Eureka Springs Independent Column – Joe Parkhill

I was around Joe Parkhill a few times as a teenager. He was an older man then and he’d usually be reading the newspaper. On one visit to his home, I recall that he’d just returned from a trip to Dallas to visit Tom Landry, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys football team. I asked his step-daughter Linda recently if my recollection was correct. She said it was and that because of Joe’s relationship with Coach Landry, the players on the Cowboys team each ate a honey stick before games for a burst of energy.

Joe Parkhill was born in Eureka Springs in 1911, but grew up in Chicago. His grandfather was a barber whose parents had emigrated from Ireland. His grandmother was a sister to Claude Fuller.

When my father was Station Keeper at the Naval Reserve on Spring Street in the early 1960s, Joe Parkhill was also a member of the unit. I’ve heard the story that if something was needed that couldn’t be acquired through official channels, Joe might work his magic. After a trip somewhere, he’d show up bearing gifts. Joe Parkhill could wheel and deal with the best of them.

At some point, Joe Parkhill fell in love with honey bees. He was appointed director of the Arkansas Apiary (Bee) Board by Governor Faubus and he ran with it. He crisscrossed the state promoting honey bees and it is said that during his tenure, Arkansas went from last place in the nation in honey production to eighth place. He pushed through the honey bee becoming the state insect of Arkansas. A natural at marketing, Joe had a radio show and appeared on television. He compiled several honey cookbooks and served as President of the American Beekeeping Federation. He lectured in Japan and travelled to the Soviet Union to represent the United States bee industry.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve left out his rumored link to Al Capone and the slot machines at the Basin Park Hotel, and his friendships with characters ranging from Jim Bakker to Bill Clinton. And, of course, he played the drums.

Eureka Springs Independent Column – Claude Fuller

During his teenage years, my father worked at the Basin Park Hotel as a bellhop. The  Eureka Springs’ landmark was then owned by prominent banker and attorney Claude Fuller. My father had many stories about the hotel and the various characters who would hang around, including some about Mr. Fuller.

He told the story of mopping the hotel lobby before school one morning while Claude Fuller sat in a chair reading the newspaper. My father mopped around the chair and waited for Mr. Fuller to lift his feet so he could mop under them, as was their custom. When Claude didn’t lift his feet, my father dropped the mop and said, “If you won’t lift your feet, you can mop the floor yourself. I have to go to school,” and stormed out of the hotel. He said Claude looked up at him with wide eyes, but didn’t say a word. My father returned to work later and neither ever mentioned the incident.

Mr. Fuller must have liked my father, though, because he hired him to be his driver on certain occasions. For instance, my father chauffeured him to the 1960 Arkansas Democratic Convention in Little Rock. I take it for granted that Claude Fuller made an impression on my father. When my dad talked about Mr. Fuller, he could recall their conversations in detail.

I think about that long drive to Little Rock with just the two of them in the car and try to see it through my father’s eyes. He was a teenager at the time, so I can just imagine what it would be like for a kid to spend time with not only the boss, but a former Mayor and Congressman who many considered to be the richest and most powerful man in town.

I sometimes contribute photographs and information to the genealogy website Claude Fuller is the only person that it rates as “famous” in the list of 3,292 internments in the Eureka Springs IOOF Cemetery.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for March 5, 2014

The house that McKinley Weems was born in no longer exists. It was sold, torn down and replaced with the Statue Road Inn. Now that location is called Passion Play Road, but at the time of McKinley’s birth it was Magnetic Hollow Road. It would be another 45 years before Gerald L. K. Smith came to town and started shaking things up.

In the 1920s, most of the traffic on Magnetic Hollow Road was horse drawn log wagons slowly hauling railroad ties from sawmills in the woods to the railroad on Main Street. The drivers of these wagons often dozed as the horses knew the way. About twice a week there would be the excitement of an automobile coming down the road.

This was the same timeframe as “Lucky Lindy” flying a single engine airplane from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France, and young McKinley’s imagination was aflame with the possibilities of flying machines. He wanted to fly.

McKinley would walk up the long hollow that drained water from the direction of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and go up under the bluff and capture brooding buzzards. He’d carry the vultures (which will cause them to vomit) into the open and release them, just to see them take off and fly like an airplane.

