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.
I opened up the November 16, 1978 Eureka Springs Times-Echo and saw my wife looking back at me from page 3, though she was only 11 years old. She, along with classmates Clyde Osterhout, Jessica Lux and others, were winners in the school poster contest. Over on page 2 is a large photograph of Paul Anderson with art teacher Barbara Ackley. He won the grand prize in the contest and his artwork would soon grace the cover of the new Ozark Gardens menu.
The lead story of the week is about the ongoing plans to build a city parking lot on Water Street in the wooded valley between Douglas and Steele. City Administrator Karen Grulkey updated the city council about problems with the appraisal process when Mayor-elect Marcile Davis said she wasn’t in favor of the location. After input from City Attorney Ed Buice, alderman Bill Reasor introduced a motion to drop the Water Street project completely. The motion failed when only Truie Walsh and Bill Reasor voted for it. Al Westphal, Richard Kelley and Dave Drennon abstained. I believe Water Street is now a city park.
It was also reported that United States Senator Dale Bumpers would be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Chamber of Commerce banquet. An $8.50 ticket, purchased at the Chamber of Commerce office located in the Municipal Auditorium, bought a meal of cordon bleu.
Also on the front page is a photograph of Ruth Eicher, Jeanette Bullock and June Westphal being sworn in as members of the Historic District Commission. Previously, Charles Freeman and Clio Miller were sworn in by Mayor Charles Robertson. There is also a photograph of Eureka Springs native, Sheriff Jerry Colvin.
I perused the restaurant ads, wondering where people may have had plans to eat out for Thanksgiving the following week. Inn of the Ozarks and Eureka Inn had competing Thanksgiving buffets planned. The Hylander Steak House also had a special menu advertised. Miceli’s and the Spaghetti Mill have ads, though it wasn’t clear if they were open Thanksgiving Day. Tastee-Freez announced they’d be closed so they could stay home with the kids.
Four miles down Rockhouse Road off US Highway 62 in Eureka Springs is an old house leaning precariously under the unrelenting force of gravity. Informed it was once the home of Cora Pinkley Call, I drove to take a look. On my first pass, I didn’t see it because I was looking in the woods on the east side of the road. Turning around, I drove north and saw the small dilapidated building in the pasture on the west side of the road.
Cora Pinkley Call was a prolific and well known regional writer. As a child she was often sickly and spent her time writing or observing nature on the George Washington Pinkley farm on Kings River. She died in Eureka Springs two years before I was born, in 1966.
Because Cora Pinkley Call was McKinley Weems’ aunt, I swung by and picked him up. We traced our way down Rockhouse Road and looked at the house some more. McKinley said he couldn’t remember Aunt Cora ever living there, that it used to be the Roy Gaddy place. He said that he always knew of her living with her husband Miles Call on Mill Hollow Road. Miles Call was a postman in Eureka Springs after having farmed and soldiered earlier in life.
McKinley did tell me this old family story. In the early 1940s, he went fishing on Kings River with his Uncle Miles. They were on the old Pinkley place and passed a little house. Uncle Miles said, “Do you know what that is? That’s the weaning house.” It turns out that George Pinkley and his wife Mary Jane Harp had a second house on their farm for their children to live in when they first married. They had four sons and six daughters and when the next child married, they would get their turn to move into the weaning house.
But the weaning house was not the same as the house four miles down Rockhouse Road. I talked to more people and looked through land records but never figured out for sure when Cora Pinkley Call lived in the house, but had a good time trying.
I received an email from my sister Barb Mourglia the other day. In it was a short message that expressed some things about Eureka Springs and change and the passage of time that resonated strongly with me. You may know Barbara from her volunteer work against domestic violence. This is what she said:
“Eureka Springs has been home to me since I was brought home from the hospital to Rocky Top Road in 1985. It was a gravel road then, and I swore I wouldn’t be able to cope if it were ever paved. They did pave it, though. Chip and sealed it. I survived, but I still reminisce about a time when dust rose like a cloud when a car drove by. Some people don’t understand that. Now, when I visit my childhood home I see cars fly by going at interstate speeds.
“A few weeks ago, I was thinking to myself, ‘I hope the Office Supply (at the bottom of Planer Hill) never closes.’ When my Aunt Terri’s store Happy Things closed last year, I felt like a part of Eureka that lived inside me died. Then, I received news of the Quilt Shop closing and now the Office Supply. These shops have been here at least as long as I have and, in my mind, are concrete fixtures of home. I appreciate the little things like how the Office Supply smells upon entering. It just gives a feeling of comfort and stability, similar to the way you could count on classic rock playing when you entered Happy Things. Maybe some Tom Petty. You’re probably thinking I’m one of those sentimental types, and you’d be right. I keep stuff. I cry about absolutely anything that stirs up the slightest emotion. I suppose everyone has places or things that define the way they see their home. Eureka is a special place, built on little experiences and the people who provided them. I’m thankful for the three women, Terri, Kristy and Sandy, who ran those three shops for so many years. They helped shape the way I see the place that I call home.”
Home from college last week, my daughter bought tickets and treated me to the 7th Annual Voices from Eureka’s Silent City tour. Every person portrayed was interesting, but the one who caught my fancy was F.O. Butt. I’d heard stories about Mr. Butt and was eager to learn more.
Some kids snickered when they heard Festus Orestes Butt’s full name. I was impressed that he is said to have had one of the finest private libraries in the state of Arkansas. That is, until 1943, when his house burned down. I happen to know someone who was 12 years old and a neighbor to the Butt’s at that time and asked him some questions about the house.
The house that burned was one of the largest around and was situated where the Land O’ Nod motel is now located. F.O. Butt and his wife Essie had seven children and each had their own bedroom. There were also dorm rooms for the grandchildren, one for girls and one for boys. The bottom floor of the house was nearly encircled by porches with the south porch crowded with old push-type lawn mowers. Mr. Butt’s study had a private entrance and inside was his collection of pipes, as he was an avid smoker.
I’d once noticed that in the 1930 Federal Census it was reported that the Butt’s home was valued at $25,000, an astronomical amount at the time. I told the Butt’s neighbor this and he said that perhaps the 25 grand included the property connected to the house. The grounds stretched to the location of the present day Pizza Hut and included the 28 acre parcel that now contains Thomas Drive.
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Butt, perhaps you are wondering how he could afford such property. I certainly do not have room here to do his biography justice, but suffice it to say that he was a very successful attorney. In fact, I learned on the 7th Annual Voices from Eureka’s Silent City tour that he was licensed to practice law in the state of Arkansas for an astounding 75 years.