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.
Thanksgiving is a week away, and we can’t forget that Christmas is right around the corner. Soon airwaves, retail stores and elevators everywhere will be filled with Christmas carols.
Gene Autry’s popular recording of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a song by songwriter Johnny Marks based on the 1939 story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer published by the Montgomery Ward Company, made the Billboard top 100 charts this week in 1949, finally gaining traction after it’s Sept. 1, 1949 release.
The song was among several novelty songs that fueled the newly emerging children’s music market. Most music was still listened to on the radio, but phonographs were beginning to come down in price, so the market for records was building.
The song continues to be a Christmas classic, of course. In a 2011 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog, we found it listed among the top 100, where it was noted it had been played 375,342 times on the radio from late October through early December of that year.
Seventy years ago today, Great Bend Tribune readers breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was reported that all but two of the airmen aboard B-29 bomber that crashed days earlier in Atlantic Ocean waters had been found alive.
“Beefsteak, families, insurance and ‘move over and give me a little room.’ That’s what survivors of the ditched B-29 said they thought about during 79 “miserable” hours on two six-man life rafts in heavy Atlantic swells north of Bermuda.”
The men were picked up by the Canadian destroyer Haida, after a U.S. Air Force B-17 sighted them about 400 miles northeast of Bermuda.
One of the three life rafts was lost as a result of the crash. Survivors were hopeful they would be found, as they saw the planes searching for them from above. They survived on rainwater and hard candy, and when they were found, they had enough provisions for one more day. Waves were so high, when the men stepped or were handed across the Canadian destroyer’s forward deck, they didn’t need a ladder, the report said.
As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, the next day, Great Benders learned one of their own was among the survivors. Staff Sgt. Lyle Pound, the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Pound was pictured with three other officers who survived the B-29 wreck on the Tuesday Tribune’s front page.
Barton County Historical Society researcher Karen Neuforth found a Jan. 14, 1954, Tribune report that indicated Sgt. Pound was far from done with his military service following the B-29 incident.
“M-Sgt. Lyle Pound, 29, is attending survival school at Reno, Nevada. He has been in the air force 11 years and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Pound, 908 Madison. Sgt. Pound is currently serving with ‘Stratecon,’ as an aerial photographer with a B-36 group in Puerto Rico where his wife and daughter are living. During World War II, Sgt. Pound served in both the ETO and Pacific theaters as a flight engineer on B-29s, B-24s and now he is a crewman on the B-36s. Altogether during World War II and the Korean war, he piled up 68 aerial combat missions.”
A post WWII housing shortage had families in Great Bend focused on new home options in 1949, and the Tribune responded with timely articles about new homes being built in the city, and a spotlight on the families lucky enough to acquire them. This week, the spotlight turned to Mr. and Mrs. Warren Fillips and their family Barbara, Sarah and Wes who lived in one of three Lustron homes on their street. The report detailed the ways in which the Phillips family had personalized their prefabricated homes, exchanging frosted glass for clear, hanging drapes,and choosing carpets and Duncan Fife furnishings. Every room in the house was designed with built-in features and an eye towards efficiency.
“The Lustron home is decay-proof, vermin-proof, rust-proof, and termite-proof. The construction itself acts as a protection against lightning. The porcelain enamel, fused to steel at high temperatures, will take a hard blow without chipping or marking, will never fade, crack or peel.”
The homes were available through the Brack Implement Company, located at 1708 Main in Great Bend.
Take a drive around Great Bend and you’ll see a number of the homes on various blocks both on the east and west sides. You can also tour one at the Barton County Historical Village, one of the only locations in the country open to the public.
Kansan Theater announced ... again
In 1946, Commonwealth Theaters announced they would build a brand new Kansan Theater in the same Lakin Street location. The announcement was hopeful but premature, as it took the country some time to transition from a wartime economy. This week in 1949, it was announced again that bids were being sought to construct the new theater, the materials having been procured and in storage in various locations around the city.
“Everything will be brand new,” L.W. Morris, division Commonwealth manager, said. “Our company is buying the best in sound and projection equipment, as well as in the refrigeration and heating plant. There will be carpeting in the aisles and over all other floor space, except directly underneath the seats. The building will be of steel and concrete construction, reducing the fire hazard to a minimum.”
The Kansan operated for many years, eventually being renamed The Crest Theater. Eventually, it became a city-owned building, available for event rental and theater productions by local organizations. Renovation to the HVAC system is currently underway.
Just for fun
Something most take for granted today was a pretty big deal this week in 1949. The late E.W. Moses left the city $500 with which to install a drinking fountain. City Council members, however, couldn’t decide if the fountain should be placed in the Courthouse Square, or in the city park.
Those in favor of the Courthouse Square wanted to use most of the money to purchase an ornamental fountain, and those who favored the park argued for the majority of the money to be used to dig a well, purchase a pump, and top it off with the installation of a small fountain.
Then Mayor Joe Mermis asked for action on two questions. First, the location for the fountain – the majority voted for the park. In the end, the council voted unanimously for an ornamental fountain to be placed next to the park concession stand.
It only took 22 years since Moses left the money for the city to decide.