Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for May 28, 2014 by Steve Weems

The Eureka Springs High School Alumni Association is the oldest high school alumni association in the State of Arkansas. It held its 124th annual banquet and meeting at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center over the weekend.

Celebrating their 50th anniversary, the class of 1964 had the most members present at the banquet. Nancy Clark, the 1964 senior class sponsor, and Alice Barker, the 1964 class “room mother” for grades one through twelve, also attended. This year’s association president, Mary McCall-Weems was in the class of 1964 and she and others of the class presented much of the night’s program.

Randy Wolfinbarger (Class of 1973) welcomed the newly graduated Class of 2014 as members of the Eureka Springs Alumni Association and admonished them to not forget from where they come. Randy’s son Langley Wolfinbarger  (Class of 2014) responded by accepting the invitation on behalf of the graduating class. A slideshow of the members of the class of 2014 was shown while the class song, Freebird, played.

Genes Bland (Class of 1964) presented the Alumnus of the Year Award to Jeff Reynerson (Class of 1974), an attorney in Springdale, for his years of service to the association, the Eureka Springs schools and the Northwest Arkansas community.

Allen Huffman (Class of 2003) presented Pauline Crawford (Class of 2014) with this year’s Alumni Scholarship.

Ben Rivett (Class of 1964) called the roll of the members present. The two oldest members at this year’s banquet were Tommy Crews and Mary Janice Thomas-Morris, both of the Class of 1942.

Genes Bland (Class of 1964) read the names of alumni who had died in the previous year.

Bobby Dale Thurman (Class of 1964) asked trivia questions and handed out door prizes. It was determined that the Crews family was the family with the most alumni members present at the banquet.

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 2013 meeting.

Eureka Springs School District Superintendent David Kellogg was thanked for attending the banquet, and the crowd sang the Alma Mater.

End of an Era: RIP Chandler

After seven short years with us, our Bullmastiff named Chandler passed away May 16, 2014. He was polite, strong and dignified, but worn down by the years and poor health. When he first came to us years ago he was just skin and bones, weighing only 95 pounds. Late in life he was more like 125. Quiet except for the occasional “big dog bark” warning to coyotes and strangers late at night, he kept a watchful eye upon us and the other dogs.

Chandler Standing Tall compressed


Chandler by Barbara Mourglia Sideview


Chandler Backview and Lewie by Barbara Mourglia

Chandler by Barbara Topview

Ozark Hollow Eureka Springs Chandler Weems


Steve Weems and ChandlerIMG_7352

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for May 21, 2014 by Steve Weems

Jim and Mary Lee Penson were on their way to Branson in October 1973 when, on the spur of the moment, they decided to stop in Eureka Springs to see the Great Passion Play. They were investigating locations where they could develop a campground and RV park, so the next morning they talked to Gerald Fowler, a Realtor in town. As it turned out, he had just listed a campground for sale located in the curve of US 62 at the top of Rockhouse Road called the Hitch-N-Post. The Pensons bought it.

Jim and Mary Lee Penson were natives of Shawnee, Oklahoma, but had spent the previous 11 years in the Oakland, California area. Jim said it was ten years too many.

Mary Lee worked for the Heart of the Ozarks Realty and Bromstad Abstract at 26 Spring Street. She sat at the desk by the big plate glass window and it would vibrate so much that she half expected it to fall in on her. Colonel King and Fonta Mackie were the partners who owned the business and they would fight like cats and dogs so much that people who didn’t know them always thought that they must be married.

Between 8 and 8:30 every morning, Mary Lee would park her car where the Flat Iron Building is now. She would walk up Spring Street and the aroma from Claude Bingaman’s bakery smelled so scrumptious she’d find herself going in against her will to buy a half-dozen donuts for the office. Claude Bingaman would say, “No calories in these donuts. They won’t make you fat.”

At lunchtime, Fonta Mackie didn’t like going in the High Hat to pick up food, so she’d send Mary Lee for hamburgers for lunch. Inevitably, a man on a barstool sipping beer would say, “Mrs. Mackie has you doing her dirty work again.”

The Hitch-N-Post was sold several years ago (actually they had to sell it twice), and Jim has passed away, but Mary Lee volunteers at a local assisted living facility where none of the residents are local people, and she can tell stories about how Eureka Springs used to be.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for May 14, 2014 by Steve Weems

In response to last week’s column about the black panther sightings in the area, a reader related a fishing expedition earlier this spring on Table Rock Lake. While fishing near Holiday Island, he noticed a large black cat on shore and photographed it. The pictures are fuzzy because of distance and a rocking boat, but they do seem to show a black panther in an area of timber and large rocks.

