It has been pointed out to me that I had a factual error in my January 7, 2015 column that appeared in the Eureka Springs Independent newspaper. The following is the corrected version.
My wife Diane grew up where the Pig Trail Kart n Golf (formerly The Fun Spot) is located on Highway 62 East in Eureka Springs. If you go back to the early 1980s, it was still a beautiful family home place, with an abundance of flowers, bushes and large old trees around a house with a big yard. There was some pasture and Duane O’Connor sometimes ran a few cows. Diane and her brother Doug would play in the front yard and periodically a car would pull up and tourists would ask for directions to the Passion Play. After being given directions, the tourists would sometimes ask how many blocks away it was. Diane didn’t know how to answer that.
Thirty years ago, we kept my Cousin Jim Sisco’s mare Lulabell at our place and I spent many a happy hour riding across the countryside. I wanted to go to my grandparents’ farm, but didn’t want to ride down through the curves on the shoulderless highway. (I’d done that before and didn’t want to repeat it.) My Grandpa Jack McCall knew all kinds of shortcuts, so I asked him for directions. He suggested I take the old road over the mountain and through the woods. Turns out his definition of a road and mine were different (mine undoubtedly influenced by living in East Coast suburbia.)
I still remember his directions. I was to turn left at the red oak snag. I found it. I was to stay straight at the giant dead elm. I found it. I was to watch for the dogs at the house where the hippies grew dope. Those dogs found me before I found them. Lulabell and I made it through that section pretty quick. Looking back, I realize that she and I did a lot of trespassing without a second thought.
Speaking of Grandpa and hippies, he told me once that he’d heard that there were hippies in Eureka that didn’t get out of bed until nine in the morning. He was incredulous. I’m glad he didn’t know what time I got up.
For thirty years, O’Connor’s Texaco Service Station operated in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In about 1954, Duane O’Connor bought an old Dodge Power Wagon so they could offer a wrecker service, too. Over the years he bought a number of different wrecker trucks to be used in the business. The one pictured below is a 1955 model Chevrolet truck. He eventually sold this vehicle to Howard Weems. Duane operated the wrecker service until his back gave out in about 1980.
My sister bought a copy of the 1954 annual yearbook of the Eureka Springs High School. Below is the front cover.
Next is the list of students and faculty sponsors who comprised the staff of the 1954 edition of the annual yearbook. There are several familiar names on the list. Donna O’Connor, for instance, is my wife’s aunt. Tommy Walker is the father of Laura Loudermilk who was the maid of honor at my wedding. Many of the surnames listed represent the oldest families of Eureka Springs and the Western District of Carroll County, Arkansas.
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.
For several years there was a Glenn Swedlun painting of Keels Creek for sale by an art dealer in West Virginia. I’d seen it on the Internet and it would pop up on eBay periodically. Several branches of my family have long had connections to the Keels Creek area, and my father particularly remembered idyllic childhood summers and weekends at the Wolfinbarger farm. It isn’t often I have the energy to covet something, but I coveted that painting.
After a short career as a professional baseball player, Glenn Swedlun turned to art for his livelihood. He had been taught painting by his father, landscape artist Fred Swedlun. They eventually had shop space on Spring Street in which to show their work.
I’ve been told the story that Glenn and Fred would ride buses out of Chicago looking for landscapes to paint. After a stop in Eureka Springs they decided that they’d found a lifetime’s worth of source material in the Ozarks.
In the 1960s, Wayne Mote wrote in the Oklahoman Magazine that Glenn Swedlun was completing a mind-boggling 125 canvases a year. It was hard work.
I’ve also been told that a favorite process of Glenn’s was to go out and tromp around in the hills until he found something that he wanted to paint. Then he would spend several hours looking the scene over, watching the light change, memorizing. He would return to his studio and paint the scene.
In 1974, the Eureka Springs Times-Echo quoted Glenn Swedlun as saying, “If a man lives to be 500 years old, he would learn something new about art every day. When you stop being a student who continually probes into the unknown, you stop growing as an artist. The older you get, the more you realize you’re still just scratching the surface.”
When my wife was a little girl, Glenn Swedlun bought his gas at O’Connor’s Texaco and he would always give her a quarter. Later, when she won an elementary school art contest, he heard about it and gave her copies of his notes on various aspects of painting and drawing. By all accounts, Glenn Swedlun was a good guy.