ES Independent Column – Old Enough

I’m old enough to remember some things about Eureka Springs that have changed over the years. I remember ice cream from Dairy Queen and hamburgers from Tastee Freeze. I remember Eurekans driving to Fayetteville or Rogers just for the novelty of eating at a McDonald’s.

I’m old enough to remember when the Eureka Springs schools weren’t air conditioned and the frustration of trying to keep my school papers from being ruined by the sweat running off my arm and dripping from my face. I can remember turning in papers that were soggy and limp and barely legible from the sweat and the running blue ink.

I’m old enough to remember high-powered deer rifles hanging in the back glass of pickup trucks in the Eureka Springs High School parking lot. I’m not old enough to remember this: a Eureka Springs student was going hunting after school with a friend, so he carried his rifle on the school bus in the morning. The gun was put in the home room teacher’s closet for safe keeping during class. After school, the boy picked up his rifle and rode the bus home with his friend. That sequence of events would certainly not be allowed today.

I lived on Spring Street from birth until the age of six months before moving to California, so I missed out on some Eureka Springs childhood rituals of the time. My wife Diane remembers that bill paying day each month as a special occasion. She’d ride with her mother downtown to pay the utility bills. They’d always walk across Spring Street to Eureka Drug where Diane’s grandmother Norma O’Connor worked. Norma would give Diane a chocolate mint and a monkey made out of a brown pipe cleaner. Sometimes Diane was allowed a treat from the Bingaman bakery. Other times, they’d browse at the Hallmark Shop.

I’m old enough to remember from the early 1980s when there were four country music shows in town, each operating out of their own giant building. Of course, that doesn’t sound too impressive when my grandfather McKinley Weems can recall being at the dedication of the auditorium in 1929.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for September 10, 2014 by Steve Weems

Years ago, my wife was pregnant with twins and a gentleman took me aside at a meeting of the Eureka Springs Rotary Club. He said, “Everyone says that twins are twice as hard, but don’t believe it. They’re ten times as hard.”

Now go back in time to 1982 when I was a lowly freshman at Eureka Springs High School. Sophomores Lori and Lisa Bingaman were twins, as were Juniors Amy and Scott Bingaman, all the progeny of Don and Lynn. If one set of twins is ten times as difficult, how would one do the math on two sets of twins so close together in age?

As mentioned previously, Don Bingaman and his older brother Claude purchased the Eureka Bakery on Spring Street from Al Neumann in the early 1960s. Illness forced Claude to close the popular bakery in 1984.

After the first set of Bingaman twins were born, Lynn pushed Amy and Scott in a side-by-side double stroller in the Annual Folk Festival Parade. The top of the stroller flipped up and said “Double Your Pleasure With Fresh and Tasty Homemade Bread and Pastry – Eureka Bakery.” They won first place in the walking division of the parade.

Lori remembers going by the bakery in the early morning and getting “a hot fresh donut out of the dripping glaze and eating it on the way to school.” She also recalled helping out at the bakery: “I was able to help my dad with the bread slicing. I would put the bread down the chute, he would put it in the bag and I would put the tie on the bag. He realized, after some customers mentioned it, that the ties were put on backwards. You see, I was left-handed! My career was short-lived.”

Work begins at a bakery in the middle of the night and bakers have to nap when they can. Lori said, “I remember my dad would be asleep on the couch in the living room. When he would awaken, we had fun beating the couch and watching the flour emerge in a cloud!”

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for September 3, 2014 by Steve Weems

Following the Second World War, US Army Staff Sergeant Claude Bingaman returned to his native Eureka Springs and went to work at the Eureka Bakery. At the time, it was owned by the German-born Al Neumann. Besides serving the general public, they delivered rolls and pies to area restaurants. In about 1962, Claude and his younger brother Don purchased the bakery from Mr. Neumann.

There are three things I’ve always heard about the popular Eureka Bakery (or sometimes referred to as the Bingaman Bakery). First is the beautiful aroma produced by the bakery that permeated that portion of Spring Street. Claude’s daughter, Ellen Bingaman Summers says aroma was the best advertising the bakery had. She said, “It was interesting there was an exhaust fan that was always on and it blew the smell of whatever he was cooking out into the street. People would come in and say they just couldn’t resist the smell.”

Second, people still talk about how fresh and delicious everything was at the bakery. I’ve asked several about what item was best and the usual answer is the donuts, followed by the brownies. My mother voted for the pies, especially the cherry. And during the right time of year, the well-liked pecan pies would be displayed in the front window.

