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.
According to OnThisDay.com. April 29, 1927, is the day the construction of the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the monoplane which Charles Lindbergh was to fly across the Atlantic, was completed. And, according to the website CharlesLindbergh.com, “Working as a mail pilot a year earlier he heard of the $25,000 prize for the first flight between New York and Paris. Backed by a group of St. Louis businessmen, Lindbergh supervised the building of his special plane and set out after the prize.”
In less than a month, on May 20, 1927, he would take off from Long Island, and 35 hours later landed in Paris.
In The Great Bend Tribune that week, there was no word of the Spirit, but there was plenty being written about flying and planes in general, including this small blurb told a fraction of the much bigger first transatlantic flight story:
“What will the flying machine make of the human race? How much will it change big bodies and muscles? Acosta, plucky flier, yields to Chamberlain the honor of piloting the Bellanca plane from New York to Paris because he weighs 60 pounds more than Chamberlain. Extra fuel represented by 60 pounds weight might mean the difference between success and failure.”
The owner of the Bellanca-produced aircraft, “Miss Columbia” opted to change the crew of his plane that was intended to make the first transatlantic flight, which resulted in an injunction by the injured pilot forcing the plane to remain grounded.
On May 19, Lindbergh and Chamberlain met, and Chamberlain reportedly gave Lindbergh his weather charts for the Atlantic.
Chamberlain would make history two weeks later, piloting “Miss Columbia” and the first passenger across the Atlantic, as well as beating Lindbergh’s distance by 300 miles.
A May 2, Associated Press brief in the Tribune, “An official welcome to good will fliers,” was indicative of the period when flight technology was a new.
“The long journey of army airmen who took the world of American friendship and good will to nations south of the Rio Grande was fittingly celebrated with an official homecoming at Boiling field late today. The program called for a personal welcome from President Coolidge and other high government officials in addition to representatives from 20 Central and South American countries.”
Another blurb seemed to foreshadow an American tragedy, though we have the benefit of hindsight.
“The Hudson River, along Riverside drive, New York City, presents 122 vessels of the American war fleet gathered “in a grim array.” One thing would be more “grim” than all our warships put together, namely, a few specks the size of a man’s hand approaching through the air and gradually identified as bombing airplanes.”
“A few cheap airplanes could put these “grim” war vessels at the bottom of the Hudson River in 30 minutes.
If 50 planes did the job, costing less than one tenth as much as a battleship, it isn’t likely that one of the 50 would be brought down by all the “antiaircraft guns.” That is something for the president to think about and his secretary of the navy.”
Track and field
Top news on April 28, 1917 in The Great Bend Tribune was the announcement the Barton County High School Track and Field Meet would be held that Friday, with approximately 100 athletes expected to compete in various events. That may not sound like many by today’s standards, but keep in mind the county was more sparsely populated 100 years ago, and girls were not typically included in organized sports, nor were they considered “athletes,” and there is no mention of this fact in the story because it simply was the way things were then.
“Great Bend and Hoisington will compete for class A honors while Ellinwood, Pawnee Rock and Claflin will vie for honors in the class B division. The division of schools was made in order to give the smaller institutions a more equal chance of winning some of the medals and cups.”
Cups were given to schools winning first place in each class and medals were awarded to those individuals placing first in the races and field events. Ribbons were given to second and third placers. Hoisington was considered the favorite to win the meet overall, having won the district meet at Hays while Great Bend was able to place only one man.
In the April 29 edition, the results were once again top news. The events were held at the Barton County Fairgrounds, which at the time were north of Great Bend. A Claflin man, Kukula, won the 50-yard dash with a time of 6.6 seconds, coming in first in the Class B division. A Hoisington man, Neal, won the class A division 50-yard dash with a time of 5.5 seconds, beating the county record by one-tenth of a second.
The high jump event, the class B top spot was shared by two from Claflin and one from Ellinwood with a height of 5 feet, 5 inches. The class A high jump top height was the same, with two from Hoisington tying for the top spot.
Compare these scores to today’s most recent Great Bend High School track and field results, and it’s apparent some things have changed in 90 years. Keep in mind, today the 50-yard dash is no longer an event. We have, instead, the 100 meter dash, with an average time of 12.4 seconds, according to Tribune sports reporter Jim Misunas. The average high jump for most meets, he said, is 6-0.
At that 1927 meet, Hoisington and Claflin were the overall winners, with Hoisington 83 1-3 points, and Claflin taking 84 points.
Compare these scores to the second place winners, Great Bend with 38 2-3 points, and 24 points for Pawnee Rock.
“The meet was one of the best high school programs ever staged in the county,” it was declared.
Looking back at the pages of The Tribune over the decades, each is marked with a distinctive look. The 1920s was an era where photographs were just beginning to be included in some national news stories, but the vast majority of with more illustrations were line drawings, and there were more of them than in past decades. They are also far more intricately detailed than in the following decades. In 1927, more political cartoons are featured, as well as those that were simply commenting on daily life and providing mere entertainment and artistic enjoyment. There was a high demand for artists, who could command high fees for high quality, stylized work. Among them were works by A.B. Chapin and Roscoe Misselhorn, who are considered some of the best from that time period. And there were the political cartoons of Lee Wright Stanley, most notably his “The Old Hometown.”
Today, newspapers are filled with photographs, providing a completely different look and feel, and as we progress to an increasingly online environment, video is becoming more and more ubiquitous.