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.
A little over two years following the historic Brown versus Board of Education ruling which paved the way for desegregation of schools, Kentucky public school students heading back to school this week were thrust into the national spotlight as handfuls of black students attempted, some successfully, some not, to attend previously white-only schools. Headline stories in The Great Bend Daily Tribune covered the events for the next week.
On Friday, Sept. 7, 1966, the Associated Press reported that, “Parents of some of the youths work in nearby coal mines,” Adj. General J.J.B. Williams, stationed near Sturgis, Kent., said, “and it is reported some were told they would lose their jobs if the Negro children remained in Sturgis high School.”
On Sunday Sept. 9, it was reported that 500 National Guardsmen had been called in to Sturgis in advance of expected hostilities Monday morning.
“Since Tuesday, angry crowds of white people have been crowding around Sturgis High School demonstrating against the enrollment of nine Negro students.
“Eleven miles away at Clay, white mobs Friday blocked the street to the hilltop school, turned back a carload of Negroes and drove newspapermen from the town for a time.”
A junior college in Texarkana where a man and woman attempted to enroll also saw protests. Clinton, Tenn. reported boycotts of the schools, but the boycott was weakening as more students returned to school over the course of the week.
A Knight to remember
This week, a copy of Shirlee Knight’s glossy appeared with an announcement from her proud parents, Mr. and Mrs. Noel Knight of Great Bend, that their daughter had been “selected by Otto Preminger of Hollywood for an audition to compete for the title role in the film version of Bernard Shaw’s, “Saint Joan.” She would appear for an audition the following week at the Brown Palace hotel in Denver, Colo. Miss Knight did not get the title role of St. Joan D’Arc, however. That part went to Jean Seberg. However, the 20 year old actress went on to have a long acting career in theater, television and movies. At some point, she adopted the more traditional spelling, Shirley. Just check out the very long list of credits at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004309/ .
According to her bio, Knight spent her young life in Mitchell, Kansas and later lived in Lyons, Kansas where she graduated from high school. She attended Phillips University, Enid, Oklahoma, Wichita State University, and has a Doctor of Fine Arts Degree from Lake Forest College. She began studying to be an opera singer at age eleven.
After studying at the Pasadena Theatre School she began her film career in 1959. She then went to New York and began her theatre career. She studied acting with Jeff Corey and Lee Strasberg and is a member of The Actor’s Studio. She has received many honors from her home state of Kansas, including the Kansan of the Year award in 2000 and the Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award in 2007. Both were given to her by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
A dastardly theft left one Great Bend gardener without a State Fair entry this week. Hermon Colegrove was proud of the large pumpkin vine he had nurtured all summer long, with five good-sized pumpkins, two of which were exhibition worthy. Colegrove had spoken recently with Paul Wilson, the agricultural extension agent, promising to enter both in the fair. But about a week earlier, he had noticed the pumpkins gone, and assumed Wilson had picked them up for him. Unfortunately, Wilson had been the one. Two more then went missing.
“Gardeners readily admit that pilfering garden produce is a low-life and dastardly deed. And when it comes to stealing exhibits of sufficient quality to be entered in the state fair, the magnitude of the crime reaches proportions of “meanest crime of summer,” the reporter stated.
Perhaps its a sign that this year hasn’t been so good a year for gardeners, as by now, the Tribune would have had at least someone stop in to show off an unusual fruit or vegetable. Not so this year. Whether or not Colegrove’s entries would have taken the prize is unknown. In 2015, according to the Garden City Telegram, a Garden City man grew a pumpkin weighing in at 1,034 lbs., breaking a long-standing record by Brian Stanley for 976.2 lbs. pumpkin. That one will be hard to beat. The 2016 Kansas State Fair opens Friday, Sept. 9 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 18.
We could not determine if Colegrove gave it another try, but we did learned he was a Great Bend business person, owning H. C. Typewriters’ Exchange.
With the state fair coming up in the next week, a heartwarming story about the Appl family of Heizer appeared this week in the Tribune.
Four years earlier, the Appl kids lost both their mother and their father and had spent several months at the state home in Atchison. The kids included George, 14, and his three sisters, then Elda,4, Janet, 6, and Ila, 8 years old.
When Mr. and Mrs. Ted Appl, then in their mid-50s, learned about the family which would not be broken up, they adopted them and brought them home to Bison. They took to life on the Appl farm very well and soon after joined the Lone Star Rangers 4-H club. After four years of preparation, Ila would represent her club at the fair with seven blue ribbons won at the Rush County fair.
Ila would be nearly 72 years today, and would have likely graduated in 1971 or 1972. Her sisters were also accomplished, with several blue and red ribbons won at the fair. Her brother, George, had recently turned 18, and was in the Navy. He too had spent four years in 4-H doing club work, and had graduated from Bison High School the previous spring.
“Its’ never been dull for a minute since the children came to live with us,” Mrs. Appl remarked as the three lively youngsters romped across the yard carrying their milk buckets. “It’s chore time and they can hardly wait to begin milking,” she added as the trio scurried out of sight into the big barn.
“After an 11-year wait the Appls have been rewarded fourfold. Their children are happy and so are they to be able to share their homelife.”
While many of the 4-H clubs from years past have faded away, 50 years later, the Lone Star Rangers 4-H, located in Rush County, continue to meet the third Sunday of the month at the Bison Community Building.