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Out of the Morgue
Observing space, inside and out, in 1957
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Sky Scanners All over the world, and on Main Street, Great Bend, the main topic of conversation Saturday, Oct. 5, 1957, was the Russian earth satellite. (That is, until the series game started.) Radio reports raised hopes that the Soviet sphere might be seen in the U.S. shortly before noon. Here three men, armed with binoculars, peer into the heavens. They are, left to right, Ed Krider, Bill Leigan, and Bill Thomas. - photo by Tribune file photo

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.

As we were researching for today’s Out of the Morgue, we found that Oct. 1, 1957, reported on more than a few websites as when “the first appearance of “In God We Trust” appeared on U.S. paper currency. We were surprised to find not one single mention of the appearance in the pages of The Great Bend Daily Tribune. Upon further investigation, we learned that first appearance was on U.S. silver certificates. That, naturally, opened up one heck of a historical rabbit hole, going back to the Coinage and Mint Acts of 1873. And it didn’t make us any less surprised there was no mention of the new change.
We only peered down that rabbit hole, since there were plenty of others presented to explore. Soviet satellites were a concern, and X-rays were being doled out like candy, and then there was the observation of parking ...

Outer space
Russia launched an earth satellite which was also drawing interest all over the world. People in Great Bend turned out onto Main Street that weekend to see if they could glimpse the satellite through binoculars as it passed 560 miles above the earth, circling the globe every 96.2 minutes.
Sputnik (Russian for earth satellite) was all the rage. Every aspect of the history-making project was reported on throughout the week. A ham radio operator claimed to have picked up the radio signal from the satellite. Scientists from around the world were hopeful Russia would share knowledge gained from the experiment. The world’s militaries identified the military possibilities. All agreed it was important to conduct experiments like these in order to prepare to send a human into space.

Inner space
Sixty years ago, Barton County became one of the first Kansas counties to offer a combination X-ray and diabetes testing program for the public. The diabetes test was a simple blood test that was reported to take less than five minutes.
The purpose of the X-rays was to screen for tuberculosis.
“The chest X-rays are sponsored by the local tuberculosis association through the sale of Christmas seals.”
Imagine, if you will, people off the street stopping in to have a simple screening done simply because it was free and available. And, imagine further, the people administering the service, for the most part untrained, failing to properly provide screening, and failing to appropriately focus the beam. Yikes!
Later in the week, it was reported that 367 persons appeared at the courthouse in Great Bend that week to undergo free chest X-rays with 337 persons taking diabetes tests. In Claflin, earlier in the week, 184 people received X-rays. And with clinics scheduled in Hoisington, and again in Great Bend, hundreds of people had been exposed. There were no reports of positive tests for tuberculosis.
Only four “positive” reports were made on the diabetes checks.
Around this time in 1957, the medical community was becoming aware of an alarming trend. Radiologists were being diagnosed with leukemia at much higher rates than other medical professionals. Still, looking back it’s almost as if the evidence was being ignored. It would be a few decades before it as determined X-rays were being highly overused on the public, and putting technicians at great risk. As of 1981, less than a third of the states in the U.S. required licensing of X-ray machine operators, according to an article found in the online book, “KILLING OUR OWN, Chronicling the Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation, 1945-1982,” found at https://ratical.org/radiation/KillingOurOwn/index.html#TOC .
In August 1981, under intense pressure from portions of the radiation health community, Congress passed a law requiring the states to establish federally approved programs for the training and licensing of radiological technologists. The programs have been in place by 1985.
Today, many types of diagnostic testing are available, and radiology has become a skilled profession requiring years of education and ongoing certification. And, rather than testing people coming in off the street as they did in the 1950s, tests must be ordered by doctors, and taken in a hospital or other regulated clinical setting.

Parking space
Meanwhile, the city of Great Bend soldiered on with comparatively mundane infrastructure projects. Kids at Washington School enjoyed taking time out of their regular classes to venture outside to watch the “tearing out of the center of Lakin Street parking and the pouring of concrete in its place.”
A Tribune editorial explained:
“The fascination in this work as far as the children are concerned for the time being is observing firsthand how the work is done and to get a better look at the heavy machinery and cement mixing trucks.”
At the time, drivers parked cars in the center of the street between lanes. (You can still see this practice used in Larned.) Under the guise of safety, the city council had ordered the removal of these parking islands, something the editor disagreed with. He cited advantages of the island system, including providing a divider between oncoming traffic, and providing a place for pedestrians to safely rest as they attempted to cross busy streets. At the very least, he proposed, “with a minimum of attention those areas could be converted into places of natural beauty as has been done elsewhere in Great Bend and in many other cities.”
One thing is certain and has not changed in 60 years. “Streets and parking lots will ever be a source of concern to the public because in most instances the planning of improvements comes after the area has already been developed and landscaped.” He also predicted:
“The youngsters who have enjoyed watching ... this week will have their turn in a few years as taxpayers to participate in the plans for future installation of a safety strip down the center of the street. And probably by then they will also be old enough to get to help pay for that work as their youngsters, the junior sidewalk superintendents of tomorrow, stand in the school yard closely watching the goings-on. Such is progress.”
Well, so far the prediction hasn’t come true, but with traffic calming becoming ever more popular, it could still happen.