The last thing I’ve heard is that running a successful small-town bakery like the Eureka Bakery is hard work, with long stressful hours. The workday began at 4 am or earlier to bake the day’s offerings.

Stephanie Stodden, Director of Operations at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, told me that her grandfather Claude would work all day and come home for dinner and a nap. After the nap, he’d return to the bakery and work until midnight. After a few hours of sleep, the cycle began again.

Before the war, Claude Bingaman and his bride Mozelle had resided in Rogers where he was employed by the Harris Baking Company. In 1984, after a lifetime in the bakery business, Claude was forced to close the Eureka Bakery due to ill health. He passed away in 1986 and is buried in the Eureka Springs Cemetery.

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 April 9, 2014

If the past were a state of matter, it would be solid. We may debate history based on evidence and wishful thinking, but it has already occurred and has a reliability that the liquid present doesn’t have.

Take for instance the happenings of 1968 as reported in the Eureka Springs Times-Echo edition of April the 25th. Digby Walker resigned from the Planning Commission and Mayor Freeman appointed Arvle Bandy to fill the position. That sounds pretty solid to me. I can go on to speculate about why Digby Walker resigned. (He was getting up in years), which leads to thoughts of buying blue jeans at Walker Brothers. (I wish it had never closed).

Continuing to read the newspaper spread before me, new signs were to be placed at the city dump warning that illegal dumping would incur fines of $5.00 to $10.00. Where was the city dump then? Perhaps where the city maintenance and recycling center are located now?

Ordinance No. 722 once again reared its ugly head as neighbors turned in neighbors for the keeping of livestock in the city limits. Letters were mailed out and the chief of police was made aware of the situation.

Howard and Francis Iles purchased the Eureka Court from the Kidd family and would be moving here from Marysville, Kansas. The Iles had been visiting Eureka Springs since 1957. The Kidd family owned the Rosalie House on Spring Street. (Didn’t the Iles have a giant St. Bernard dog?)

The movie theater at 95 Spring Street would soon reopen under the management of John Maberry, brother of the late Cecil Maberry. It had been completely renovated and the name changed to the Gaslight Theatre. Mr. Maberry announced there would be a free show with free popcorn and free Pepsi on May 2nd.

A front page story listed Randy Littrell, Tommy Helms and Ellen Bingaman [Summers], among others, as having made good grades at school.

And so I end a short tour of history and a few of the thoughts it triggers. Don’t ask me to rely on my memory of the events of April 25, 1968. I was five days old.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for November 6, 2013

When the opportunity arises, I read old issues of the Eureka Springs Times-Echo newspaper to try and get a flavor of the past. Currently on my desk are the Nov. 12 and Nov. 19, 1959 editions.

The big news then was a devastating fire at Clark’s Market on Main Street. Manager Roland Clark quickly reopened in a temporary location on White Street. I am told that this is the same building that has now housed Lux Weaving Studio for many years.

Another big event was the staging of Carroll County’s first annual modern deer hunt. Locally, bucks killed were checked in at O’Connor’s Texaco Service Station or at Busch. In total that first deer season, 56 bucks were killed in the county. The largest was a 17-point, 290-pounder by J.T. Littrell. For comparison, now nearly a thousand deer are killed annually in Carroll County.

Deer were so scarce in those days that when Ben Walker hit and killed a 140-pound doe with his car near Beaver one evening, it was a front-page story.

As the proposed Beaver Dam was to be constructed in a relatively remote spot on the White River, a new heavy duty road was needed from Busch to accommodate the future construction traffic. A company out of Pine Bluff submitted the low bid. Construction of an office building was ongoing at the dam site.

Tommy Walker was out on the ocean somewhere between New Zealand and Antarctica serving aboard the destroyer escort USS Peterson.

On the social scene, Miss Nancy Ann Mullins became the bride of William Ernest Goff of Tulsa at the Penn Memorial First Baptist Church on Spring Street. An all-star cast of Eurekans assisted in the ceremony. Among others, Ludean Cross was matron of honor, while the bridesmaids were Sue Cole [Jones] and Bobbie Jean Walker [Bayles]. Diane Weems [McClelland] served as flower girl. Ushers were Steve Bingaman and Gary Higgins.

Return of the Fly with Vincent Price and Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe were just two of the many films shown that November at the New Basin Movie Theater on Spring Street.

One of the best real estate opportunities advertised that month was a 120-acre farm on the highway 2.5 miles from Eureka Springs. Included are a house, barn, cellar, well, 3 ponds, 5 springs and more, all for $6,500.

And Jello was on sale at Walker’s Super Market for five cents a box.