I recently moved into another office. After 20 years, I figured I was entitled to a change of scenery. As with any move, I was amazed at the junk I’ve accumulated over the years. Fortunately, I also stumbled across some treasures as well. One of these was an envelope that contained samples from a job we produced in 1980 for the Junior League of North Little Rock. Entitled “Memories in Print,” this project contained a collection of prints by Richard DeSpain, a renowned local artist who has received national acclaim for his pen and ink renderings of local landmarks.
Flipping through the samples, it dawned on me how appropriately titled this collection was. Page by page, each print invoked memories of days gone by.
“The Indian at the Arkansas Arts Center.” This was my favorite as it reminded me of the Sundays I witnessed an old dead tree come to life at the hands, and chainsaw of the Hungarian emigrate, Peter Toth. You see, my paternal grandparents lived on Commerce Street, directly across the street from the Arts Center. We would visit Momma & Papa Strack every Sunday afternoon. This project began in 1975, and was part of Toth’s goal to sculpt a giant Indian face in every state as a permanent reminder to Americans of their inhumanity to the native Americans.
“MacArthur Park Arsenal.” Since my grandparents lived so close to MacArthur Park, this building held many memories as well. An old arsenal building, which was once the home of army officers and their wives, was the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur. During my younger days, (actually, in 1964), the building had become the Museum of Science and Natural History. My favorite exhibit during those days was the “rock room”. A darkened room showing encased native stones where you could press different buttons that would illuminate different colors of light. For some reason, we always had a dreaded fear of being locked in this room, and in this old building.
In 1983, the Museum’s name was changed to the Arkansas Museum of Science and History. In 1997, the museum moved to a new location in the River Market, where it is now known as the Museum of Discovery. Today, this building now stands as the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.
“The Twin Cities.” This 1979 drawing by DeSpain shows how far the Twin Cities have evolved, and improved in 31 years. I recall the implosion of the Hotel Marion in 1980, to make way for the Excelsior Hotel (now the Peabody). Notice too how the North Little Rock skyline has changed. Although the population of the twin cities has not changed drastically, the amenities certainly have.
During this past year, I have often preached that one of the many values of the printed piece is its longevity, and its ability to tell a story. This collection of Memories in Print certainly accomplishes both. So tell me, what memories do these prints evoke? What stories of your bygone days to they tell? Please share, won’t you?