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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Woman seeks information about family tragedy

  •      Sharon Schmidt was missing a piece of her past.


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  •      Sharon Schmidt was missing a piece of her past.
         On Dec. 26, 1965, her sisters, Polly Simmons and Dana Blakely, were both killed in a 2-car crash at the junction of highways 56 and 83. Polly's husband, Jim, was also killed. Dana's husband, Larry, was critically injured but survived. Jim and Polly's 9-month old baby, Todd, was also killed.
         At the time, Sharon and both her sisters were pregnant.
         The accident was such a trauma that no one in the family wanted to talk about it. And because of Sharon's pregnancy, she wasn't allowed to read  newspaper accounts or watch television reports about the accident for fear she'd lose the baby.
         The Dec. 27 edition of the Daily Globe ran a front page story with the headline "Seven Killed Near Sublette."
         "SUBLETTE — A grinding crash Sunday afternoon at the junction of U.S. highways 56 and 83 about one mile west of here killed seven persons, including four from Dodge City. The crash, the worst in the nation involving passenger cars during the Christmas weekend, happened about 2:35 p.m."
         Three occupants of the other car were also killed: Sabena Gonzales, 52, Netti Saldivar, 4, and Cindy Saldivar, 1. One adult and five children also in the second vehicle were injured.
         Ambulances from Ulysses, Satanta and Sublette responded to the call and the injured were rushed to the Sublette hospital. They were later transferred to the Dodge City hospital, escorted by the highway patrol.
    Neither car rolled but both were destroyed in the crash.
         Larry Blakely operated the Century Recording Studio in Dodge City at the time.
         The Blakelys and Simmons were believed to he going to Satanta to visit the sister's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Gales.
         The Saldivars were returning to their home in Leoti after a holiday visit to family in Post, Texas.
         The Dec. 28, 1965, edition of the Daily Globe carried a follow-up story: "Sublette Crash Details Given."
         The story notes that the accident occurred at a location "in the flattest county in Kansas." Visibility was excellent; the road was dry; the sky was only slightly overcast.
         The switchboard at Trinity Hospital was flooded with calls.
         Mrs. Bernice Cox, superintendent of the hospital, said "They offer blood or anything they can do for the family. I've had so many calls I can't count them all."
         The story also listed the injuries sustained by the survivors. Blakely's were the worst: a ruptured spleen, a broken arm and broken ribs.
         The others suffered broken arms and legs, a crushed chest, fractured pelvis, and severe cuts.
         The Blakelys had been married only four months.
         Sheriff Blackmore said it was the worst crash he had ever seen.
    Page 2 of 2 -      On Dec. 29, the Daily Globe ran an editorial titled "Multiple Deaths Hit People Hard."
         The writer expressed shock at the crash and noted the fact that such deaths in the community always have more impact than the ones reported in distant communities.
         The writer also noted "It is difficult to know what can be done [to prevent such accidents]."
         Perhaps, he suggested, all roads should be four-lane without major high-speed intersections on the same level but acknowledged that was most likely economically impossible.
         "People are people and drivers are drivers. Some persons would, we believe, manage to cause crashes even under the most ideal conditions."
         On Dec. 28, the Daily Globe ran obituaries for James Joseph Simmons, Mrs. Pauline Simmons, Todd Simmons and Mrs. Dana Blakely.
         A funeral mass for the four was held in Sacred Heart Cathedral with Monsignor J.J. Grellner the celebrant.
         When the Globe spoke to Mrs. Schmidt after locating the stories about her family's tragedy, she was understandably both thankful and cautious.
         "Of course, it's sad but it's also exciting to be able to fill in the gaps about this thing that happened to my family."
         There were five sisters in her family and four brothers.
         Four of the five sisters were expecting at the time.
         "Polly and I talked about being pregnant together — we even talked about sharing a room in the hospital," Schmidt said.
         Schmidt had been close to her sister Polly's son, Todd, who was also killed in the crash.
         "I taught Todd to crawl," Schmidt said.
         In the months following the crash, Schmidt said the family kept remembering things that took on new meaning.
         "Polly had Todd's Christmas presents hidden up in the closet and, for some reason, several days before Christmas, she took them out and let him play with them," she said.
         Schmidt's pregnancy ended successfully when her son was born on March 23, 1966.
         And several years later, when one of her sisters gave birth to a son on Dec. 26, Schmidt's mother said "Now we finally have something good to think about on this day."
         The family moved on, as everyone must, but Schmidt was left wondering about the details that her family never spoke of.
         Perhaps some newspaper clippings from 47 years ago will answer some of her questions.
     

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