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.
It was a real challenge this week to decide between 1987 and 1967. On June 12, 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenged General Secretary of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.
But, since last week we spotlighted 1987, and since equally historic milestones were reached in 1967, it’s only fitting to remember the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision ending laws against interracial marriages, and the nomination of Thurgood Marshall as Supreme Court Justice. This would make Marshall the first black Supreme Court Justice.
Taking a look at the Great Bend Tribune, these historic moments weren’t mentioned. Instead, national and world news focused on Vietnam war coverage and fighting between Israelis and Egyptians.
A tiny headline on the Great Bend Daily Tribune’s front page June 7, 1967, is the only indication of awareness that the Civil Rights movement was making inroads in the country: “Negro Newspaper in Wichita is Gaining.” It was a two-sentence story from United Press International (UPI).
“The News Hawk, reportedly the city’s first Negro newspaper, has gone from a paid circulation of 239 to 8,000 in six months. Editor Leonard Garrett says the newspaper is published for and directed toward Wichita’s 25,000 Negroes.”
Here’s something cool we learned in researching this: If you are a Kansas resident, you can access historic Kansas newspapers at newspapers.com via the Kansas Historical Society’s website. You just need to verify your driver license online. If you want to try it, go to www.kshs.org, and click on Digital Newspapers under the Research tab.
Unfortunately, we could not find editions of The News Hawk, or Wichita’s other Negro newspaper, The Negro Star. Its mere existence was an indicator that the UPI reporter had done little research before submitting his report about the Hawk.
According to an entry in Wikipedia, “The Negro Star was an African-American newspaper created by Hollie T. Sims that ran from 1908 to 1953. Sims founded the paper in Greenwood, Mississippi but moved it to Wichita, Kansas in 1919 as a result of racial hostility. Bringing national news to Wichita, the Star was one of few newspapers that provided African Americans news and access to African-American updates during the early to mid-1900s ... The Star was a paper that came from Sims’s vision to spread news of African American progression. Sims and his wife issued and distributed the Star from a barn behind their house until Sims died in 1953.”
Wilson Reservoir dedicated
This weekend in 1967, Kansas Governor Robert Docking, Senator Frank Carlson and Congressman Bob Dole visited the Russell American Legion and the newly constructed Wilson Dam and Reservoir for its dedication. The purpose of the reservoir was for flood control, and the side benefits were conservation reserves allowing for irrigation and recreation.
Sailboat races and a water skiing demonstration by Ricky McCormick, the 16-year-old national junior and senior water ski champion from Independence, Mo., were planned.
“With 16 major reservoirs now in operation and four more under construction,” the governor said, “Kansas can bask in the reflection of thousands of acres of sunlit water. We are well equipped now to compete for our share of the nationwide increase in outdoor activity and in the growth of interest in water centered recreation.”
If you are heading to the lake this weekend, or sometime this summer, it is important to know that because of heavy rains in May, some earth slides occurred near the dam and on the Lucas Park entrance road, causing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily close the road.
According to the Corps’ website, “The Lucas Park entrance road is closed for public safety. The park will remain open for camping and tourism. Traffic has been rerouted through a one-way road. Drivers are advised to follow the detour signs, reduce speeds and be cautious while entering and exiting this temporary roadway.”
Needless to say, the lake is full this year, beaches are few, and boating is great.
Helmet law emerges
A new law was being written this week in Topeka that would affect motorcycle riders throughout the state. Starting July 1, safety helmets would be required for operators and riders. Increasing popularity of motorcycles among young Kansans prompted the legislation.
“The increased popularity of the motorcycle among our younger Kansans has brought with it a tremendous increase in accidents,” according to the state’s safety director. “Cycles offer a lot of sport, but for inexperienced riders and those who take unnecessary chances, accidents are mounting and riders have no protection from serious injury.”
Almost every state in 1967 had a universal helmet law. This, you might imagine, rubbed motorcyclists wrong, and groups organized to fight these laws.
According to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, by 1972 the state of Kansas had passed a helmet law, repealed it, then passed it again. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation threatened to take back 10 percent of highway funds from states that didn’t have helmet laws, and so it has been a contentious issue ever since.
Today, people younger than 18 must wear helmets. But, Kansas also assumes every party in an accident is at least partially responsible, and a percentage of culpability is assigned, according to a Kansas City accident attorney’s website.
“Pursuing a catastrophic injury claim against a motorist who caused your crash may be more difficult if you weren’t wearing a helmet. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, insurance adjusters and judges are less sympathetic when the rider has not taken precautions to protect himself.”
City band warms up
Glenn Peak was the new director of the Great Bend City Band in 1967. He was the band teacher at Harrison Junior High. This week, the band was holding its first rehearsal of the year, in preparation for their first concert. It included about 50 musicians from Great Bend and the surrounding area. Rehearsals were every Tuesday evening in the high school band room. Performances were held at the Clayton L. Moses Memorial Band Shell at the courthouse square, as they continue to be today.
Last week was the first performance for the 2017 concert season. It also marked the 90th anniversary of the band shell, and a celebration and rededication took place. It was also a chance to dedicate the Thelma Faye Harms Stage. The band shell was redesigned and updated earlier this year, providing more space for the band, with better accessibility and modern technology built in. The band is currently directed by Steven Lueth, director of instrumental activities at Barton Community College.