“When the cat spotted me he was gone in a flash,” the fisherman said. After getting close to shore and comparing the size of the rocks in the photographs, he said the black cat must have been at least four feet long. “Definitely not your typical house cat,” he said. “I really feel blessed to have witnessed this beautiful animal, something I’ll always remember.”

Now onto another matter. I’ve long been fascinated by the old story of William Wrigley of Wrigley Gum fame and fortune coming to Eureka Springs and he loved the town so much that he tried to buy it. Most of what we know about the matter seems to come from four paragraphs in Otto Ernest Rayburn’s The Eureka Springs Story.

Mr. Rayburn’s account says that William Wrigley visited Eureka Springs in 1902 and 1903 and offered to purchase all the land “within a radius of three miles of the city and make it into a public park if the city authorities would agree to keep it policed and free from junk and garbage.” After being turned down, Wrigley “went to Catalina Island, off the California coast, where he spent millions in development.” That is true, but it occurred almost twenty years later when Wrigley was a much wealthier individual.

The earliest reference to the Wrigley episode that I found was a scathing 1936 editorial written by Roberta Fulbright in the Fayetteville Daily Democrat in which she ridicules Eureka Springs for not selling out. Roberta Fulbright is better known as the sister of Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright and grandmother of political pundit Tucker Carlson. She also married the head of the Swanson frozen-foods empire.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for May 7, 2014

Sometime back, my neighbor, a man with decades of hunting experience, saw what he would have called a mountain lion, except it was completely black. And he is not the only one down our county road to have seen a large black cat.

There are recurring sightings of black panthers in the Ozarks, though scientists generally discount these reports. The speculation is that the sightings are made in poor light by inexperienced observers seeing fleeting images of bobcats or black dogs or even river otters.

A few years ago, Jon Mourglia was coming down Planer Hill into downtown Eureka Springs when he saw a black panther up on the right. He stopped and watched the animal for a couple of minutes and then ran into a business to alert others. A lady came out, but only in time to see the animal’s tail as it jumped over a log and retreated. Jon said it was broad daylight and the animal watched him for as long as he watched it. The black panther was sleek and its tail was nearly as long as the rest of its body.

In South America, mountain lions are known to occasionally be black (called melanism), but this has never been proven to have occurred in North America. Another explanation is that a caged black leopard or black jaguar has been released into the wild.

What is interesting about this is that some early explorers and pioneers reported that there were black panthers in the area. In fact, when the wildlife of the Ozarks was listed by various observers, catamounts and panthers were often listed separately. Mountain lions can be called either catamounts or panthers by different people, but for them to be listed separately, the references must be to different animals.

Others have speculated about the historic range of jaguars and a smaller wild cat called the jaguarundi. Both are thought to have ranged north into Texas and Louisiana at one time, and possibly into Oklahoma and Arkansas.

For the record, the only Jaguar I’ve seen in town was driven by Larry Evans.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for April 30, 2014

When I was a kid I had a big interest in the jungles of the Congo region of Africa. On the front page of the March 25, 1965 Eureka Springs Times-Echo is this notice: “Dr. Robert Etherington will be showing slides taken in the Congo at the Oak Hill Grange Meeting. April 3 at 8 p.m. Everyone is invited.”

I would like to have heard Dr. Etherington talk about his trip to the Congo, but, alas, he hadn’t delivered me yet. Robert A. Etherington was a doctor in Eureka Springs for many years. He was born in the state of Washington in 1922 and came here in the early 1960s to practice medicine.

I suppose Dr. Etherington took care of me as a baby (seems I recall a story about him dropping me), but I didn’t see him again until I was 15 and he was the doctor on duty in the Emergency Room at the Eureka Spring Hospital. I was gainfully employed early that evening as a busboy at Buckingham’s Restaurant in the old Ramada Inn. The busboy’s station had stuff piled up on the floor and I stumbled while taking down a pot of hot coffee from the burner. Coffee splashed down my neck and clean white shirt.

I worked awhile longer, but customers kept looking at me oddly, so I asked my employer if I should go home and change clothes. My employer became rather alarmed at the sight of me and the headwaiter rushed me to the hospital. Dr. Etherington said I had second-degree burns and proceeded to wrap my neck and head like that of a mummy. Had I known about his trip to the Congo, it would have been an opportunity to ask about it.

My contact with Dr. Etherington was limited to just a few significant occasions, but the interesting thing is that if you ask ten people about Dr. Etherington, you will hear 10 different surprising stories. When he left town, I always heard it was for Australia (and maybe it was), but records show he was soon living in Enid, Okla. He died in 1999.