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 front pages of the Great Bend Daily Tribune this week 100 years ago were dominated by two ongoing stories. First, Publisher William Townsley’s correspondence while following U.S. Presidential hopefuls in Chicago and St. Louis. The fight was between Theodore Roosevelt for the Republicans, or Charles Evans Hughes for the Progressives. It was immediately clear that Townsley was in the Progressive camp. Hughes received the Republican nomination, but ultimately Woodrow Wilson would win a second term, and take the United States into World War I after running on the platform, “He kept us out of war.”
It was on June 13 of that year that newspapers all over the country ran the Presidential Proclamation declaring June 14 Flag Day, a national holiday.
Since it had been a tradition of Great Bend’s Benevolent Order of Elks for many years, the organization quickly organized a program and parade to occur at the Elks Home the evening of June 14.
“The parade will start from the Elks Home at 7 o’clock this evening, and led by the band with the ladies and gentlemen of the G.A.R., Elks, National Guards and school children, following in the order named, will march east to Main Street and then to the park where a program of music will be given.” Many patriotic songs were included.
Second was the ongoing reports from the Mexican border, where Mexican Revolutionaries Poncho Villa and his band were at war against Constitutionalist Venustiano Carranza, head of the Mexican government during the Mexican Revolution. General John J. Pershing marched troops to the border to protect U.S. interests, and by the end of the week, June 19, the story “Local Militia Is Ordered to Leave” appeared.
“Mobilize at once, notify all men,” is the text of a telegram received by George Banta, Top Sergeant in Company C of the Kansas National Guards, from his captain, H.C. Colegrove, who is at Leavenworth, where he was called to attend the offers’ school now in session.”
Subheads of the story included, “Will Leave In Five Days,” and “Company C Will Go To Fort Riley in Five Days and From There They Go to the Border.”
According to Wikipedia, that action is now known officially as the Mexican Expedition.
That week , the U.S. mission was changed to prevent further attacks on it by Mexican troops and to plan for war in the eventuality it broke out. “When war was averted diplomatically, the expedition remained in Mexico until February 1917 to encourage Carranza’s government to pursue Villa and prevent further raids across the border.”
Awareness of human trafficking
This week, playing at Great Bend’s Echo Theater was the 1913 silent crime drama “Traffic in Souls.” Described by Wikipedia as “ an early example of the narrative style in American films, the film consists of six reels which was longer than most American films of the era.
“A copy of Traffic in Souls is preserved at the Library of Congress and the Film Preservation Associates. In 2006, the film was added to the National Film Registry for preservation in the Library of Congress because it “presaged the Hollywood narrative film” and drew attention through its riveting depiction of the methods used to entrap young women into prostitution.
“The storyline concerns two young Swedish women immigrants who are approached by men soliciting for white slavery under the guise of a legitimate work offer. In the scenes filmed at Battery Park, after the women are transported there from Ellis Island, real immigrants can be seen in the background.
The entire film takes place over the course of three days and consists of a prologue; the main narrative in which one of the sisters is kidnapped by a pimp and the other sister and her boyfriend rush to rescue her in time and the pimp is killed; and an epilogue in which the viewer finds out the consequences from a trashed news article.”
More film trivia - The film was made for $5700, and reportedly earned $400,000 during its theatrical run, helping to make Universal a major player among movie studios.
Little did anyone expect the subject matter would hit so close to home. That same week, it was reported that Judge Banta had sentenced F.D. Mateer on June 13, 1916, to serve from one to five years in the state penitentiary for transporting Edith Isabell from Great Bend to Ellinwood and other places for immoral purposes. The story, titled “Sentenced for White Slavery,” dealt with the same subject matter as the film.
Later in the century, prostitution began to be perceived as a choice made by young girls with loose morals. Only recently has the tide begun to turn again, and society is beginning to treat prostitutes as victims rather than perpetrators. Many who have attended seminars on the subject at Great Bend Dream Center have been shocked to learn the problem was identified even more than a century ago.
Carnival attractions gone wrong
With harvest beginning, it was time for the annual arrival of circus and carnival acts across the country. This week, it was announced the Isler Carnival Company had pitched their tents in Hoisington for the week. “This amusement company was in Hoisington last year. However, they have added several new features and attractions to their show during this season. One is a fine merry-go-round at a cost of $7,000, while another feature is the dancing girls, representing the gold fields,” the story read.
It wouldn’t be long before some caught on to the Carnival’s scheme. A magical ride for the kiddies, and a magical distraction for the men.
“Object to Carnival Show,” appeared, attributed to the Hoisington Dispatch, a few days later taking issue with the dancing girls.
“One attraction called the “forty-niner” has caused considerable discussion pro and con as to whether it should be allowed to run or not. It consists of a dance platform and imitation bar and a bunch of girls to furnish partners for the boys who wish to dance. The company guarantees there are no side issues to the attraction and that nothing but harmless dancing is indulged in. Some thought liquor was being sold at the tent so Marshall Hooper searched the tent last night after returning from Salina but found nothing.” But with the county attorney coming later that day, more developments were predicted to occur. Of course, the carnival owner, Mr. Isler, were very put out, the story said, and declared they had never been bothered in that matter ever before.
Apparently, the Traffic in Souls was widely known at the time.
Hail and hobos
Other harvest related issues to be dealt with included hail, and western Barton County got hit pretty bad with it this week. On June 15, large headlines read “Storm Loss is $500,000,” “Terrific Hail Storm Struck West End of Barton County Yesterday Afternoon,” “Hail Mowed Wheat Down,” “Many fields are a Total Loss - Pawnee Rock and Albert were hit hard by storm.”
According to the stories “Echoes from the Storm,” animals were hit hard too.
“Will Gagleman came in the last night from the west side and said that the hail in his neighborhood...skinned the horses and cattle very badly, damaged roofs and buildings generally, stripped the trees, and destroyed the crops of all kinds. He said that he figured the crop loss was 95 percent. According to Mr. Gagleman, there were many jackrabbits and birds hammered to death in the storm.”
Rats by the train depot in Albert were scared from the cellars and beat to death as they ran about the streets. Thankfully, today there is insurance available to help farmers weather these storms.
For merchants like Mr. Kopke of the Kopke grocery store, that meant he would have to rely more heavily on those who had not been hit by the storm. A large pictorial add showing massive amounts of groceries (over 27,000 lbs.) had been delivered to his store in anticipation of after harvest trade appeared in the paper.
“Kopke Bros. are beginning to send out the Harvest Groceries. They have made their greatest purchase of Harvest groceries ever made in western Kansas. Their two stores have bought several thousand dollars worth of harvest groceries and Mr. Kopke is expecting hundreds of farmers from other counties to come to their stores.”
Another harvest woe was what to do with out-of-town workers following the harvest. It would be three weeks before Great Bend would start harvesting, and a public service announcement was run periodically for the next few weeks, asking the people not to feed the hoboes.
“A good many men are coming into the country, and many of them apparently expect to live off the country without working until harvest time, as reports are coming in that they are asking to eat and not offering to work. At the same time requests are coming in from farmers wanting men to plow corn and do other work on the farm until harvest begins. There is an ordinance against begging and people are earnestly requested to feed none of these men unless they work for it, and to have them do the work first. To feed them without getting something in the way of work in return is to encourage idleness and the hobo life, and instead of doing a good deed in doing so you are doing wrong.” The article went on to suggest sending the men to the city authorities to be put to work if there was none they could supply themselves. The letter was signed by O.W. Dawson, the Mayor.
It was a simpler time then, before income taxes, labor laws and OSHA regulations. It’s up to the reader to decide if we are better off now in all respects than we were back then.