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.
Perhaps this week, readers have seen stories about the Udall tornado which tore through a small Kansas town 60 years ago. According to first-hand accounts published in the June 6, 1955 edition of Time magazine, phone service was interrupted at 10:29 p.m. as the tornado entered the town of 610 from the south west and proceeded diagonally to the northeast, leaving only one home in town unscathed. This after survivor Lester Udal, who had been listening tornado reports all day, headed to bed having caught the 10:20 p.m. “all clear” on television. Since then, the townspeople, following the example of their mayor and others, banded together and rebuilt. Today, Udall, located in Cowley County, has a population just over 700.
But there was no mention of what has been called the worst tornado to ever hit Kansas in the May 28, 1955 edition of the Great Bend Herald Press, a weekly newspaper that carried only local news.
New 4-H buildings
This week, in 1955, approval came to build new 4-H buildings at the fair ground north of town, “just east of Lake Barton,” with a projected completion in time for the August fair.
“The $24,000 projects will be constructed by Schartz Construction Company of Great Bend, and will consist of two Butler Buildings, according to Fred Schultis, chairman of the 4-H Holding board.”
Today, while the buildings still stand and are used by 4-H and the community for various functions, the fair now takes place at the Expo Center west of town.
Cutting edge crime technology
Police officers in Great Bend and surrounding communities took advantage of a continuing education opportunity at Park Elementary School. There, they learned the cutting edge technology of fingerprinting and interrogation from FBI Agent Max Richardson.
“Several police officers told the Herald-Press reporter that the course was presented so well they were able to read and classify fingerprints before the end of the first two-hour lesson.”
Since then, fingerprinting technology has changed along with technology. In the 1990s, the FBI began storing fingerprints on computers. By 1999, the FBI began transferring their fingerprint file to an electronic system. Millions of criminal fingerprints are now stored across the globe.
The Great Bend Planning Commission barely passed a measure to recommend support of a circular drive located just north of 19th between Harrison and Van Buren. after having the city council essentially drop the issue in their hands five weeks earlier, as memorialized by a Duke Rush cartoon.
“The controversial drive has been the center of friction in a neighborhood squabble and the issue came to a head last week when the city council, by a 7-1 vote, tabled a request to force Bryan McCullough, 1915 Van Buren, to remove five sapling trees from the dedicated, but unimproved, circular drive.”
A quick drive past the above address, probably raising the suspicions of some of the residents enjoying the afternoon on their porches, the Tribune found that the drive still exists. From 19th, it looks like an alley between the two streets, but it comes out onto Harrison between two limestone posts across the street from Great Bend Middle School. The block runs from 19th to 21st, and it was also discovered there is a matching drive, which appears to be an alley on 21st, but exits onto Van Buren across the street from where 20th comes to a T intersection. This is probably one of the more unusual configurations in the city.