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.
Adults who were children in the 1960s and 1970s have fond collective memories of whiling away Saturday mornings parked in front of the family television set watching cartoons. For many, pajamas were the clothing of choice, and breakfast was often multiple bowls of cereal and milk or donuts, eaten solo or with siblings as parents slept in late. And for many, a favorite cartoon featured the animated Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.
“Rut-roh.” It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since his debut on network television. That’s 350 in dog years. Ancient. Scooby was the faithful sidekick of Shaggy, a cowardly beatnik who helped fellow Mystery Inc. partners Fred, Velma and Daphne solve mysteries wherever they stopped on their perpetual tour of the country in the Mystery Machine, a flower-power themed van.
According to OnThisDay.com, Saturday, Sept. 13 was the day “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” debuted on CBS in the United States. Except, it wasn’t included in the Great Bend television listing making it one of those cartoons “they didn’t get here.”
The television lineup in Great Bend at the time included four channels ( KCKT Great Bend channel 2, KAYS Hays channel 7 and KAKE Wichita channel 10, and KTHV Hutchinson channel 12), and none were CBS network channels. According to the Wikipedia page featuring information about the Scooby Doo franchise, the show was in the same slot opposite network ABC’s “The Hardy Boys,” which in Great Bend was on Channel 10 at 9:30 a.m.
It wasn’t until 1976 that the franchise switched to network ABC. A few years after that, cable television’s reach became widespread, diluting the dominance in programming the three major networks ABC, CBS and NBC maintained for the first three decades of television.
Since then, many spin-offs have been created, as well as direct-to-market animated videos and movies and even two cinematic live-action movies. In 2019, the newest roll-out for the Scooby Doo Franchise is “Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?,” which appears on the Boomerang streaming service and app, and features celebrity guests each week.
On Sept. 14, Tribune photographer Tom Van Brimmer captured the image of a young barefoot boy and his dog, calling to mind Scooby and Shaggy. The boy carries a sack filled with belongings in one hand, the leash of his dog in the other. Clearly, they differed in their opinion of which way to go. Like Shaggy and Scooby, it appeared the dog would win out in that battle of wills.
Another front page photo that week featured a local girl looking like a live version of the smart, analytical Velma from the cartoon. Students at Park Elementary School promoted the start of the school’s new PTA in a unique picket line outside the school Friday morning. The girl in dark-framed glasses and shoulder-length dark hair leads three boys as they pound the pavement, drumming up attendance for the first meeting to be held Monday night.
Constructing today’s Great Bend
Two staff editorials in the Great Bend Tribune this week illustrate once more how fortunate the city is now that a flood control system has been implemented around the city. When the Great Bend City Council meeting met in September 1969, two statements concerning recent flooding due to the Dry Walnut Creek running at capacity were aired. First, the area around U.S. 281 and 24th Street had flooded because water was backing up for several blocks near the railroad right-of-way. Secondly, high water was standing in what was a new development in the northwest area of town. Council members noted that if the flood control system designed by the Army Corps of Engineers had been built, there would be no flooding in town because the Dry Walnut Creek would have remained dry. The editorial question of “how long will it be before something is done?” has now been answered. About 20 years.
The beginning of classes at the new Barton County Community Junior College was increasing traffic pressure at the intersection of U.S. 281 and what was referred to as the Bissell’s Point Road, resulting in higher risk of dangerous accidents. And that was with only the 1969 high school graduates attending. The traffic was expected to double when the class of 1970 began attending the following year. Work was underway to straighten and widen the county road. Further solutions were being sought, and included additional lanes and control signals. Eventually, lower speed limits and a slight curve in the road, as well as additional signals, would provide the protections the traffic counts warranted.
Speaking of the college, this week in 1969 a photo taken from the north wall of the gymnasium building appeared, showing cement crews preparing the seating areas of the swimming pools and basketball courts at the new college.
And in town, the Western Power and Gas offices building located at Broadway and Morton streets was under construction. With metal I-beams in place, preparations were being made to pour concrete floors. Today, the building houses the Great Bend offices of Wheatland Electric.
Visit the communities of Barton County, and notice there are family names associated with each community, indicating those early residents who worked hard and made their marks on the communities where they lived. Streets, buildings and parks bear their names, forever linking them to the home towns they helped to build in some way during their times. Sometimes, they achieved greater influence and fame after they left their hometowns, but still looked to Barton County as home.
This week in 1969, the Tribune carried short news items about two such people. First, there was Walter J. Hickel, who was Secretary of the Interior under the Nixon administration. Senator Bob Dole announced at the Kansas State Fair that week that Hickel planned to visit his hometown of Claflin in October 1969 for an appearance at a picnic. His itinerary included stops in Wichita, Hays, Great Bend, Dodge City, El Dorado, McPherson, Larned, Lindsborg and Salina.
According to his Wikipedia page, Hickel was born in Ellinwood in 1919 and grew up on his parents’ Dust Bowl tenant farm during the Great Depression near Claflin. He relocated to Alaska in 1940 and went into the local real estate industry. By 1947, Hickel had founded a successful construction company.
Hickel joined Democrats in calling for Alaskan statehood during the late 1940s and into the 1950s. In 1958, the Alaska Statehood Act was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Hickel is featured on the Barton County Historical Society’s wall of fame at the museum.
Second, there was Dr. William Pivonka, formerly of Albert. Pivonka, too, had left Barton County years before but continued to maintain ties here. It was noted that he was named with two others to Chairmanships of Liberal Arts at Park College in Kansas City, Mo.
“Dr. Pivonka will serve on the Business Management Committee at the college. He previously has been chairman of the chemistry department for the last five years.”
Pivonka continued to teach at Park College for 36 years and even served as the University’s academic dean, according to an alumni publication we found during our search. It turns out, an endowed science scholarship was established in his name by a former student.
Ruthann Donohue, Ph.D., 1964, led the effort to establish his scholarship. “Donahue had great respect for Pivonka who co-signed a student loan for her during her junior year ... The scholarship is awarded to a junior or senior majoring in science who demonstrates financial need and academic excellence.”
We had trouble locating more information about Dr. Pivonka, but we are certain he is connected with the Pivonkas the Albert, Kan., city park is named for today.