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.
Tuesday, July 9, 1935, The Great Bend Tribune reported the Barton County relief payroll for the week ending July 4 shows a total expenditure of $1,987.05, paid to 212 persons. “This figure is considerably smaller than that of a month ago, because of the necessity of extra men to combat the floods at that time.”
Payroll details were broken down by city, and by project. Hoisington, Pawnee Rock, Susank and Olmitz were listed. Projects included work on city, county and state roads, building projects, janitorial services, administration, historical projects, county home gardeners, clerks, emergency services, and sewing projects. The average weekly pay of these workers ranged from $4 to $15. Sixteen people were paid for emergency flood work, and received $29.77 each.
That doesn’t seem like much to live off of for a week, but the jobs were filled with those who had a need and wanted to feel productive and valuable to their community.
While this seems bleak, clearly there were plenty not so bad off. Imagine, back before facebook, how news made the rounds among friends and neighbors. It happened in The Locals. The Locals paints a picture of a Great Bend filled with people taking vacations, traveling by bus and train and car long distances for extended periods of time. One family, including Mrs. Jesse Chappel, her daughter Evadine, and niece Miss Jesse Irene Miller, left the previous afternoon by bus on an extended trip in the east. “The group plans to be gone until Sept. 1, their trip, as planned, to include most of the eastern states. Their first long stop will be in Boston. Miss Chappel is a teacher in the Tulsa, Okla., schools.” It was Miss Miller who was local, daughter of the Miller family.
Another story, however, is a bit more tragic, but exemplifies the sort of peril travelers at that time faced. A notice informing friends of Ernest Epstein that he was recovering nicely from the loss of his leg ten days earlier included the following details.
“Relatives today received word from his mother, Mrs. E. E. Epstein who, with her daughter Nellie, has been with him the last eight days, stating that he had undergone four blood transfusions. Duane (Amos) Sams, son of Ted Sams, was with Ernest when the accident occurred and the fact that the boys applied a tourniquet to the severed leg is all that saved Ernest’s life, according to attending physicians.
Finally, among the hundreds of blurbs, we found this little slice of life. “Mr. and Mrs. Nick Mains of Odin and Mr. and Mrs. Gus Miller of Claflin were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Mike Schwarz of Wilson Sunday, and according to Gus, refreshed themselves during the hot day with spring water and lager beer.” Its still a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon in July in central Kansas.
Strange bump in the road
A notice appeared that new “No U-turn Buttons” had been installed. This had heads scratching. What the heck is a “No U-turn Button”. They were installed in the center of Main Street at intersections including Broadway, Forest, Lakin and Twelfth, as well as intersection of Forest and Williams. Hadn’t yet decided if traffic should circle the buttons or keep to the inside of them. Yikes!
Karen Neuforth, historian at the Barton County Historical Museum replied to our query.
“Well, that explains what that is in the intersection of Forest and Main in some old photos ... There was a circular-something in the paving with a “bump” sticking up out of its middle.”
With driving rules still not uniform, it was likely an attempt at keeping crazy drivers from doing U-turns and endangering pedestrians.
Cool place to hang out
Kids could get out of the heat and into the air conditioned comfort of the Dickenson theater for the 10-cent matinee of “Werewolf of London.” According to the website IMBd, “The werewolf howl used in this film is a combination of Henry Hull’s own voice and a recording of an actual timber-wolf. The result is generally thought to have a far more realistic result than in any subsequent werewolf films, including 1941’s “The Wolf-Man.”
For the money, the sound-short “Stuttering Romances”, the musical “Here’s the Gang” as well as newsreels, like one featuring a bus with drop down rail wheels allowing it to switch from driving on rail to road in a jiffy.
With home videos, as well as widespread home air conditioning, the motivation to get to the theater has changed. Movies can be seen from the comfort of home most hours of the day, but the social aspect of experiencing a movie on the big screen with friends still draws customers in. That, and the popcorn, that try as you might, really can’t be duplicated at home.
Scouting was popular in the 1930s, and Great Bend had two troops, 110 and 151. It was nearing the time the boys would be off to camp at Camp Pawnee near Larned. The two troops were among the highest scoring not only in the Southwest area, but also of the entire state in an achievement contest, winning blue ribbons for advancement, increased membership, and more.
Today, Scouts are still active in Great Bend, now as Troop 149. Camp Pawnee still exists, owned by Pawnee County, and has RV spaces and electrical hookups available to rent.