and channel cutting to lessen the danger of floods in the Blood creek area. That, and the Axman bridge which crosses the Blood Creek, which was expected to be completed that week.
These are not notable bridges in Barton County, but another WPA era bridge is. That is the Beaver Creek Native Stone Bridge, located north and east of Hoisington. It was completed in 1941. Others on the National Historic Register also note a completion date in the early 1940s.