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.
In 1935, the Uniform State Narcotics Drug Act was made law. This week in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 gave the law teeth. But it wasn’t reported in the Great Bend Tribune. Instead, several articles appeared concerning Congress’ decision to set aside work it had conducted on the controversial wage and hour measure that would the following year bring the country its first minimum wage.
Also, top of mind and top of page in the national news, the decision by Philadelphia physicians to deliver an infant upon the death of its mother. On Aug. 5, it was reported the doctors were waiting for Mrs. Mary Boccassini, suffering from tuberculous meningitis which was said to be incurable, to die so they could deliver her child.
“They hoped the baby should arrive before the mother passed away.”
However, Mr. Boccassini objected at first, it was reported, wishing the doctors to allow the baby to pass along with its mother should she die before giving birth. Physicians went to a judge for a decision.
“Even an unborn babe has its rights,” the judge said. “If the state has the legal power to destroy, it also has the legal power to create.”
It turns out, Mr. Boccassini had been misunderstood. He did not want the operation to occur while his wife was still alive, due to the suffering she had already endured.
The next day, one minute after Mary died, they performed a cesarean and delivered a three-and-a-half-pound baby girl. Suffering from fever, she was placed in an oxygen tent and fed sugar water through an eyedropper.
“Every minute she lives increases her chances of surviving,” one of the doctors was quoted saying. Still, her chances of survival were slim. Like, 100 to one. Throughout the night, her temperature dropped incrementally.
At two days old, she was named Frances, after her maternal grandmother.
“I hope she will live,” Mr. Boccassini said. “I know my wife wanted the baby very badly, and so did I.”
City hall groundbreaking
In Great Bend, the preliminary work was being one on a the new city building. That building would become what today is the City Auditorium and related offices. It was reported in the Aug. 2, 1937 edition of the Great Bend Tribune.
“A concrete mixer, gasoline saw, band saw, and a hoist were unloaded west of the city hall yesterday.
“Charles Hulme started preliminary work on razing the old city building yesterday. Radiators and part of the fixtures are being taken out this morning. Other work will be started as soon as all city offices are moved, Mr. Hulme said today.”
On Aug. 9, an update indicated work was going well.
“Workmen have nearly finished removing the roof of the old city hall and should commence tearing out the brick walls of the building today. Charles Hulme, contractor in charge of razing the building, said this morning. Work on razing the building should progress faster from now on and it is possible the building will be completely torn down in about two weeks.
“The hose tower at the fire station will be torn down by pulling out some of the tile at the base and allowing the structure to fall to the west. This will probably done sometime the middle of the week.”
Hulme successfully completed the auditorium, which would serve the community well as a venue for a variety of community dances, entertainments and other events over the years. He continued to grow his business, grew increasingly involved in boosting the community and became philanthropic in later years. A foundation in his name exists, as well as an agricultural scholarship awarded to Barton Community College students. He also donated the acreage that is home to the Barton County Historical Society Village, and the sportsmen’s club located directly to the west of the village grounds.
It turns out, people from Great Bend loved a good picnic, and were willing to travel a ways to attend. Even if it happened to be on a Tuesday.
“A big crowd of Great Benders was in Seward today for the annual picnic which is featured with chicken dinners at noon and this evening, amateur contests this afternoon and a big dance tonight.
For years Seward has been staging a picnic and they are affairs that are looked forward to with much pleasure by residents of Great Bend community. Unusually big crowds always are in attendance and the picnic this year is no exception. It is an entertainment where residents of northern Stafford and southern Barton counties meet and renew old acquaintances.
The dinners are far above the average picnic dinners and a great many persons from here plan to go to Seward for the dinner this evening and remain for the dance tonight.”
Today, people from Great Bend and the surrounding area still like to head for Seward. That’s the home of Mom’s Bar and Grill. Need we say more?
‘Boomer’ retirement nears
A Great Bend familiar character, it was reported, was approaching his twilight years, but alas, would not be eligible for the coveted railroad pension his co-workers could expect. Boomer, the canine helper at the Santa Fe railway yards in Great Bend, was slowing down. Still, he was continuing to show up daily and make his rounds, despite the rheumatism that plagued him.
“He still barks at cars on the Main Street crossing when a train is approaching but that’s about all he’s able to do. He no longer clambers up into the private cars of railroad officials and into engines where he always enjoyed riding.”
A brief history: Boomer arrived in 1929 as a stray and took up with the men working at the rail yard. They gave him the name “Boomer,” which “applied to any railroad man that changes around a lot.” Eight years later, he lived with engineer Ben S. Cook and his wife, who gave him the best of care.
Boomer made it through the rest of the summer, but not much longer after that.