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.
On Oct. 14, 1926, AA Milne’s book “Winnie-the-Pooh” was released. The first story of the book was presented on December 24, 1925, on the front page of the London Evening News, with the headline “A Children’s Story by A. A. Milne.” It was the first time the name Winnie-the-Pooh was used, though stories about the bear had appeared in Milne’s earlier children’s stories and poems.
Many may be familiar with the licensing battles between the family of Stephen Slesinger, who Milne signed rights to Pooh over to, and Disney. The entertainment giant was alleged to have thrown away several boxes of subpoenaed documents of records that would possibly have proved that the corporation had avoided paying royalties to the family as agreed. Unfortunately, an agent of the Slesingers had searched through the corporation’s trash bins and that is how the deception was discovered. The case was thrown out. Later, the Milne family sought to terminate rights to the Slesingers. Again, the attempt to take licensing rights from Disney was stopped, but in 2009 Disney was required to pay royalties, which satisfied all parties in the end.
Since 1987, Christopher Robins’ bear has resided in the New York Public Library, along with his friends. He was originally given to A. A. Milne’s American Publisher in 1947 by Christopher Robin Milne himself, noting he was now grown up and ready to leave his toys behind. In 2014, after the bear was restored and returned to the New York Public Library, an editorial appeared in the Times of London making the case for returning the bear to Britain. For now, it remains in New York, and can be visited in the
Meanwhile, a fever for stardom in motion pictures was on the rise in 1926, and Great Bend was not immune. The path to fame and fortune was varied, from beauty pageant participation to scraping together money for photos and a screen test, to simply being in the right place at the right time and being discovered. Not much has changed.
Advertisements this week announced the coming of Berkova Productions of Hollywood, a production company which planned to use local people in a film for entertainment and to demonstrate how movies are made. “Making Movies on the Stage” promised laughter and enjoyment for everyone, as the cast would be selected from the audience, and the completed film would be shown at the Echo Theater. Scenes would be taken of the entire audience, the advertisements stated, as well as pictures being taken on the streets around town.
Berkova brought along $25,000 in studio equipment, including cameras, lighting and music. Everything needed to produce a real comedy on site. And the crew would include a director (Davis Smith), cameraman ( Murray Fay), comedian (Bud Lyon), technical director (Roy Waldron) and a real Hollywood ingenue (Dorothy Starr).
As if that weren’t enough, Berkova Productions promised to conduct free screen tests.
“Anyone may enter their names and have a screen test made at absolutely no cost. To persons not familiar with the motion picture industry it might be interesting to know that it costs from fifty to one hundred dollars to make a screen test. The screen tests, together with any and all scenes taken in Great Bend will be shown at the Echo Theatre.”
When Oct. 18 arrived, Berkova Productions made the rounds, first to the Fire Department, and then to the offices of the Great Bend Tribune, taking photos for the movie.
‘With the start in the front office, he (Murray Fay) went on through, taking the news room, the boys in the back shop, and the big press turning out the papers, ending up with the newsboys starting away to cover their routes.”
Later, at the theater short plays would be put on and the audience filmed during which the cast would be selected from local people, and a play would be filmed while the audience watched the work. The company visited Dodge City and Larned prior to Great Bend, and it was reported there was plenty of competition amongst the young to be part of the cast. The same was true here.
“Several local young people are anxious for a try-out tonight or tomorrow night for a test as to their screening abilities. Most of them are rather bashful, however, about the matter and prefer that they do not receive too much publicity. Kenneth Wright is one young man who is going to try out, and there will be many others anxious to.”
Scenes from “Ten Nights in a Barroom” and “Romeo and Juliet” were filmed, and a good time was had by all. The film itself would be presented at the Echo Theater in two weeks time, it was reported.
Looking ahead to the Echo’s movie listings at the end of the month and into November, we found the announcement that the movies filmed on stage at the Echo would be shown Nov. 10, 11 and 12. Closer to the date, names of local people featured in the movies included Kenneth Wright, Lemon Keegan, Helen Hiss, Lois DeKlyn, The Tribune Force, Oleta Ewing, Jack Sipes, Fluffy Wilson, Evelyn Matson, Kenneth Frisbie, and other would-be stars. None would go on to fame and fortune on the Silver Screen.
Here’s a bit of advice straight from Hollywood and reported by the Associated Press and found in the Great Bend Tribune a day prior to advertisements mentioned above appearing. The sentiments were certain to sow anxiety in the youthful women of the 1920s.
“A pretty face plus personality equals beauty.”
“With this formula filmdom disproves the time-worn saying that beauty is only skin deep.
“Cecil B. DeMille, producer of motion pictures, says feminine beauty must be differentiated from mere prettiness.
“Two girls might be twins, absolute duplicates of each other as to line and coloring, yet one could be a beauty and the other merely pretty, or even unattractive. The beauty would be the one whose character is reflected in her physical face.
“To be a beauty, a girl must have the color of personality, of individuality. Particularly is this true in the case of a screen actress.”
Here in Great Bend, the prospect of the county building a home for the poor on the County Farm was introduced as a cost-saving measure over writing checks for support. Approval of the plan, not to exceed $35,000, would be up to voters. The home would “replace the old frame building at the county farm,” which was declared “unserviceable, unsafe and practically abandoned for several months.”
The article went on to state the poor fund for the county was one of the largest annual expenses, exceeding $22,000 that year so far, an expense of about $2,000 a month.
“The commissioners believe that with the construction of a home on the county farm, the poor and dependent could be placed there with a competent family in charge and it would be a big step toward minimizing this expense.”
They also believed that the poor and dependent would be better cared for, and it would take a big burden from the county as well as lessen the number of applications for help. Some, it was said, received too much support, while others barely enough to make a difference. The new home would ensure everyone in need would be treated fairly. A mill levy of three-fourths of a mill would be collected to fund the construction. The voters would decide at the November election.
Success led to the building of a sturdy brick structure which today is owned by Faith Community Church. Visiting missionaries now stay in the rooms once occupied by the poor and dependent.