Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for June 25, 2014 by Steve Weems

Driving home from Conway, Arkansas, recently, I tried a new route. Normally, it is a straight shot from Conway to Harrison, then an hour westward to Eureka Springs. Though a Sunday evening, this major artery through the Arkansas Ozarks seemed especially heavy with traffic and impatience. I try to avoid both.

At the town of Clinton, I had an idea and turned left onto a state highway and followed meandering asphalt through the Boston Mountains. The elevation rose immediately into dense forest and automobile traffic ceased to exist. The occasional opening on high spots showcased stunning scenery.

The population of wildlife I saw greatly surpassed that of domesticated humans in shiny metal boxes coming at me at high rates of speed. I found myself relaxing and my mind wandering. That is what a deserted open road does to me.

I missed the name of a dying community with a sizeable abandoned school building that I passed through. Probably the victim of school consolidation. In the Ozark National Forest, I thought of Charlton Heston as I drove through Ben Hur.

When I reached Boxley, I saw several elk, mostly cows, grazing along the highway. Despite my low rate of speed, I could have clipped a young gangly bull elk that stepped out in front of me had I not stomped the brake pedal vigorously. Balancing his huge velvet rack, he bobbed his head as he gave me the fish eye dismissively, then glanced back at three other bull elk that were watching. Perhaps he was trying to clip me as some sort of initiation rite for the juvenile street toughs of Boxley.

After Boxley and Kingston, I did see some vehicular traffic, mostly pickups and Jeeps with canoes and kayaks. I turned west and at Marble saw the first open gas station since Clinton and then took the short cut through Alabam and Old Alabam to reach Forum.
When I reached the city limit sign of Eureka Springs, I realized that it was the first population sign I’d seen since Clinton. One hundred and fifty-eight miles of driving and saw not a single community that had enough population to brag about it on their city limit sign. I liked that.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for June 18, 2014 by Steve Weems

McKinley Weems remembers as a boy the first time he saw Lola Wolfinbarger. His family was traveling to a burial at the Rockhouse Cemetery and stopped at the Wolfinbarger house. Lola and her sisters were in the yard.

On June 18, 1939, McKinley Weems and Lola Wolfinbarger of Eureka Springs were married. They both come from families where you count your cousins by the dozen. Mac was the eighth of the nine children of Walter and Luella (Pinkley) Weems. He was born and raised on Magnetic Road, except for when the springs were dry during the Great Depression and they lived next door to Aunt Cora Pinkley-Call in town.

Lola was the seventh of ten children born to Arl and Mary Lula (Cordell) Wolfinbarger. She was born and raised near Keels Creek southeast of Eureka Springs.

With the exception of the war years, they’ve always lived on the outskirts of Eureka Springs. They were away during the war when their first home burned down. When they returned they purchased the house at 1 Magnetic for $75 and lived there for almost 20 years. With a small house and a growing family, they built a new home to accommodate their eight children.

With so many mouths to feed, they’ve sometimes had to scramble to make ends meet. McKinley has been fixing and building things since his first job in 1934 at Mac Hussey’s garage on Main Street. He worked on radios and refrigerators for Ray Freeman and Eagle Thomas, before buying a bulldozer.

A farm girl, Lola has always known work. Besides farm work, she ran traps and sold animal skins before marriage. Since then she has raised children and gardens and owned and operated Country Antiques for nearly 40 years.

They’ve continued the tradition of having cousins by the dozen, with about 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren thus far. They’ve enjoyed the benefits of the large family, but they’ve also endured the loss of three children, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Today, they celebrate the 75th anniversary of their marriage. It is called a “Diamond Anniversary.” I looked it up.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for June 11, 2014 by Steve Weems

At a certain age, after spending thousands of hours in classrooms, I reached the conclusion that many teachers are in the wrong line of work. Not Kathy Remenar. She has the rare ability to be both interesting and entertaining while keeping order in the classroom. She fosters spirited debate, while maintaining standards of decorum with humor and the occasional flash of the eyes. After nearly four decades of doing just that at the Eureka Springs High School, she is, as she says, ready to graduate.

Mrs. Remenar’s teaching career started in 1968 in suburban Chicago after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and English from Illinois State University. After moving here and while working on her Master’s degree, she became acquainted with the Eureka Springs School District and served on the local school board.

Looking back, I asked how things had changed over the years at the school:

“Obviously the advances in technology have changed everything in education to a certain degree. However, some things never change: the power of the written word; the pain involved in learning; the pride in doing something for the first time; the ‘aha’ moments. I get a kick out of the fact that each class felt like they had discovered Emerson and Thoreau for the first time and that Shakespeare really did have something powerful to say.”

I’ve forgotten the names of many of my teachers, yet I still remember the first essay that I wrote for Mrs. Remenar in 1984 and her red ink comments. While a high school student, I found her forthright and positive outlook to be contagious. Speaking of teenagers, she recently told me:

“Their optimism, sense of wonder, daring, and humor is what defines them. So many people say to them, ‘Wait until you get into the real world’ as if what they are experiencing is pretend…It is not!

“You have no idea how lucky I feel to have been a teacher all my life; I have had an ‘extraordinary’ life and that is what I wish for all of my students. They kept me young as I grew older…teenagers are the best anti- aging drug on the market.”

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for June 4, 2014 by Steve Weems

I don’t travel much, unless you count sitting at a computer looking at aerial photography. Amazing what one can see without even leaving home. I’ve always considered Eureka Springs a unique town in most every way, including name, but I’ve run across some places that call the name part into question.

First up is the community of Eureka Springs, North Carolina. Located in Cumberland County, it is now a suburb of the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, best known as the home of Fort Bragg. The US Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne are both based there. I know a guy from the army who was stationed at Fort Bragg, but he doesn’t recall there being a place called Eureka Springs, North Carolina. He had an interesting job. He was airborne artillery, which means not only did he jump out of airplanes, but he jumped from airplanes also dropping giant cannons called howitzers.

The second Eureka Springs I have run across is in Mississippi. It is just a small community, located in Panola County, not far from Batesville, Mississippi. It is home to the Eureka Springs Methodist Church and a cemetery.

Third up is the Eureka Springs area of Tampa Bay, Florida. Located in Hillsborough County, it is now a 31-acre public park located on Eureka Springs Road. It was originally a privately owned tropical botanical garden founded in 1938 around a group of springs called the Eureka Springs. Nearby is the Eureka Springs First Baptist Church.

Fourth, there is a Eureka Springs area in the city of Escondido near San Diego, California. Now it appears to be a housing addition of $500,000 homes.

In Fort Worth, Texas, there is a street called Eureka Springs Court, while Lexington, Kentucky and Surprise, Arizona both have streets called Eureka Springs Drive.

I will assert that our Eureka Springs is the most famous of all these places, but I can’t prove it. While in the US Army, I can only think of five people I met who’d heard of Eureka Springs. But then again, I met several who claimed to have never even heard of Arkansas.