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.
While the arrival of the June 29, 1927, first flight from San Francisco to Hawaii was historic, it wasn’t the only newsworthy flight being attempted that week. A monoplane piloted by Commander Richard Byrd would also fly from New York to France, making a historic transAtlantic flight too. It would not be a first for transoceanic flight, but the number of men in the plane, four, was noteworthy.
The flight race was a closely followed story in the Great Bend Tribune. On the morning Byrd announced the identity of the fourth man, Berat Balchen, a former Norwegian Naval Officer, he had this to say:
“I decided to take a fourth man in order to demonstrate that such number can be carried on a transoceanic flight. I would like to call the fourth man a passenger, but Balchen is so useful that in effect at least he will be an important member of the crew and deserves to go along because of all the help he has given us and because he has proved himself to be a man.”
Earlier in the week, the Great Bend Tribune carried a report that Secretary of War Dwight Davis authorized the 2,407 mile non-stop flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, and that Lt. Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger would be the pilots. At that time, it was announced a date of departure had not been fixed, but it was expected to occur sometime in July.
But by June 27, it was reported that “Army, Navy and civilian aviators moved swiftly today preparing for the aerial conquest of the Pacific between San Francisco and Honolulu.”
That’s because glory-seeking Ernie Smith, an air-mail flier, was “racing preparations to beat his competitors to the take-off in the 2,400- mile non-stop flight, working throughout Saturday night to have his plane on the ground at the Oakland municipal airport Sunday for the finishing construction touches, and then the getaway.”
In addition, it was reported that a California aviator, Richard Grace, was also preparing to carry the colors of his naval friends across the expanse.
The next day, both the Maitland and Smith planes started out on their flights, but Smith had to turn around due to a broken windshield, putting him behind by hours.
Meanwhile, reports from New York stated the Byrd flight to France was delayed due to weather, and would not leave for another day. That same day, Maitland made it to Honolulu. They were greeted by excited onlookers and gun salutes when they landed on the rain soaked air strip and then taxied to the review stand. The trip took 25 hours, 43 minutes. Today, that same flight, at a speed of 500 mph, takes four hours and 54 minutes. This, according to the website travelmath.com.
Fireworks for sale
In 1927, the City of Great Bend ordinances were a lot more lenient toward fireworks than they are today. The Monday, June 25, 1927 Tribune reported there would be a 10-day period for Fourth of July.
“Resounding booms, ear-splitting cracks, and the staccato notes of cap guns firing were heard on Great Bend streets this morning for the local merchants displayed and started selling Fourth of July supplies. A city ordinance states that firecrackers, cap pistols, caps, snakes-in-the-grass, torpedoes and all of the other noise making apparatus used on the Fourth can be placed on sale from June 25 to July 6 inclusive and that before and after that time it is unlawful for them to be sold or used.
“Great Bend kids were happy today and many of them were taking advantage of the few days of the year when they can fire cap pistols and set off firecrackers without being in fear that Marshal Ed Robinson will pay them a visit. The drug stores reported that their stock was being diminished almost as soon as they had placed the first firecracker on display and that every youngster in town seemed to have heard about it in a short time.
“For many years all kinds of fireworks were prohibited in Great Bend, but people would buy them in nearby towns and bring them here and celebrate anyway. So on June 5, 1922, the city adopted the ordinance which allowed fireworks for the 10-day period. No firecrackers over 3 inches are allowed to be sold and skyrockets, roman candles, bombs and other combustibles which go in the air are prohibited. The city will allow these to be fired at celebrations providing they will be 1,000 feet from any building and permission is granted by the city council. The fine for violation of any of the clauses in the ordinance is from $5 to $100.
“Miniature battles, Indian massacres and all other kind of killings will be staged for 10 days in the streets and yards of Great Bend and the kids will have the time of their lives. ... This is the kids’ time and they are already making the most of it.”
Fast forward to today. Fireworks went on sale in the county at 10 a.m., Monday, June 27, and will end at 10 p.m. on July 4. Fireworks are only allowed to be discharged within the Great Bend city limits from 10 a.m. to midnight on July 4. Also, it is unlawful to set off fireworks near vehicles and animals. Then, as now, caution was and is advised.