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 1976, the population of students at Roosevelt Junior High was bursting at the seams. A cafeteria inside the USD 428 central kitchen across the street was under construction, and would allow the school to enlarge its library and science facilities and take care of other problems. But getting the students to and from the cafeteria safely was one obstacle that had to be dealt with, and the topic of a panel discussion attended by members of the school’s Parent, Student and Teacher Association. The panel consisted of Ken Carter, city administrator, Wynona Gordon, the president of the Board of Education, Jack Bell, superintendent, Fred Ankerholz, police officer and Gail Lupton, city council person, and moderated by Don Learned, Roosevelt principal. Two options were identified, either a traffic signal or a crossing guard. The crossing guard option, in the end, appeared to be the most feasible and cheapest answer to the safety problem. No one wanted to spend a lot of money, because a bond issue to build a new junior high was already under consideration. If passed, it would take two years at least before the school would be ready though. In 1977, there were 500 students at Roosevelt, and 35 teachers. “The students no go to lunch every three minutes with 25 to 30 students in each shift. They have 26 minutes to eat,” it was reported. “Presently the students eat lunch in the classrooms.”
That new junior high would have made three in Great Bend. Already, there was Roosevelt and Harrison. At least twice, there were bond issues proposed to build a new junior high, but they didn’t pass. By the mid 1970s, the school aged population began to drop, and following the oil industry downturn of the 1980s, the population of Great Bend had decreased by nearly a third. The last year the Roosevelt Junior High annual was printed was 1992. So, for 15 years, a crossing guard stopped traffic so students could cross Broadway to eat lunch at the off-site cafeteria. Drivers learned to avoid the area if at all possible during that time, we’ve been told.
Kids and cars
The average high school student of 1976 couldn’t wait till the day they had a license to drive and wheels of their own. Unfortunately, many wound up in accidents, hitting the road with far too little experience and fewer restrictions than their children and grandchildren of today. An editorial reprinted from the McPherson Sentinel, “Make him buy it,” offered a possible solution.
“Dr. Miller goes on to admit that age limits alone won’t stop the reckless ones. He says that most kids follow the behavior of Dad, who tries all tricks to evade traffic patrolmen and other restraints. The pattern of chance-taking of Dad is followed by the kids and there comes another accident.
It all comes back to the family. What pattern of driving does the kid know? Tell him he can have a car as soon as he earns the money to buy it. That car won’t speed nor will any chances be taken by the fond owner.
Something as simple as that could just possibly turn the whole thing around without all the psychiatry.”
Kids and movies
This week in 1976, the movie “Rocky” premiered in New York City. The R-rated flick directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Sylvester Stallone would go on to win Best Picture 1977. It also made Stallone one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Countless young people managed to watch it without parental consent. But of more concern was the ease with which teens could gain admittance to see even X-rated movies, according to Youthpoll America, whose results were printed this week in the Tribune.
It noted that 15 percent of young people polled said they had seen an x-rated film before they were 18 years old, almost twice as many boys as girls. And for those young people reading this, its a significant number because in 1976, there was really no other place to see a film but the movie theater. No VCRs yet, and no internet streaming either. Theaters in the South were most permissive, and those in the East the least, the article said. And rural theaters were the most permissive of all. Officials of the Motion Picture Producers Association commented, “that enforcement of the age restrictions is the responsibility of the operators of the 15,000 U.S. theaters where they are shown.”
The ingenuity of youth was noted, with some hiding in the trunks of cars entering drive-ins or entering through exit doors opened from the inside by friends.
A related question on the poll was “Is there too much emphasis on sex in the movies.” More than half of the respondents said yes, and of the girls, that number rose to 65 percent. Two girls quoted said:
“You can’t go to any movie other than Walt Disney that has no reference to sex,” a Washington girl responded.
“I have just come home from a drive-in totally shocked,” an Ohio girl wrote. “They now show just about everything possible, and no longer blackout or skip the details. Nothing is left to the imagination.”
Gone are drive-ins, and in most locations, X-rated films are not shown thanks to local statutes. But still, it’s easier than ever today for young people to see inappropriate content.
Just for fun
Movies and driving were far from the only entertainment in Great Bend in 1976. This week, the City Auditorium featured a pro wrestling match. This was back in the day when the choreography of the events was kept secret. The main event featured Big Red Reese vs Bulldog Bob Brown. Brown was the Central States champion from Kansas City. Many of his matches can be found today on YouTube.
In the mid 1980s, “Hulk Hogan,” the pro wrestling name for Terry Bollea, reached dizzying heights of fame. There was even a best-selling action figure, and was cast as “Thunder Lips” in Rocky III. His fame made it impossible to keep secret the scandals of the pro wrestling industry, including steroid use and “kayfabe,” basically the choreography of making actions seem more painful than they are.
Those scandals marked the beginning of the end of the World Wrestling Federation, which has since been replaced by the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. which publicly has branded their product as sports entertainment, which is considered to acknowledge the product’s roots in competitive sport and dramatic theater, according to Wikipedia.
It’s been a long time since pro wrestling has appeared in Great Bend on this scale, but it continues to be popular worldwide.