Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: History: December 2009


GREAT BEND, Kan. - On November 1, 1967, I waited in line with hundreds of Great Bend kids to meet an astronaut. As a scrub-faced seven-year-old, I was awed when I saw him arrive at J.C. Penney Toyland in his silver space suit and space helmet.

He wasn't a real astronaut, I now know. But as a seven-year-old, you suspend disbelief. The "astronaut" was "Major Astro," a guy named Tom Leahy who had an afternoon children's program on KARD-TV, the NBC affiliate in Wichita. Each afternoon "Major Astro" would delight youngsters in Wichita and Western Kansas with his program, in which he played an astronaut on the moon showing cartoons from a space station. We only got one channel in Great Bend - KARD-TV, so "Major Astro" was the only game in town.

A few days ago, I posted something on Facebook about "Major Astro," and I got a huge response from baby-boomers, all favorable, and way beyond what I expected. And I have thought a lot about why people in their fifties still light up at the mention of "Major Astro."

Gridlock, Sports and My Uterus

WICHITA, Kan. - I have been a member of Kansas National Organization of Women (Kansas NOW) since 2005. During that time, I have seen the women of Kansas seemingly take two steps forward and then take two steps back, stuck in a state of gridlock. The Shiver Report of 2009 illustrates this. The findings show that for the first time in history half of U.S. workers are women. This seems like quite an accomplishment for our gender... but wait... women earn merely 70% of what their male counterparts earn. Women you may now take one step forward with pride, but then be sure to follow that with one giant step backward.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - On December 10 the world marks the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is commonly referred to as Human Rights Day and this year's theme is: "Embrace Diversity: End Discrimination."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillary said: "Discrimination lies at the root of many of the world's most pressing human rights problems. No country is immune from this scourge. Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order."

Download and read An End to Discrimination, the official publication for the 2009 Human Rights Day.

How appropriate considering that the FBI released hate crimes data in November that once again showed a "slight increase" in the number of "hate crimes" committed in 2008 as compared to 2007 with 7,783 incidents and 9,691 victims (including individuals, businesses, and institutions) that were reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies across the country.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The Newton, Kansas telephone book is full of Unruhs. Newton is where thousands of German-Mennonite families like the Unruhs immigrated. They introduced Turkey Red Winter Wheat to Kansas, which transformed Kansas into the "Breadbasket of the World."

On September 30, 1922 Jesse Marvin Unruh was born in Newton. He was raised in poverty, and his sharecropper family moved on to Texas when Jesse was only 7 years old. But Kansas left it's imprint on Jesse Unruh, and he left his imprint on the world.

Politicians are often advised not to say memorable things. But Jesse Unruh couldn't refrain from saying memorable things, and is often remembered more for two quotations than for his role in history.

This son of Kansas sharecroppers became Speaker of the California State Assembly, and his maxim that "Money is the mother's milk of politics," paled in comparison to what he once said about lobbyists' influence in the legislature: "If you can't drink a lobbyist's whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women, and still vote against him in the morning, you don't belong in politics." Now that's a "sound bite."

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is History: November 2009. The next archive is History: January 2010.

If you want to browse other topics, you can also check our Table of Contents. The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.


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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the History: December 2009 section.

The previous archive is History: November 2009. The next archive is History: January 2010.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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