In 1930, a big airplane fly-in was organized to celebrate Independence Day in Eureka Springs. About a hundred biplanes landed at the airport on Onyx Cave Road and rides were offered at $1 per flight. Young Mac wanted to walk over and see the planes, but his father refused to let him go. I asked, “Why?” and McKinley shrugged and said, “It was the horse and buggy days.”

He had to content himself with watching from a distance, sitting in the top of a tall tree on Magnetic Hollow Road watching biplanes clear the forest after takeoff or coming in low to land.

Beginning in 1952, McKinley’s dream of flying was realized when he piloted a Piper Cub over Eureka Springs, dipping down to glance in the top windows of the Basin Park Hotel before going to take a look at Beaver. He flew for many years thereafter.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for December 4, 2013

It was in March of 1961 that the newlywed Duane and Doris O’Connor were watching television one evening, relaxing in their newly-bought home on Ridgeway Avenue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, when Doris said, “I think I hear someone on the roof.” Next there was the definite sound of someone in the basement, then an incessant pounding on the windows and doors began. When Duane declined the crowd’s demand to come out, he was grabbed and bodily carried and placed in a waiting automobile. Doris followed.

This may sound like kidnapping, and perhaps it meets the legal definition, but it was also a shivaree, an age-old tradition brought to the Ozarks, in which the newlywed couple are serenaded with noise and pranks are performed.

Duane and Doris O’Connor were driven to the Eureka Springs Post Office, where a wheelbarrow was produced for Doris to ride in. Duane had to push her down Spring Street to the old Eureka Drug Company, where they switched places and Doris pushed Duane in the wheelbarrow down the hill to the Basin Park Hotel.

Shivarees had been banned in Eureka Springs some years earlier because they could get out of hand. For example, couples would be dragged from their beds in various states of dress and carried to the horse trough and dunked.

Despite the ban, members of the crowd that descended on 44 Ridgeway Avenue that winter’s night had permission from the Chief of Police Norman Faulkner. He is reported to have said, “If Duane O’Connor got married, then shivaree him.”

Returning to their home, the couple found that their bed had been stacked on cans, short sheeted, and was full of cracker crumbs. When it was found out that Doris had to be at the hospital at seven the next morning for work, some of the people cleaned the house and yard and others fixed a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Most of the crowd of thirty or more dispersed, but some spent the rest of the night at the O’Connor’s house. It was all in good fun.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 17, 2013

Richard Banks never married and was for several years the only African-American in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Born in 1913, he grew up on Cliff Street, had four years of education and was raised by his mother, Hattie Fancher, and later his Aunt Mattie. Both women were laundry workers. In 1939, Richard Banks worked 36 weeks for an income of $200. That information came from U.S. Census records.

I learned more talking to a handful of the many people who knew him. He bought hamburgers and Camel cigarettes at Vicie Pinkley’s Bus Stop Cafe across from the courthouse on Main Street. Even when invited in, he would extend his arm in through the door, the rest of him staying outside.

Richard Banks worked many years as groundskeeper for the Freemans at the Joy Motel. Tom Hughes said that before Rich had a car, he worked out an arrangement with Norman Tucker, owner of the taxi company, for cab rides up the hill to work. He also mentioned that if a black lady was staying at the Basin Park Hotel, Rich would show up looking sharp.

Several people mentioned he later drove a fine Model A Ford. Thomas Black recalled that Rich would give him rides up Benton Street to school, the car easily climbing the hill. He’d want to ride on the running boards, but Rich always insisted he get in the vehicle.

Others told me of Richard Banks taking aside African-Americans who came to town and giving them advice about what businesses and people to avoid. He did not want trouble for anyone.

I heard of Richard Banks fishing with Tommy Colvin and others. Once hunting out in the Hillspeak area, Duane O’Connor met Richard Banks in the woods. Duane, hunting with a single-shot .22 rifle, noted that Rich was carrying a shotgun. “Some do it for the sport, I do it for the meat,” Banks said.

The remains of Richard Banks’ house are on Barrel Spring Curve west of town. People said he’d stand at the window waving at the passing cars. He died in 1973 and is buried in the Eureka Springs Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Just a fraction of the stories I heard about Richard Banks are included here. If you have a story, comment or correction, let me know at or P.O. Box 43, Eureka Springs AR 72632.

I had a very nice message from Genevieve Head Bowman telling me that she, too, attended the film at the movie theater the evening of Pearl Harbor being bombed. The film was Shepherd of the Hills.