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Out of the Morgue
Route 66 and Armistice Day observed in 1926
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Cars on the Route is a restored 1920s KanOtex Station located in Galena, and the truck out front inspired a character in the movie Cars. The restored shop opened in 2007, according to Kansas Travel. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

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.

This week in 1926 marked the eighth Armistice Day observance, and also the birth of one of America’s renowned United States highways, Route 66, otherwise known as the Main Street of America. According to Wikipedia, “From the outset, public road planners intended US 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.”

Much controversy between state highway associations centered around the number the highway would be assigned, with some wanting it to be “60” and others “62”. Finally “66”, an unassigned number, was chosen because the double-digit number “would be easy to remember as well as pleasant to say and hear.” It was also noted that in numerology, it is a master number bringing material pleasure and success.

According to Kansas Travel, Kansas was the first state to pave all if its portion of Route 66 in 1929. Of course, that wasn’t tough to do, considering the highway enters and exits the state between Joplin, Mo., and Miami, Okla., and runs a mere 13 miles here, including through the town of Galena. A fun fact: Galena inspired the fictional community of Route 66 Radiator Springs in the movie “Cars.” Route 66 became a major migration route during the Depression, where many “mom and pop” businesses thrived. Eventually, it would be replaced in sections by the Interstate Highway system, but sections of it today remain as “Historic Route 66” in various states.

Meanwhile, it was reported in the Tribune that day that officials at the state highway department “made it plain in their talks to the county commissioners and county engineers yesterday afternoon in representative hall that Kansas will never have any state roads until it abandons the county system of road construction and adopts a state construction system.”

The premise was sound. “The time has passed,” said John Gardner, chairman of the state highway commission, “When county travel is the unit. None of you figure on traveling the roads in your own county. Let’s get together and try to formulate some plan by which we hurry up our road construction program so that you and I can get some use from them while we are alive.”

However, commissioners in all 105 counties were reluctant to give up control, and signed a resolution the following week that they “do not favor any legislation which gives centralized control for the construction of the state road system.” But the next day, some of the commissioners began to turn, noting that building roads that encourage tourism may actually be a good thing.

Armistice Day parade
In Great Bend, Armistice Day was marked by a big parade in which it was noted few of the business enterprises in town were represented. Instead, there was a vast show of military representation, headed by members of the Argonne Post, and “Veterans of practically all the wars of our country.”

The included “a soldier of the Pilgrim fathers’ period, next came one costumed as a soldier of the Revolutionary wars, then a soldier of the war of 1812, followed by several dressed in the uniforms of the soldier of the Civil War. Then came the Spanish-American war soldier, the doughboy, the Scottish soldier in kilts at the end.”

Marching bands from the high school and the Kansas National Guard Field Artillery band, as well as a car of Gold Star mothers was also included. Probably most impressive was the float of the boys who served in the navy, “the Gobs, were represented by a truck built to look like a battleship, the U.S.S. Kansas, on which were mounted guns which were fired along the line of the march.”

While Great Bend no longer holds a parade on Veterans Day, there are a variety of activities happening to mark the day all over the county.  Be certain to check out the special Veterans Day insert from last Sunday's paper and our Breakfast Briefings on page 2 for more details.

Just for fun:
Bird saves lives: pet bird warns of fire in home
Today, we have fire alarms, but in 1926, Mr. and Mrs. Hotchkiss were lucky to have a pet bird who, like a canary in a coal mine, sounded the warning they were in danger, it was reported this week in the Tribune.

“The frantic chattering of twittering of their pet bird last night probably saved the home and lives of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Hotchkiss, 916 Main. Mrs. Hotchkiss was awakened about midnight by the bird, and it was a moment or two before she realized that something was wrong. The smell of smoke was so strong that she roused her husband and they opened the kitchen door to find the room full of smoke and lames slowly burning on a cupboard in the corner of the room. The fire department was called but when it arrived a few moments later, mr. Hotchkiss had extinguished the flames through the use of a bucket or two of water.

“After the departure of the company and while Mr. and Mrs. Bob Wright, neighbors were sitting in the front room talking with the Hotchkiss’s they heard a noise in the kitchen and investigating found the flames had evidently been smoldering in the back of the cupboard or wall and had broken out again. The two men had a much harder fight to put them out than Mr. Hotchkiss had in the first place, and the kitchen and contents were practically ruined before they were extinguished. The loss will probably be covered by insurance.”