These items were taken from the Sun’s editions 20, 30 and 40 years ago.


April 10, 1979

An eastbound Katy Railroad train carrying a car of ammonium nitrate struck a parked Frisco Railroad train a half-mile west of Columbus, killing a crewman, triggering a smoky fire and forcing the temporary evacuation of about 500 people. The ammonium nitrate, a granular fertilizer, posed a serious threat because it could have exploded from the fire, sending toxic fumes through the area. An evacuation of a 2-mile area around the accident was ordered, which included the west side of Columbus and scores of rural homes. By 9:40 a.m., workers had safely pulled the nitrate car out of range of the fire with a bulldozer and residents were allowed to return. Spokesmen for the two railroads reported the Katy train, carrying two loaded and 18 empty cars, slammed into the rear of the stopped Frisco train about 6:15 a.m. The Frisco conductor, H.L. Hines of Monett, Missouri, was killed when he was trapped inside the caboose. Charles Smith of Mound Valley, a brakeman on the Katy train, declined to detail how the accident happened but did say the Katy locomotive caught fire immediately and the crew members bailed out. Smith, 32, and Roland LeJune, 36, Katy engineer, were taken to Labette County Medical Center and released after treatment for bruises.


April 10, 1989

The school finance bill approved by the Legislature appeared to be good news for Parsons USD 503, but Superintendent Willis Heck said he was still apprehensive. The Legislature still had not decided the fate of a proposed 0.5% state sales tax increase, with half of the proceeds earmarked for education. Under the school aid bill sent to the governor, USD 503 would see an increase of $8,679 in state aid, while having an anticipated property tax decrease of 6.45 mills. Altamont USD 506 would have an increase of $234,000 in state aid, with a decrease in property tax from 49.23 mills for the district’s general fund to an estimated 40.6 mills. Oswego USD 504 would have a $59,000 increase in aid, with a property tax increase from 3.44 mills to 39.2 mills. Chetopa USD 505 would have an increase of $67,000 in state aid, with a property tax increase from 40.79 to 43.9 mills.


April 10, 1999

A Parsons man was part of a group of singers from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Pittsburg that sang for Pope John Paul II in Rome. Tony Munoz was a second-grade teacher at Guthridge Elementary School and a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. He was a member of a special choir that had practiced for a year in preparation for the trip to Rome. The choir flew to Rome on March 19 and came back March 26 after singing at a Mass on March 21 and then performing later that night at St. Ignatius Church. The choir also sang at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

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