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.
This week in 1957, everyone around the world looked skyward. Of international interest was coverage of the Soviets launch of their Sputnik II, which carried the first living creature, a little dog named “Laika”, meaning “little barker” in Russian, 937 miles into space.
Putting aside the scientific information collected by Russians during the orbit of this second satellite, Americans worried about the conditions Laika experienced in her confinement, and how the dog could possible return to Earth safely.
Moscow indicated the dog was faring well, and American scientists agreed the dog could be kept alive for months. The living conditions were described as: a cramped, air conditioned compartment of container, probably strapped down, unable to move about, with instruments monitoring heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, temperature, and sending the information back to earth. She was fed by an automatic device, but it was uncertain how she got water.
Then, on Nov. 11, 1957, the headline “Prolonged Agony is Ended, Italy’s Red Newspaper Reports Laika is Dead” appeared. The actual headline in the Italian paper L’Unita was “Laika will never return to earth.”
Reading between the lines of the report, it appears the Soviets never intended for Laika to be subjected to the stress of reentry. The dog was “put to sleep by a strong narcotic contained in the last bite of food to avoid its suffering prolonged agony.” and Moscow radio reported “the program of scientific research as planned through the second Sputnik has been fulfilled completely.”
This week in 1957, a young Grover C. Cobb was the first to receive the “Harvest Award” for exceptional community citizenship and service among members of the Great Bend Country Club. He was pictured on the front page of the Great Bend Tribune, Sunday edition, where he was described as the 36-year-old vice-president and general manager of radio station KVGB. And then, the list grew: member of the Great Bend Board of Education, director of the Community Hospital Association, Inc., a director of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Lay Advisory Board of St. Rose Hospital and the city recreation commission, trustee and elder of the First Presbyterian Church, chairman of the radio committee of the National Association of Radio-Television Broadcasters, vice president in charge of pubic relations of the Security State Bank in Great Bend, president of the Kansas Association of Radio Broadcasters, past state vice-president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Jaycees and country club, past drive chairman of the Barton County Red Cross chapter, and a member of the Community Chest board of directors a former city councilman, and finally, the chairman of finance and membership of the country club.
That’s a lot for a guy to pack into just under a decade. Cobb came to Great Bend in 1948 to take over the general manager’s duties of KVGB. He passed on his ability at racking up accomplishments to his son, Ty Cobb, mentioned in the 1957 article as one of five children, aged 7.
Ty Cobb went on to become a 2014 Great Bend High School Hall of Fame designee, and today serves as a member of the Trump administration legal team.
This, however, was “below-the-fold” news. At the top, front and center, was coverage of a train-truck collision in Ellinwood, and a report of a farmer in Ellinwood who died in an oil-field equipment related accident. Both reports were described in graphic detail. Reading these reports makes a person appreciate the current practice of considering the sensitivities of the potential audience.
The homecoming that wasn’t
Flu season started early in 1957, resulting in the cancellation of the Great Bend vs. Hutchinson homecoming game. In an early Friday morning phone call, the coach of the Hutchinson Sea Hawks contacted Panther coach R.E. Gunn to report 13 of his top 18 football players home with the flu. Attempts were made to line-up a replacement team, but none, including Junction City, Emporia and Kingman, were able to help. The game was cancelled, but the homecoming festivities would go on as planned.
That’s good because there were seven Homecoming Queen candidates, and members of the pep club had planned a special program of the queen, with football co-captains Lynn Austin and Clarence Peterson slated to crown the winners, one at the school assembly that morning, and the other at the game that night.
The assembly went on as planned, the coach saving the announcement about the game cancellation until after the crowning.
“Cheers on announcement of Laura Ann Steinbacher as queen at the morning assembly became moans on the announcement the game is off,” a caption in the paper that day read. “But a program to be announced at school this afternoon will replace the game.”
Whatever the program was, we could find no report in the paper. A peek in the 1958 Rhorea revealed that a dance with the theme, “Stardust” was held, with the pep club giving out free cokes and hot dogs for refreshments at the dance. We also learned the Hutch team wasn’t the only one to battle the flu that year. After the second game, the Panthers fought their own battle with the bug.
Galatia trickster caught
In the report “Halloweeners leave evidente at scene,” it was clear someone was going to get busted.
“Persons unknown who entered the Galatia school house on Halloween made off with a five pound box of cheese, and pitched a dozen of the school’s eggs at the exterior wall of the building, according to Sheriff’s officers.
“However, School Superintendent Hollingsworth advised the sheriff Friday afternoon that the person who left a headscarf at the school during the escapade may claim it by contacting him at the school.”
With no follow up report, it’s anyone’s guess if the offending party came back for the square of cloth. Yikes.