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Out of the Morgue
Taking a stand, and meeting halfway in 1967
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After 32 years service to Great Bend, Fire Chief clarence Myers today resigned effective Jan. 1. Myers said that his doctor advised him more than six months go to slow down and that the Thies explosion and the Parrish fire had almost proved the doctors right. Myers was recently hospitalized with a heart attack. Referred to as the old man by his firemen, Myers has been credited with running a good department that has won the respect of his firemen and others connected with the department. Above, Myers hands the Chiefs white hat to assistant Chief Harold Walter who was named acting chief. Walter, who will be 40 in April, has been on the force for 17 years and has been an assistant chief since 1959. - 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.

Today in 1967, Trekkies were introduced for the first time to the adorable but pesky tribbles with the first airing of “The Trouble with Tribbles.” The episode connected well with people who weren’t even Star Trek fans.
Lt. Uhuru received a tribble as a gift from a trader at a Deep Space station the Enterprise was sent to assist. The tribbles quickly multiplied exponentially, filling the space ship with purring tribbles who were not only getting into ships systems, but also eating every bit of food to be found on the ship. Eventually, an evil plot to poison a grain shipment is uncovered, and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott transports the tribbles off the Enterprise onto a Klingon ship.
The tribbles returned in the animated Star Trek series and later in an episode of Deep Space Nine, as well as several other minor references and appearances in other iterations of the franchise. They have also appeared in several forms of merchandise over the years.

Fire department takes a stand
In Great Bend, the city was dealing with troubles of a different kind. Fire Chief Clarence Myers’ request for five more men and an additional $40,000 in his 1968 budget, and as a result, 17 Great Bend firefighters turned in their resignations effective Jan. 15, 1968. This amounted to a raise of $40 a month.
The chief told Tribune staff writer Tom Van Brimmer, “I will have no alternative but to accept their resignations, and seek replacements.”
Myers explained, “his men are now working 72 hours per week, they have to buy their own food as they are on duty 24 hours and then off 24 hours, they have to buy their own uniforms and their hospitalization is up to almost $20 per month. And, he continued, they cut my budget for bunker (fireproof clothing) replacements for 1968. The city countered with an offer to pay firemen $2.50 per ambulance call, but that didn’t come close to appeasing them, the report stated. They wanted something they could depend on from month to month, plus when some served, others were needed for support. The offer was going to cause hard feelings and help little.
Myers compared his budget to that of the police department, asking for similar pay schedules. The police budget was nearly a third more than the fire department.
On Dec. 27, Chief Myers submitted his own resignation, effective Jan. 1, to Mayor H.S. Davis. Doctors had told him six months earlier to slow down, and a recent hospitalization from a heart attack prompted his decision, despite having returned to his duties earlier. After serving the city for 32 years, he planned to rest and enjoy fishing, he said.
Perhaps it was this that turned the tide. The City Council began a study of the department’s wages, longevity program and retirement offerings to be completed prior to the creation of the 1969 budget, and met the firemen half way with a $20 a month raise. The firemen accepted, and withdrew their resignations. Assistant Fire Chief Harold Walter was named the acting chief.
This year long time Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano tendered his resignation, touching off a series of promotions within the department. He too served the city many years. The city named Captain Luke McCormick to the fire chief position, and in turn, they promoted Firefighter Michael Reifschneider to Captain, and two other firefighters, Matthew Petersen and Tony Leeds, were promoted in rank. A promotion ceremony was held on Nov. 17. The department is currently looking for a few more good firefighters.

Ribbon cutting revisited
As is the tradition in newsrooms across the world, the end of the year provides an opportunity to look back at all the changes that occurred that year. This week in 1967, several photos told the story of the city. The city’s Main Street shopping district was renovated, and was celebrated with a ribbon cutting that spanned main street and required three city officials to do the official cutting. Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo received two sea lions. And the community came together to support the March of Dimes. There were many other great and or memorable things that happened throughout the year, too numerous to mention there.
Soon, The Great Bend Tribune will be looking back at 2017. There have been many changes, good and or memorable, which will surely affect the direction the city will take in the future. We look forward to reflecting on these events, and also look forward to the year to come.