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.
Happy Thanksgiving, Great Bend Tribune readers! Fifty years ago this week, Janice and Bill Stice of Denver, Colo., welcomed their first child, a daughter, into the world on Nov. 23. This year, she gets to celebrate her 50th birthday on Black Friday! In light of this milestone, I thought I’d shine a spotlight on 1968, but here’s the thing: aside from ongoing coverage of the Vietnam War and a few pop-culture events (Star Trek characters Captain Kirk and Uhuru shared an interracial kiss on television, the Beatles released their white album andO.J. Simpson was awarded a Heisman trophy), it was a pretty slow news week.
What to do? Looking back at past Thanksgiving columns, I found many gems worthy of a second look, so, this week, we look back over several years of Thanksgiving memories, and offer up a few holiday photos from 1968. Enjoy!
From Nov. 27, 2014, spotlighting 1924
Harve Fletcher, who lived southeast of Great Bend, must have been a great guy to know, especially around Thanksgiving. Each year, he held a turkey hunt, having raised a flock of turkeys just for the event.
“A few evenings before Thanksgiving, there is always a lot of friendly rivalry between the town boys and the men from Harve’s community as to which aggregation will get the largest share of the birds.”
Several familiar names were linked to the number of birds they killed.
“Of course, the winning of the turkeys was only a side issue. The feature of these gatherings is always the fine supper served by Mrs. Fletcher and this part of the program last night was right up to the standard and the folks who failed to take home turkeys made up for the deficiency by the amount of roast chicken, sandwiches, cake, coffee and other viands which they consumed in quantities all out of proportion to their ability as pitch players. These gatherings at the Fletcher home are always happy affairs and the one last night was right up to the dot in this respect.”
The Echo Theatre not only featured movies in the 1920s. Meetings were also held there, such as the one held one Sunday late in November, 1924.
Mrs. Belle Hotchkiss of this city was made pastor of the First Spiritual Society, of which she has been the leader for several years,in a ceremony of ordination.
“A meeting was also held last night in the same theatre and an audience that about half filled the theatre was present. this meeting was the occasion of some of the visits of the “spirits” to use the vernacular, which of course no spiritualist would do and there were given two trans-lectures.”
Hotchkiss went on to deliver messages from the spirits to people she pointed out in the audience. One message, which Hotchkiss claimed came from a Mennonite Minister, John S. Write, who had once lived in the section, was described this way:
“He was speaking from what some folks call heaven but which he would name the spirit world. There was a noticeable difference in the use of English and correct speech between the way the lecture was delivered and the usual speech of Mrs. Hotchkiss, though one or two idioms that are common with her were noticeable in the lecture.” Hotchkiss and her mentor, a Mrs. Gates, announced they would be available to discuss the society for several days. “And that’s another case of where you can believe it or not. Anyway, the little band that conducts the meetings believes in it strenuously, whether anyone else does or not.”
According to Ancestry.com, Belle Hotchkiss was born Belle Hall, in Ohio in 1863. She passed away in 1932, just a week shy of her 70th birthday. In December of 1901, a few lines in the Wichita Eagle revealed something unexpected about Mrs. Hotchkiss. “Mrs. Belle Hotchkiss, of Great Bend, who killed her brother-in-law, has been sentenced to the penitentiary for three years.”
Whether it was an accident or not, Hotchkiss eventually adopted one of her sister’s children, placed the other four, and insured her life for $4,000 for their benefits. The sister, married to the deceased James. A. Duffy, who ran a store in Ellinwood where he was shot, remarried a man from Mexico and abandoned her children and left the country. Years after her term was served, she had reason to question if Duffy had actually died. Perhaps, one could speculate, this had led her down the path of Spirituality.
From Nov. 26, 2015, spotlighing 1895
I’m sure no dog in all the world is half
so rich as I,
With goose bones and turkey bones and
crust of chicken pie!
My little mistress came to me, and said,
in her sweet way,
“Now, Dot, you must be thankful, dear,
for ‘tis Thanksgiving day”
You must be thankful for your home,
your friends, your good health --
The min-ster said so, Dot, because these
things are untold wealth!
That’s what my little mistress said, and
I couldn’t understand
But I understood the dinner that she
brought me -- it was grand!
So, with goose bones and turkey bones
and crust of chicken pie,
What dog is all the world, I say, is half
so rich as I!
From August 20, 2015, spotlighting 1997
When Thanksgiving came around in 1997, Al Silverstein of Great Bend talked with the Tribune about his father, Milt Silverstein, who at was featured on the front of Total cereal boxes because he was one of the fastest men in the 75-79 age group. He competed in the 1997 National Senior Sports Classic, winning the 100 and 200-meter dashes with times of 14.59 and 20.9 seconds respectively, then managing editor Daren Watkins wrote.
“He has always been a natural athlete,” Al Silverstein said. “He used to start standing up, but now he is coming out of the blocks. When I visit him, I just try to keep up.”
Chances are, Silverstein had little trouble running in the mild weather experienced the week of thanksgiving in 1997. Temperatures were in the mid 60s for highs and upper 30s for lows.