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Y2K concerns, BCHS museum addition and Girl Scouts in 1999
Out of the Morgue
Museum addition groundbreaking 1999.jpg
“Lois Brichacek, Melba Haines, Jiggs Schulz and Bev Komarek turn the dirt for a new museum addition,” read the caption of this April 2, 1999 photo in the Tribune. - photo by Great Bend 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.

Twenty years ago today, an American F-117A Nighthawk was shot down in Yugoslavia over Kosovo. The action happened after NATO troops were called in to keep the peace after Serbs refused to enter into a peace agreement with ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. This, four days into the Battle of Kosovo, was the first time NATO had attacked a sovereign country.

One Barton Community College student athlete, Alek Radojevic, watched events unfold half a world away with great concern, it was reported in the Great Bend Tribune. The 21-year-old Montenegran from the Republic of Yugoslavia also happened to be Serbian, and a supporter of the Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic. He admitted he was bothered by the action there. 

“I talked to friends and family and the people are united (behind Milosevic). No one human being can live without heart. We’re not giving up our lands because they’re constantly bombing the military basis,” he said. “The land belonged to Montenegro for 700 years. In Communist Yugoslavia, Tito promised the Albanians land and his dream was to unite a separated Albania. That’s not going to happen. 

“Either leave our country or leave us alone. Leave Montenegro to the Serbian People. If you’re not satisfied, leave or I’m going to chase you out. I’m supporting that 100 percent.” 

There was significant anti-American sentiment in Yugoslavia, and there were reports of a Kansas-based heart surgeon fleeing the country before his humanitarian mission involving a number of pediatric surgeries could be completed. 

Since then, borders and leaders have changed a few times-- its hard to keep up. Today, according to the online magazine The Guardian, independent Serbia enjoys a cozy relationship with Russia, while also attempting to keep Europe close. Meanwhile, the U.K. news magazine, The Telegraph reported in January that many people from Kosovo are leaving the country to seek asylum in Germany. 

NATO continues to have a presence in the area. According to its website, NATO and Serbia have steadily built up cooperation and dialogue, since the country joined the Partnership for Peace program and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 2006

Far from home.jpg
Here, Barton Community College basketball player Alek Radojevic, an exchange student from Montenegro, Yugoslavia, was concerned over recent events in his homeland.
New buildings announced. 

Meanwhile, in peaceful Great Bend, Kansas, it was announced this week that the city had been picked for a new Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill Restaurant franchise. The company was rolling out its Small Town Applebee’s Restaurants program, and this would be a SMART location. “The existing businesses at the location — Detrich’s Antiques and the Welcome Inn — will be razed,” it was reported, for our local trivia buffs. 

It was also this week that the Tribune reported the Barton County Historical Society Museum broke ground on a long awaited addition. 

The 1,800-square-foot addition would be added to the north east part of the museum, and would give the museum more space, but also allow for a redesign so that the current space could be put to better use, then Executive Director Bev Komarek said. A meeting room, a cataloging area and handicapped accessible rest rooms were planned. 

In recent years, Applebee’s partnered with the Barton County Historical Society Museum when the restaurant remodeled and chose a theme that highlighted local history, including images of vintage photographs and memorabilia decorating the walls. 

Y2K concerns

In 1999, the governments and utility companies around the world scrambled to implement fixes to what was called the Y2K bug. 

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, “ Until the 1990s, many computer programs (especially those written in the early days of computers) were designed to abbreviate four-digit years as two digits in order to save memory space. These computers could recognize “98” as “1998” but would be unable to recognize “00” as “2000,” perhaps interpreting it to mean 1900.” 

Some worried planes would fall from the sky, banks would be forced to shut down, cash registers wouldn’t open and civilization would grind to a halt as the new millennium dawned. The Great Bend City Council discussed the upcoming “Y2K crises” at the city council meeting this week. City Engineer chuck Bartlett prepared a report which detailed how possible power outages could affect city water and sewer systems. 

While efforts were underway by all sectors of business and government to perform upgrades and install fixes before the end of 1999, many prepared for the big day by stockpiling supplies in anticipation of mass hysteria should banks fail and access to money and food be interrupted. 

When the new millennium dawned and no disasters were felt, technology professionals were elated that their efforts had been successful. Meanwhile many wondered if the issue hadn’t been exaggerated. Dooms-dayers all over the country were left to determine what to do with their stockpiles.

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A March 31, 1999 Tribune photo shows senior Girl Scout Troop 296 which had made and distributed lap quilts and walker bags to Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice and Central Kansas Medical Center Long-Term Care Unit. The items were accepted by Dee Johnson. Girls pictured: front row, left to right, Amber Rosenberg and Jenna Remmert; back row, Debra Rosenberg, Connie Remmert, Alicia Knight, Audrea Westfall and Misty Petz.
Girl Scout project warms hearts, and laps

Seniors at the Central Kansas Medical Center and Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice were on the receiving end of an effort by Great Bend’s Senor Girl Scout Troop 296 this week. The group had been hard at work making lap quilts and walker bags in order to complete a 15-hour service project for their Girl Scout Challenge. 

Since then, the number of girls involved in Scouting has decreased. According to 

Larissa Gerritzen Graham, an area Girl Scout leader, there isn’t a high school program at this time, but there area still Cadettes, which include members n grades 6-8, though the tier is mostly dominated by 6th graders. 

Both the Girl Scouts of America and the Boy Scouts of America have experienced drop offs in membership from older teens over the past few decades, and have responded in different ways. Last year, BSA rebranded itself as Scouts BSA, and opened membership to girls. This happened as the GSA was preparing to rollout a whole new badge program focusing on STEM achievements. The Scouts BSA announcement prompted the GSA to introduce the badge program ahead of schedule. 

Will there be a girl Eagle Scout in Barton County anytime soon? Or will we see the Girl Scout equivalent, a Gold Award winner? We sure hope so, and look forward to the day we can feature her in an edition of The Great Bend Tribune