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 1948, events that would impact the next 60-plus years were taking shape in the Middle East. Just months into her first year as a diplomat of the newly declared nation of Israel, Soviet Jews in Moscow were demonstrating in honor of Golda Meir.
She had been dispatched there shortly after the May 14 signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as Israel’s first diplomatic representative to the Soviet Union, where she was welcomed enthusiastically by Soviet Jews. It was around this time that the Stalinist government was beginning to rethink its decision to allow the revival of Jewish identity following World War II.
Meanwhile, the Arab-Israeli War which began May 15 was heating up between Israel and Egypt and the fate of the ancient city of Jerusalem hung in the balance.
The Tribune carried no report on these historic events, which goes to show it’s sometimes hard to predict what events will have a lasting impact on history. The one mention that there was any activity in Palestine is a page 7 article in the Saturday, Oct. 22, 1948 edition, “Pope suggests Palestine pledge in new Encyclical.”
According to Merriam-Webster, an encyclical is “an official papal letter to the Roman Catholic bishops of the church as a whole or to those in one country.”
Pope Pius XII had this to say: “Among the multiple preoccupations that assail us in this period, the war that convulses Palestine occupies a special place. We are confident these supplications and hopes ... will deepen the conviction in the high assemblies in which the problem of peace is being discussed, that it would be expedient ... to give an international character to Jerusalem and its vicinity ...”
Instead, the national spotlight was focused on Berlin and the “Red Iron Curtain,” imposed by the USSR in the aftermath of World War II. Reports also included information about Nazi trials. One widely circulated photo claimed to depict the “empty chair” trial of Adolf Hitler. It appeared with only a caption. We attempted to learn more. We found one translation of a German account of the trial here, and that article includes a link to the original German publication. The trial was merely a formality.
Get out the vote
Local news reports for this week included almost daily updates on a big voter drive happening in the run-up to the 1948 election. The Tribune carried several notices throughout the week to ensure voters knew what to expect. “Residents of the city of Great Bend, in order to be able to exercise their most precious privilege, that of being able to vote on Nov. 2 in a free election, must register on or before Oct. 22 at 10 p.m. at the city clerk’s office in the city building, southwest corner of Lakin and Williams.
“If you are of foreign birth, you must present your final naturalization papers in order to register.
“Every person desiring to register must appear in person. The registration books are open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., except Sundays, from now until 10 p.m. on Oct. 22. If in doubt, call the city clerk’s office if you live within the city limits, and the county clerk if you live in the country.”
In 1948, voters did not need to present identification, but they did need to be 21 years of age, have lived in the city for 30 days or more, and in the state for six months or more. The voting age did not become 18 until 1971 with the passage of the 26th Amendment.
There was also an editorial written by Jack Cole, the chairman of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, in which he recounted a conversation with a friend who needed convincing his vote mattered. Recounting the end of World War II for soldiers, he reminded his friend that the people made a difference in getting the boys home.
“Yes, Bill, by us and all our friends and folks doing the same. The ‘Big Shots,’ as you call them in Washington, heard the voice of the people and heard it loud and they did as the voice commanded. Your vote is your voice, so use it and use it loud, and the ‘Big Shots’ will do as you command. That is the way the people run their own government and by not voting — you can certainly lose it.”
The editorial included the following note of thanks:
“Our wholehearted thanks to Eddie Mullen for helping us in our campaign by covering the city with our pamphlets from his plane. All he asked was our thanks and Eddie — you sure have it from each and every one of the Jaycees.”
The campaign appeared to be wildly successful, considering the numbers reported as the Oct. 22 deadline neared.
“At mid-morning City Clerk Thomas Logan Brown reported that 5,460 voters have been registered. This was only 40 short of what Brown earlier had calculated to be the maximum number of voters in Great Bend — 5,500. Today he said he thought the eventual number of voters registered might well go above that number, for with the deadline at 10 p.m. tomorrow night, people still were flocking into his office to register today.”
The report also noted the former all-time record set in 1946 was 4,737.
While the final day to register has passed for the 2018 election, those who have registered have so many opportunities to vote now compared to 1948. If you think you may not be able to get to the polls on Nov. 6, you can vote early starting this week at the Barton County Courthouse.
This week, Great Bend High School would play its 1948 homecoming game against the Stafford Trojans.
One event even more anticipated than the game was the crowning of homecoming royalty. The Oct. 22, 1948 Tribune carried a sizeable photo of Queen Carol Myers, and additional photos of attendants Jean Denman and Marjorie Harms above the fold on the front page.
“Carol Myers, editor of Panther Tales and one of the most comely members of the senior class, was presented to a special high school assembly this morning as the Queen of Homecoming events,” the Tribune reported.
While the captain of the football team, Art Larkin, would be the presumptive king, he was “home with butterflies in his stomach,” for the assembly. Co-captain Don Christiansen filled in, presenting all three girls to the student body. Crowning was scheduled for half time.
Sadly, the Panthers lost to the Trojan underdogs, 7-6.
“The Stafford win stifled Great Bend’s hopes for an undefeated season and established that team as one of the powerhouses in the western part of the state, for they out-scored, out-gained and out-played the hitherto highly respected Panthers, who held a 5th place ranking in state football circles.” Ouch, Panthers.