Eureka Springs Independent Column

And so another class graduates from Eureka Springs High School and passes into legend. The graduation ceremony was held Friday, May 22 at the new high school gymnasium. It was announced that the 45 members of the graduating class of 2015 have already been awarded over $700,000 in college scholarships.

Also over the weekend, the Eureka Springs High School Alumni Association held its 125th annual banquet and meeting at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center.Chairing the meeting was Alumni President Rusty Dycus (Class of 1992).

Diane O’Connor Weems (Class of 1986) welcomed the newly graduated Class of 2015 as members of the Alumni Association. Diane’s daughter Sarah Weems (Class of 2015) responded by accepting the invitation on behalf of the graduating class.

Bobby Pyatt (Class of 1955) was presented the Alumnus of the Year Award by Jeff Reynerson (Class of 1974). Mr. Pyatt is one of the all-time great basketball players from Eureka Springs High School. In the days before the establishment of the three-point shot, he once scored 49 points in a single game. It was also reported that he has a passing resemblance to Cary Grant and is a true gentleman.

Phyllis Albrecht McGuire (Class of 1962) presented Juan Luis Palacios Romero (Class of 2015) with this year’s $1500 Alumni Association Scholarship after reading his excellent essay to the group.

When Ben Rivett (Class of 1964) stepped forward to call the roll of the members present, someone shouted that he was the “best bus driver ever.” I tried to keep track of how many names were called, and the unofficial total I arrived at was an even 100 alumni members present (plus their guests). The oldest class represented was the Class of 1942.

David Stoppel (Class of 1978) read the names of the 14 alumni who had passed away in the previous year.

Association Treasurer Tammy Sherman Bullock (Class of 1991) presented the financial report and Association Secretary Gayla Goff Wolfinbarger (Class of 1981) read the minutes of the 2014 meeting.

The meeting was adjourned after Thalia Colvin-Ortega (Class of 2015) won the Apple iPad.

George O’Connor

This photograph of George O’Connor of Eureka Springs, Arkansas was taken November 25, 1950. He is standing in front of his business, O’Connor’s Texaco Service Station. He was 49 years old. This photograph was provided by Susan Willard of Kansas. It was on November 25, 1950 that George O’Connor, a Justice of the Peace, married her parents.

George OConnor 1950

Old Bridge Over the Kings River

This old postcard depicts the US 62 highway bridge that once crossed the Kings River between the Arkansas cities of Eureka Springs and Berryville. It was sometimes dangerous because of its narrowness, but I still miss it. The new bridge is five lanes wide and undoubtedly safer but its also ugly. With its elegant arches, I thought the bridge on the postcard was a beautiful structure. I don’t know what year the old bridge was dedicated, but at the ribbon cutting, Jack McCall rode the first horse across it.

Kings River Bridge postcard

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 22, 2014 by Steve Weems

While in college, we splurged and celebrated our anniversary at the nicest restaurant we could afford in Russellville, Arkansas. I remember the croutons were good. At the table next to us was another young couple and they ordered wine with their dinner. The waitress apologized and said, “I’m sorry, we’re dry.” When the waitress departed, the couple put their heads together in lively discussion. At the return of the waitress, the young lady said, “We’re from California. Can you explain to us what you mean about being dry?” The waitress cheerfully enlightened the travelers about alcohol sales in Pope County and much of the state.

Arkansas has more dry counties than any other state in the nation. Of the 75 counties in the state, 63 are dry or partially dry. Many locals don’t seem to realize that most of our own Carroll County is dry. There are 21 townships in Carroll County and 14 of them are dry or partially dry.

Since it was decided by a vote of the people, some say it was democracy in action. Others cite big government or the influence of certain church denominations. Others have a simple argument about freedom. I don’t care myself, although I am prone to occasional fits of perverse pride when Arkansas is out of step with mainstream America. It is, after all, an issue settled by most of the United States before World War II.

I’ve read that Arkansas liquor distributors are not necessarily in favor of repealing the ban, though one might wonder why. Some believe it will not change consumption or total sales, but will increase costs of doing business (transportation and paperwork costs, I suppose.)

Of course, Eureka Springs is not dry. My understanding is that it never has been, not even during prohibition. Since supply follows demand, local hill farmers with entrepreneurial ambitions sprang into action. I won’t name names, but I had kin who profited because of prohibition. And some did a little jail time, too. In the 1920s and the early 1930s the federal courts in both Fayetteville and Harrison did a booming business prosecuting and processing many small business owners.