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Saturday, July 26, 2014

1971-1990: Franchise and separation

BY BECCY TANNER
The Wichita Eagle

We had a rock group named Kansas: "Carry on my wayward son There'll be peace when you are done

Lay your weary head to rest

Don't you cry no more"

The Vietnam War eventually wrapped up — but not before we saw more death and heartache.

By 1975, the end of the Vietnam conflict, 758 Kansans had died and 38 were listed as missing in action.

The 1970s were a time for franchises: McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurants found their way to large and medium-size towns across the state.

Wichitans were sickened when they learned of a family of four — the Oteros — who were killed by a man who bound, tortured and strangled them. He would call himself BTK and evade police for the next three decades.

And, they were shaken when, on a summer's day in August 1976, a sniper crawled to the top floor of Wichita's 26-story Garvey building and opened fire, killing three and wounding six.

But the '70s were also a time when Kansas gays and lesbians began to march and champion their own rights.

In 1977 Wichita passed one of the few civil rights ordinances in the country protecting gays, putting the city on the map when Anita Bryant and her Save Our Children organization challenged it. The next year, it was repealed when Wichitans voted to overturn it, 47,246 to 10,005.

Also at that time, refugees from Southeast Asia began coming to Kansas by the hundreds.

The 1980s brought us mullets and mohawks with spiky hair.

The '80s were hard, man.

It was a time for struggling family farms, hard hit with droughts and sagging farm prices.

But Kansans were going through tough times in other industries, as well.

More than 15,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Wichita between 1981 and 1983, largely the result of layoffs at airplane plants.

There were foreclosures and tractorcades, drug planes and intrigue, with news that a small-town Kansas minister murdered his wife and was having an affair with his church secretary. They had plotted to kill both their spouses.

It was the decade when Kansas' only nuclear power plant — Wolf Creek — came online, when Wichita native Lynette Woodard, a four-time All-America basketball player and U.S. Olympic winner, became the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters.

The 1980s were when Kansas voters approved liquor by the drink in eating establishments and a state lottery; and the Coleman Co. —the longtime family-owned Wichita company — was purchased by New Yorker Ronald Perelman in a takeover.

But mostly, it was a time when small family farmers tried to stand firm on their land.

For some who would lose third and fourth-generation farms, the Kansas song of the 1970s, "Dust in the Wind" became prophetic.

"I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone...

Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind."

© 2011 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansas.com