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.
Fascination with space travel mounted this week in 1966 as the world followed the daily developments of the two-man crew of the Gemini 11 as it orbited around the Earth. Astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad and Richard F. Gordon were launched into space on Sept. 12, performing the first-ever orbital rendezvous with an Agena Target Vehicle, docking with it just an hour and 34 minutes later. They tethered the two units together and used the Agena to power them into orbit, and created artificial gravity by spinning . On Sept. 13 and 14, Gordon conducted two space walks, the first for 33 minutes, and the second for two hours and eight minutes, standing partially inside and partially outside of the space capsule photographing Earth from 800 miles up. Twelve different photographic experiments were conducted. They returned to Earth on Sept. 15. The Great Bend Tribune’s headline story, “Astronauts land safely after triumphant flight,” noted about the descent, “the difference today was that Gemini 11 was guided automatically for the first time.”
Meanwhile, on the ground, as students returned to school, racial tensions reached a high point as desegregation in Mississippi was met with resistance. Headlines in the Great Bend Tribune included, “King flies to Atlanta for talks with Mayor,” “Angry Whites stone Negro children,” “Negro children make it safely to school,”and “Hate and fear are companions in the Black slums of North.”
Is it any wonder that the general public was ready for flights of fancy? Two new television series debuted this week, and made their marks on American culture. They were “Star Trek” (Sept. 8) and “The Monkees” (Sept. 12).
Both aired on Great Bend’s channel two. “Star Trek” followed “Batman” on Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m.. “The Monkees” kicked off the evening viewing on Monday at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 2, opposite “Gilligan’s Island.” “The Monkees” lasted only two years, but was repeated on Saturday mornings on both CBS and ABC, as well as through syndication and overseas broadcasts.
“Star Trek” lasted from Sept. 1966 through June, 1969, before becoming a cult classic in the 1970s and touching off a franchise that eventually included science fiction paperbacks, animated series, movies with the original cast, as well as spin-offs in the 1980s and 1990s, including “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Oh, and the forgettable “Star Trek: Enterprise,” the “before Kirk” story. For those web-savvy Trekies, there was even “Star Trek: New Voyages,” a fan-created webseries.
The space travelers in Star Trek were on a mission, “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” It was noble, though not a new idea. In its own way, Great Bend had gotten in on the exploration angle too, through a sister city partnership with the international peace organization, People-to-People. An editorial commenting on the arrangement noted Great Bend was paired with Coaraci, Brazil. It turns out, it wasn’t an easy relationship.
“A language barrier and slow mail service have been handicaps to the full development of the program, but there has been one visitor from Brazil here and two from Great Bend have visited Coaraci.”
A web search for the city revealed the editorial misspelled the name, which is Coari, Brazil. It’s located in the Amazon region, and is known or oil and gas production. There is not much more available about the community on the internet, though it is listed by Trip Advisor, with one entry noting that the Urucu Plaza Hotel is a simple but comfortable hotel located in the center of the city. A scandal was reported in the Daily Mail about the mayor of that city being charged as a pedophile. The allegations suggested he and others had used money from the city coffers to purchase young girls, and members of an organized crime ring had intimidated parents who felt they had no choice but to allow their children to be abused. Thankfully, one 13 year old girl spoke out, and more than 70 others then came forward to put an end to the abuse.
JC Penney arrives
A photo of two workers removing part of the signage for the Wiley’s department store made the paper. The once-popular shop was closing this week, and in its stead, J.C. Penney would reopen the store at Broadway and Kansas. The store, which would undergo “extensive” remodeling, was scheduled to open that fall. Fifty years later, it continues to serve the clothing and household needs of Great Bend and surrounding communities.
Football season opens
Entering the third week of school, the Great Bend High School Black Panthers were ready to start their season Friday night, playing their first game against the Hutchinson Salt Hawks in an away game. The front page of the Tribune featured a photograph of the Black Panther varsity cheerleaders, who would accompany the team that evening. The team, it was reported, was in a rebuilding program, and would play four at home games and five out-of-town games during the 1966 season. It should be noted, when using the name “Black Panthers,” the district at that time did not yet know of the Black Panther party, which would not become active until October, 1966.
In the past 50 years, many Panther cheerleaders and football players have grown and succeeded through the program, many going on to do great things for the community and beyond. The tradition continues Friday night, when the Great Bend Panthers play at North Wichita against the Grizzlies in a non-conference game. According to MaxPreps, they are ranked 21 in the state.
Another Tribune editorial from this week in 1966 is worth reflecting on now, in the midst of the back-and-forth between presidential candidates concerning immigration and citizenship. In it’s entirety:
“Saturday, Sept. 17, is Citizenship Day, a day first proclaimed by President Truman in 1953
“For many citizens, the reaction is “So What.” The rioting, protesting and general disorders which seem to mark the current era would make one believe that this reaction is almost the rule rather than the exception.
“Even if you were born an American citizen, you are descended from people who weren’t. They became citizens through the difficult processes of immigration and naturalization, except for some who became citizens of the United States by establishing the United States by means of a war. For those people, citizenship was not a “so-what” proposition. It was one of the most important things in their lives.
“Citizenship involves both civic and political rights and also civic and political duties. The two go together under our system, without the one the other cannot exist in a democracy. According to one definition, “citizenship means full membership in a country.” With the rights granted to the individual it also calls for the individual to support the government, obey its laws and defend his country.
“Some of these things appear to be forgotten in the heat generated by those who expect all of the privileges without shouldering any of the responsibilities. A citizenship day once a year might cause some to pause and think about their duties, but it really should be a daily occurrence.”