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HUTCHINSON, KANSAS — Six prominent Wichita businessmen first developed the innovative concept for converting a portion of Carey Salt mines into highly secure storage. Jack Healthman, Mark Adams, Sr., Bud Beren, J.T. Koelling, Robert Williams, Sr., and John Schul founded Undergrounds Vaults & Storage which opened for business 650 feet below Hutchinson in 1959. It was a time of tension with the Cold War, and as apprehension about nuclear war mounted, the unique Hutchinson facility received national press coverage as “nature’s bomb shelter”. Underground Vaults’ early base of 75 customers in 17 states escalated rapidly. Although the bomb shelter publicity brought UV&S much attention, businesses realized there are other reasons to have monitored, off-premise storage of their valuable documents. The original lease, for a portion of mined out space in an abandoned area of the mine, was signed with Howard “Jake” Carey, the general manager of Carey Salt Company who was also a UV&S board member. Fifty years later Underground Vaults & Storage has more than three million square feet in the mine, according to Lee Spence, president since 1995. And now UV&S has more than 3,800 customers worldwide, which most notably include several of the major motion picture and television production companies. Beauty Queens Visit It was also in those early days of UV&S that the young company received more national news coverage — this time thanks to some visiting queen contestants and the National Press Photographers Association. While holding its 1961 national convention in Wichita, the organization included a tour of Underground Vaults and brought along several of the contestants vying for the Miss National Press Photographer title. A picture of the contestants was distributed nationwide by the Associated Press, becoming the first ever wire service photograph transmitted from underground. The photo of the eight young women surrounded by walls of salt was carried in numerous newspapers around the country and once again generated significant interest in UV&S. Two Salt Queens to be Crowned So Spence said that when Underground Vaults’ management was planning how to commemorate the golden anniversary, the idea emerged to recreate the nostalgia, and the promotional value, of the queen visit. The result is a special golden anniversary celebration featuring the crowning of a Miss and Ms Salt Queen. The celebration has been set for Friday, April 24, at the newly expanded UV&S underground offices. Because Underground Vaults is so well known for being the repository for so many of the movie originals and historic artifacts from Hollywood, one of the Salt Queen judging categories will be movie costumes. The contestants will be evaluated on a personal interview, evening gown, and appearance as the movie character of their choice. The winners will make public appearances throughout the year on behalf of UV&S as well as the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. Contestants Invited, Over $7,000 in Prizes Miss Salt Queen is for young women 18 to 21 years of age. The Ms division is for those 50 to 53 to tie-in with the 50-year company anniversary. Each winner will receive $3,000 — a $2,000 cash award plus a $1,000 donation UV&S will make to the charity of her choice. The first runners-up will win $500, second runners-up $100, and third and fourth runners-up $50. Women throughout central Kansas are encouraged to enter. Entry information can be obtained by contacting Nancy Young at UV&S: 620 662-6769, extension 210, or emailing her at email@example.com. Spence said the complete program for the evening of the celebration are still being formulated and will be announced soon. Tickets for the event, which will be $10 per person, will be available beginning in early February. # # #