Aug 16, 2022

150 Years: Looking back through The Decades - 1950s

Posted Aug 16, 2022 9:15 PM

Hutchinson and Reno County will celebrate 150 years during Third Thursday in August. In honor of this celebration, we will release one decade each afternoon from The Decades, which were originally featured from September to November of 2021.

As we celebrate the 150th birthday of Hutchinson and Reno County, we want to go through the years, decade by decade, to see how things have changed and — remarkably — how they have stayed the same. This would not be possible without the efforts of Steve Harmon, the Reno County Museum, and the Hutchinson Public Library, who have made a great effort to supply us with the information and photos that you’ll see in this 15-part series. We hope you enjoy it.

Still another war is upon us with the Korean conflict. Hutchinson is growing rapidly with many big construction projects, including the Hutchinson Sports Arena. That and more on this edition of The Decades. 

1950: City residents approve an $87,000 bond issue to establish a municipal refuse collection program. The money is used for startup and equipment costs.

Coberly Drugs - Larkland Shopping Center at Completion - 1956. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

The Kansas State Fair builds an administration building.

The population of Hutchinson is 33,579.

The city attempts to acquire water works, but is unsuccessful as the council votes 4-1 against the purchase. 

Prairie fires rage through the area as dry, windy conditions hit the area.

A dedication ceremony is held for the completion of the K-61 Highway renovation project from Hutchinson to Pratt.

Adela Hale Business School - 428 E. 1st & Plum - Late 1950s. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

The Korean War brings on a shortage of automobiles. The Reno County Draft Board calls men into service once again.

The U.S. Postal Service is a major news topic today. In 1950, the post office announced it was dropping mail delivery from two times per day to one. A complete street address is necessary for delivery.

1951: The Hutchinson Public Library is officially dedicated at 9th and Main.

Hutchinson New Public Library - 901 N. Main - 1953. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

Wait till the Sun Shines Nellie is filmed in parts of Hutchinson, Nickerson, Pretty Prairie and Castleton.

Draft calls increase as the Korean War intensifies.

A severe storm blows through Sylvia; numerous buildings and power lines damaged; bridges are washed out.

Voters approve a $485,000 bond to make major renovations to Convention Hall. Today it is, of course, Memorial Hall.

In a more significant project, voters also approve a $994,000 bond issue to build the Hutchinson Sports Arena. Today, that would be $10.4 million.

Sports Arena at Finish of Construction - 1953. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

Fan Dancer Sally Rand performs at the Kansas State Fair.

The flood control project that was started in the 1940s is still not finished as the project is put on hold during the Korean War.

The city establishes parking meters in the downtown area to keep motorists from taking up parking spaces. The city plans to use the revenue to establish off-street parking.

Wiley Bldg. - N.E. Cor. 1st & Main - c. 1950. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

1952: The Hutchinson Sports Arena is finished. The first NJCAA National Basketball Tournament is held there.

More than 15,000 spectators fill up the state fair grandstands for stock car races.

A.R. King, who was the Reno County superintendent who served on the Hutchinson School Board for 12 years, died.

Kansas State Fair attendance estimated at 395,000.

The naval air station was reactivated for the war effort.

Hutchinson Naval Air Station - Over The Tower. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

A record 8.9 million bushels of wheat is harvested in the county.

The movie Wait till the Sun Shines Nellie premieres in Hutchinson. Hollywood stars attend and the parade draws more than 20,000 spectators.

Willowbrook is incorporated.

A dial telephone service is established in the area.

John Crutcher, real estate broker and active in the American Legion, is elected to the Kansas State Senate.

The city releases a pie chart showing what percentage of each tax dollar goes to in the city.

27% is debt service

26% is for public safety

20% is for Public Works

13% is for airports, parks and auditoriums

8% is for general government

6% is for health and sanitation

All city employees are given a 5% pay increase

11th Avenue is widened to accommodate traffic around the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

1953: Armistice Day; the Korean War is over — 800 county residents served, 17 died in the war.

The VFW clubhouse is built near the 4th Avenue viaduct.

Grace Episcopal Church Exterior at Completion - 2 Hyde Park Dr. - Late 1951. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

With debt service eating up a quarter of the budget, the city establishes a longterm capital improvement budget.

Four modern elementary schools are built. They are McCandless, Morgan, Wiley and Graber.

The new administration building is finished at the municipal airport.

Hutchinson New Terminal & Control Tower - c. 1954. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

A big day at the Kansas State Fair as 141 marching bands perform.

Zion Lutheran Church celebrates 65 years in Hutchinson.

