Central School Bell rings for school
For 42 years, the Central School Bell could be heard throughout Goodland calling children. “Come to school,” it said. The school was built in 1908 and the bell from American Bell Foundry Co. was hung in the belfry above the two-story building. The bell’s hammer was worn to smoothness by its constant use. The new Central School was built on the old one’s former playground. According to the Sherman County Herald‘s July 13, 1950, edition, the bell was supposed to remain on the new school’s grounds.
But it didn’t.
When the old Central School was torn down, the bell took a little trip — to Topeka, where it played a tiny part in the Cold War.
Bell rings for freedom
By Oct. 24, Goodland’s bell was in Topeka. State Auditor Carl Bjorkman had purchased it and taken it to his Topeka home.
As part of the Crusade for Freedom, the World Freedom Bell had been hung in the Schöneberg Town Hall in West Berlin and was dedicated on that day. Only a year earlier, West Berlin had escaped the Soviet blockade that had tried to starve the city into submission. The world stood at the brink of war throughout the blockade. In Korea, the Cold War had turned hot in June.
As a fundraising effort, the Freedom Bell had toured U.S. cities, including Kansas City and Denver, carried on a truck. Whether the bell had passed through Goodland is unknown. The bell, based on the Liberty Bell’s design, was intended to symbolize the differences between freedom in the West and Soviet oppression.
Bells in the Free World were rung at 11:03 a.m. Oct. 24, 1950, at the same time as the World Freedom Bell was rung in Berlin. Bjorkman had donated the use of the bell to mark the occasion in Topeka. A “spontaneous parade” broke out on Topeka’s Kansas Avenue, where the bell “did itself right proud,… lending its deep tone of approval for freedom for all mankind,” said the Herald‘s Oct. 26, 1950, edition.
Bell rings at home
Central School Bell stayed in Topeka another eight years until Bjorkman returned it to Goodland. He had it placed on a cement platform in front of the Sherman County Courthouse “at a height children could reach,” according to the Sept. 11, 1958, Sherman County News. “The bell has sounded many times and children take delight in ringing it themselves.” Bell was dedicated “to the children of Sherman County.”
Bell still stands on its platform just outside the courthouse’s front door, but it is difficult to ring. It’s very close to the courthouse benchmark. Sherman County District Court is upstairs in the courthouse. “They Came to Stay” stands on the courthouse grounds. The mysterious Kansas Room painting and the rescued stained glass window are in the library across the street. More Than Words stands in front of the library entrance.