McKinley Weems Quote of the Day

On December 28, 2009, Ian told his great-grandfather about the hamster he’d received for Christmas. Ian was asked if it had bit him yet and Ian said no. This is how McKinley Weems responded. He was only 88 at the time.

My pet squirrel used to bite me. You should’ve seen the blood spray.

ES Independent Column – Milk

I like milk and ice cream and all kinds of dairy products, perhaps a little too much. Sometimes I wonder where the milk I’m drinking comes from; I doubt that it’s local. Dairy farms were once common in Carroll County, but sadly, they’re about all gone. The 1950 Federal Census of Agriculture shows that there were 10,298 milk cows in Carroll County. The same census for 2012 shows only 375.

Eureka Springs had three competing commercial dairies in 1943. They all bottled their milk in glass and delivered it door to door. Hoag Dairy was located down Greenwood Hollow Road, Rhiels Dairy was located in Dairy Hollow and Ripley Brothers Dairy was on Pivot Rock Road. I’ve heard it said that milk tasted different back then, and it probably did. Most of our milk now comes from the big black and white Holstein breed, known for producing large quantities of milk. Back then, the local dairies usually used the smaller Jersey and Guernsey cows that produce less milk, but with a much higher cream content. I’m told that Hoag Dairy used Jersey cows and Rhiels Dairy used Guernsey. I’m not sure about Ripley Brothers.

There was also a company in town called Alpine Dairy. It didn’t own any actual cows, but purchased raw milk from local farmers and bottled it for resale or turned it into butter and cheese. The company had a storefront on Spring Street for a time. My mother’s father, Jack McCall, was a local farmer who milked cows. He sold his milk to Kraft to be made into cheese. Grandpa had to set his milk out in big cans at the top of the lane for the truck from Berryville to pick up. It was also common not too long ago for families, even in town, to have a milk cow. My grandparents, McKinley and Lola Weems, kept a family milk cow at 1 Magnetic in Eureka.

The 1950 Census of Agriculture shows that 1,812 farms in Carroll County had milk cows, but only 158 of those farms had milking machines. That left a lot of cows to be milked by hand, another dying art.


ES Independent Column – Pearl Tatman

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.

ES Independent Column – Cora Pinkley Call

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.

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 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 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 October 24, 2013

Through much of its history, Eureka Springs had a small but vibrant community of African-Americans centered on Cliff Street below W.O. Perkins Lumber. My understanding is that the number of black Eurekans dwindled through the decades until only Richard Banks remained. After the strong response to last week’s column, I have several additional stories about this legendary local man.

Seeing Rich around town was an everyday occurrence and everyone knew him. Tori Bush remembers walking home from school, seeing him sitting at the bottom of Benton Street whittling. Like others, Butch Berry remembers numerous rides in Rich’s Model A Ford up Benton Street to school.

Several mentioned that Rich enjoyed his beer but would not go into the Hi Hat. When Butch Berry’s father was home on leave from the Air Force, he’d take beer out to Richard. Likewise, Marc Speer remembers his father taking beer to Rich sitting on the steps outside the Hi Hat. He said that at the time you could buy beer to go, and Rich would ask men he trusted to buy him five cans of beer instead of a full six pack, since five cans is what he could drink. As Marc Speer said, “The man knew his limits.”

Working off my father’s recollection of men wagering at the feed store on how much weight Richard Banks could lift, including feed sacks with his teeth, I asked about his physical strength. Turns out he was even stronger than I imagined, especially for a man of medium stature. When Rich would have been about 24 years old, McKinley Weems watched him unloading a truck at the wholesale grocery. He lifted 100 pound sacks of sugar and put one on each shoulder and then with each hand carried another 100 pound sack, moving 400 pounds of sugar at a time. He could also unload a 50 gallon wood barrel of vinegar by himself.

Gayla Wolfinbarger tells how Richard Banks often had dinner with the Mullins family at Pivot Rock, and while in the hospital at the end of his life they visited him daily.

Even though he was living out west by this time, when Tommy Hughes read in Virginia Tyler’s column in the Times-Echo that Richard Banks was hospitalized he mailed him a get-well card. It was returned advising that the addressee had died.