A one-half-million-dollar military training facility is built just east of the Sports Arena. It is still part of the National Guard today.

The Baker Hotel is built — now the Plaza Towers.

Baker Hotel - c. 1958 (Built 1955). Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

KTVH television opened with studios located at 1800 N. Plum. 

KTVH TV Building Ext. - 1800 N. Plum - Hutchinson (from Roger Cornish). Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

1954: A blizzard paralyzes the area.

Three workers are killed in an explosion at a Collingwood grain elevator in Hutchinson.

The co-op elevator is built in Partridge.

Carey Fountain at Carey Park entrance before move to new location - c. 1950. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

Reno County is declared a disaster area after prolonged drought.

The City of South Hutchinson establishes zoning regulations for the first time.

Construction begins on the new Santa Fe train station. The station is still used today.

Partridge High School wins the state basketball championship.

1955: After being delayed due to the Korean War, the Hutchinson Flood Control project was finished. The levee system still protects Hutchinson and the surrounding area today. The project was mostly funded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Salk polio vaccine begins in the county.

Scenes from the movie Picnic are filmed in Hutchinson and Nickerson.

A new Santa Fe train station is opened and replaces the one that opened in 1897.

A.T.&S.F. Santa Fe new passenger Depot in 1955 (old one still there). Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

In what became a popular hangout for years, the South Hutchinson Drive-In opened for business.

1956: Telephone switchboards light up as residents call in to report UFOs in the area. Nothing is confirmed.

The Navy Reserve training center opens in Hutchinson.

In what is still one of the great traditions in Kansas, the first official tryouts were held for the Liberal Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. The tryouts were held in South Hutchinson. The event was televised nationally.

Carey Park - Ferris Wheel - 1955. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

Reno County Sheriff Al Severson is forced to resign after the State Attorney General John Anderson and County Attorney John Alden investigate that Severson was intoxicated while on duty and was found to have participated and encouraged the use of confiscated slot machines during parties at the courthouse.

Police begin marking tires on vehicles in the downtown area to prevent meter feeding. Thousands of dollars are generated from the fines.

1957: The Arlington Band rides a bus to Topeka to play in the inauguration of Gov. George Docking.

Four houses in Hutchinson explode; leaking gas mains blamed.

Hutchinson is named the home of the Kansas Wheat Commission.

Reno County still has five one-room multi-grade school houses in 1957.

In one of the more unique events held at the Sports Arena, tons of dirt is brought in to cover the floor of the arena for a rodeo.

It was soggy in Reno County in 1957 as a record 47.12 inches of rain fell for the year.

Dillon Nature Center - Dillon's Lake Employee Recreation Area - Cabin - 1950s. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

1958: The Reno County Welfare Work program is established. Men must work to receive welfare.

The U.S. Naval Air Station is closed for good. The base was built for $375,000 and, at one time, housed the largest indoor swimming pool at 550,000 gallons. The base was on more than 6,000 acres of land. It’s now the home to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and various industries. It's also a popular glider port.

The Reno County Sheriff’s Department is asked to help patrol the town of Pretty Prairie due to troublemaking teenagers.

K. P. & L. - Hutchinson Generation Facility Aerial - 3200 E. 30th (Built 1950). Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

Flooding becomes a problem after more than five inches of rain falls in just 24 hours.

Jane Bauman began to write a newspaper column that continued for more than 40 years.

Reno County Commissioners end $2 bounty for coyote ears.

After being voted down by both the public and the city commission in the 1930s and 1940s, the city purchased the privately-owned water works for $3.6 million. The takeover is approved and upgrades to the system begin immediately. 

Hutchinson Community College boasts the largest enrollment of any community college in Kansas.

1959: Reno County Wheat Growers Association established.

Looking for places to dispose of nuclear waste, the Atomic Energy Commission begins testing for the storage of radioactive waste in the Carey Salt Mine.

The last class graduated from Plevna High School. Twins who are part of the class are grandsons of members of the first class.

The college begins a crash training program to provide qualified employees for the area's booming industrial business. The college still provides specialized training for various industrial needs in the state. 

Sherman & Main from the South - c. 1950. Photo courtesy of Steve Harmon.

In what is certainly the mecca of historical material, Underground Vaults and Storage opens. Home to many rolls of movie film from the Wizard of Oz to whole film series of past television shows. The area also stores millions of paper and microfilm records.

Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson speaks at a Democrat rally held at the Sports Arena.

The Decades are brought to you by:
Hutchinson Funeral Chapel
Rothe Family Flooring
Hutchinson Public Library

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