The Eureka Springs Conference of the Arkansas Historical Association, 2008

Article excerpt

EUREKA SPRINGS, "THE LITTLE SWITZERLAND OF THE OZARKS," hosted the sixty-seventh annual conference of the Arkansas Historical Association, held a month earlier than usual on March 27-29. This year's theme, "Arkansas: Land of Eccentricity," attracted a large crowd anxious to learn about the odd and unique aspects of the state's heritage. The Best Western Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center proved to be an excellent venue for the conference. AHA board member Susan Young served as local arrangements chair and did an excellent job of working with the citizens of Eureka Springs in making the conference run smoothly.

The Bank of Eureka Springs, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, the Eureka Springs Preservation Society, and the Eureka Springs Historic District Commission hosted the Thursday evening reception at the bank's headquarters. Volunteers, dressed in Victorian style, welcomed conference attendees and provided guided tours of the bank and exhibits of local memorabilia collected by bank president John Cross, grandson of the late Claude Fuller, a congressman from the area.

A rainy Friday morning greeted attendees as Dani Joy, mayor of Eureka Springs, welcomed the AHA to the city and noted that it was the perfect place for a conference on kooky and odd subjects. The first session, moderated by Blake Wintory, Mosaic Templars Cultural Heritage Center in Little Rock, featured presentations on "Old Mike: The Mystery Man in Prescott," by David Sesser of the Nevada County Depot Museum; "Diving for Answers: The 1937 Search for the White River Monster," by Robert Craig of Kennett, Missouri; "Lay Off Bob: Robin Burns and the Arkansas Image," by Brooks Blevins of Lyon College; and "Let's Move to a Rocky Ridge! The Rationale for Apparently Eccentric Decisions by Migrants to Arkansas," by Carolyn Earle Billingsley of Alexander. The University of Arkansas Press sponsored a break immediately following the first session.

Laura Miller of the Central High School National Historic Site moderated the second session, in which Diane Worrell, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, discussed "Inventing Herself: Cora Anne Stroud Jenkins and the Presto Space Age Diaper;" Susan Young, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, related "How Forrestina Campbell Became White River Red;" Gaye Bland, Rogers Historical Museum, enthralled everyone with "Visions of Wealth: Kruses's Gold Mine;" and Josh Williams, Historic Washington State Park, related celebratory activities in the southwestern part of the state during "An Eccentric Fourth of July."

Tom DeBlack, AHA President, welcomed everyone to the conference at the luncheon and annual business meeting. A melancholy aura hung over the proceedings, though, as the term-limited chief delivered his last president's report. Jeannie Whayne, secretary-treasurer, presented the Association's financial report, followed by remarks announcing her retirement from the position after eighteen years. Trustee Sondra Gordy announced the candidates for the leadership and board positions. Laura Miller, Tim Nutt, and Patrick Williams were elected to the positions of president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer respectively. Peggy Lloyd (Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives), Jamie Brandon (Southern Arkansas University), Nadyne Aikman (White Hall), Vince Chadick (Fayetteville), Mark Christ (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program), Cherisse Jones-Branch (Arkansas State University), and Dana Simmons (Clinton Presidential Library) were elected to the Board of Trustees. Ernest Dumas, columnist for the Arkansas Times, the keynote speaker for this year's conference, related stories of some of the more offbeat characters he has encountered in his career as a journalist.

Full stomachs did not dampen enthusiasm for Session III, which followed the luncheon. Moderator Nancy Britton, Batesville, introduced Lorraine Lorne, University of Arkansas School of Law, who spoke on "Unusual Arkansas Laws-Fact or Fantasy? …