In school, geography was a favorite subject of mine. If I had a good teacher, it was like traveling without leaving my desk. And I liked how places could be quantified by such things as population, elevation or precipitation. When not in Arkansas, I read everything I could about it and searched the sports page for mention of the Razorbacks. As a homesick army private in Germany, I would walk into town on my day off and visit the big German bookstore. There I’d go through the travel guides of the United States looking for mention of Eureka Springs, or at least of Arkansas. Sometimes I hit pay dirt and would try to decipher the German to understand what was being said about my hometown and state.
Now when I yearn to travel to new locales, circumstance usually requires me to do it as I did in school, from a desk. I’ve had a passing interest in New Zealand ever since I was a lad and my father told me about his visit there in the 1960s. I remember his saying that New Zealanders were more British than the British.
Occasionally, I become obsessed with a location. Besides visiting “Kiwi” websites (New Zealanders refer to themselves as Kiwis), I’ve discovered listening to radio stations over the Internet. Now I need a daily fix of talk radio out of Auckland for my news. The commercials are interesting. Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the beginning of summer there, so supermarkets are advertising fresh strawberries. Everyone is gearing up for the big traditional Christmas barbecue or trip to the beach.
All of this leads to my pondering how our visitors hear about Eureka Springs, especially our foreign ones. I don’t have much direct contact with tourists anymore, so I wonder what the trends are and if there are versions of me overseas obsessed with Eureka Springs or the Ozarks, hoping to visit.
If you are now interested in a trip to New Zealand, I might save you a journey to the Eureka Springs Carnegie Library by telling you that I have all of the New Zealand guidebooks checked out.
I don’t have many prized possessions, but one I do have is an old wooden chair with a hinged back, a kind of antique recliner. I like the chair, but part of what makes it special is that it once belonged to Dr. Pearl Tatman. You’ve probably heard of Dr. Pearl or seen her house at 265 Spring Street.
She first came to town as Dr. Pearl Hale in the late 1800s. She was born in New Hampshire and is said to initially have had a difficult time being accepted as a female doctor, but stuck with it and established a flourishing medical practice. She became known for her compassion and hard work. She took many maternity cases and brought a whole generation of Eurekans into this world.
Not long after her arrival, an Iowa-born pharmacist named Albert Evans Tatman came to Eureka Springs. They fell in love and married. She encouraged him to pursue his dream of also becoming a physician: Albert attended the Georgia College of Eclectic Medicine and Surgery in Atlanta. The Tatmans adopted a daughter named Daisy, who later married Clyde Perkins. Albert died of heart disease in 1925 and after his death, Dr. Pearl began buying land on Onyx Cave Road until she had a farm of several hundred acres.
By the 1940 census, Pearl Tatman was in her late 60s, living on her farm and working 20 hours per week as a medical doctor. She had fallen and broken a hip and had trouble getting around without a cane. The census report also listed two others of her household, her “unadopted daughter” Laura O’Connor and farmhand Tillman Wolfinbarger. Dr. Pearl died in April of 1944 and left $100 and her property inside the city limits of Eureka Springs to Daisy Perkins. Everything else was left to Laura O’Connor.
To be honest, I first became interested in Dr. Pearl because on January 2, 1921, she was in a house at the top of Magnetic Hollow with her medicine bag delivering my grandfather, McKinley Weems, but I was soon impressed with the legacy left by this strong woman. And I have her chair.
Before the advent of mechanized refrigeration, ice was a luxury. The only ice that the earliest European settlers to this area had for home use was collected in the winter off creeks, ponds and rivers. A hard freeze meant quantities of ice could be cut and packed in sawdust in cellars or specially built ice houses. Sometimes ice stored this way would last through summer.
The first commercial ice plant in Carroll County was the one located near the train depot in Eureka Springs. Southwestern Electric employed an ice deliveryman who traveled around town in a horse drawn wagon delivering ice that was put into wooden iceboxes to keep food cold. Customers displayed cards that indicated the size of order they wanted. One long-time deliveryman was George Head.
I’ve heard about George Head from a variety people and have never heard an unkind word said against him. In a 1949 Chicago Tribune newspaper article about square dancing in the Ozarks, Marge Lyon said George Head was “the best liked guy in town.” The article continues that he directed Saturday night square dancing, while “teaching perspiring, panting tourists who don’t realize what they are getting into until they are midway of a set.”
For a variety of reasons, George Head was popular with the children of Eureka Springs. He taught them to square dance as Hedgehoppers in the annual Folk Festival for one. For another, he allowed kids following the ice wagon on a broiling hot summer day to grab ice chips. If none were available, George Head would stop and chip ice for the children.
George and Ruby Head raised their family on Elk Street in Eureka. Besides working for the electric company and delivering ice, George was a volunteer fireman for 38 years. When he became fire chief, I’m told he was the best one the town ever had. At the end of his life, George Head was the mayor of Eureka Springs. He died in 1971 and is buried in the city cemetery.