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THE HISTORY OF MARION CO AR|
Amusements, Entertainment & Recreation
By: Earl Berry
RESPECT THE COPYRIGHT: This book is still under copyright of the Marion County Historical Association and may not be used for any purpose other than your own personal research. It may not be reproduced nor placed on any web page nor used by anyone or any entity for any type of "for profit" endeveor.
(Page 49) Mrs. Z. B. Smith, in her introduction to the article on Folklore and Folkways appearing in this history, said of the pioneers of Marion County: "In them are found the cool reason of the English; the poetic, fun-loving nature of the Irish; and the austere, penny-pinching, make-do-with-what's-at-hand hardiness of the true Scotchman."
Turning Work Into Play
Perhaps, no where else can this be more clearly shown than in a review of the amusements, entertainment and recreation enjoyed by these pioneers. What follows is a series of articles on amusements, entertainment and recreation existing in the county prior to World War II, but some have pictured the recreational advantages of the county as of now.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, an English writer, is quoted in Forty Thousand Quotations by Douglas as saying: "The real character of a man is found out by his amusements."
Our ancestors were fun-loving, able to laugh at their own mistakes and, due to circumstances, their amusements and entertainment were the product of: "make-do-with-what's-at-hand." This may be observed clearly in the articles describing early forms of amusements, entertainment and recreation as given by the various contributors to this chapter. As the older people read, memories of the good times they had before movies, radio, television, good roads, automobiles and the sophisticated entertainment of clubs, and road houses made their advent, will be relived and enjoyed, while the young people of today will, perhaps, wonder why these were thought of as amusements, entertainment and recreation.
In the first of these articles appearing in this chapter, Mrs. Smith writes of the ability of these pioneers to turn work into play as she relates such events as 'log rollings', 'house and barn raisings', 'sorghum making', 'corn-husking', and 'quilting bees'.
Glenn Johnson describes the annual picnic celebrations and the decoration of cemeteries.
G. W. (Heavy) Ott and Cecil Pierce write of Gospel Singing, Singing Conventions, Favorite Quartettes, and Singing Schools.
Earl Berry writes of a popular form of community entertainment known in his early life as 'Musicals'.
Glenn Johnson writes of some present-day recreation as he describes fishing and water sports.
By: Z. B. Smith
(Page 50 Top) Settlers of early Marion County, most of whom were of Scotch-Irish ancestry from "east of the Mississippi", were never at a loss for ways of enjoying themselves and had never heard the word "boredom". These people were hard-working, but, for the most part, easygoing people who often turned their work into play. At such times as log-rolling, house-raising, corn-husking, sorghum-making and quilting bees, several families would work together, share their food, then play games and make music. This article, due to lack of space, will touch on some forms of entertainment, (some more than others) and show the entertainment and recreation that these people made for themselves. They certainly did not lack for a truly social life and a true community spirit.
Religion controlled most of the people to the extend of participation in "worldly pleasure". There were those who held to the Puritan outlook and believed they should abstain from anything even slightly "tainted" with the flesh; then there were those who held the more liberal stance of the Cavalier persuasion and believed one could enjoy many things - dancing, horse racing, and the like - and still make it to heaven. Often the Church was forced to make strenuous laws against "merry making" and would call wayward members "on the carpet", sometimes putting them out of fellowship until they repented and mended their ways. This very often, took place at camp meetings, which was in itself a part of their social life. The annual camp meeting lasted from three to five weeks, beginning after the crops were laid by and ending just before harvest.
The more staid families, realizing a need for social gatherings (or "frolics" as they were called then) for the young people, gave them opportunities to meet together and "court" with the ideal of marriage in mind. By an "unbending of their religious beliefs", these families gave "play parties" in their homes and allowed a certain type of dancing to the singing games - a stomping of their feet and clapping of their hands as accompaniment to the music. The oldest and best loved songs at these meetings were "Skip to My Lou My Darling", "Green Grows the Grass", "Green Gravel", "Going Down to the River', and many others. Some of the "more settled games" were; Cross Questions and Silly Answers, Pleased or Displeased, Truth or Consequences, etc. Sometimes taffy pulls took place and the young people were allowed to "bite the candy". The one getting the shortest piece of candy got to kiss his partner. The older people joined in the dancing games, then settled nearby to watch and listen to the rest, entering into the spirit of the party while still chaperoning the young ones. Those who were hardier and more bold, and that element of the ones who adhered to "no man's law" were in attendance each Saturday night wherever the Square Dances were held, often riding or walking miles to get there.
The fiddle, banjo and one or two guitars made up the band that played for the "hoe down". The fiddle was thought by many to be inhabited by the devil himself, as its high sweet notes and lilting music could put the most reluctant man to dancing, or patting his foot at least. Even the women who were known to be "again" such follies, going along with her man, often danced until the break of dawn to the sighing, sobbing wails of that devilish fiddle - (Page 51 Top Photo: Making Molasses (sorghum) a familiar scene from the past. Left to right: Ada Doshier Horner, children; Bonnie Ott Smith, Louise James, Inez Pyle, Cliff Pyle, Firing furnace: George Horner. Feeding the mill: GC Pyle. Carrying the cane: Troy James) missing church on Sunday morning and falling into disfavor because of it. Few could resist the enjoyment of being "a part of the set" of the Square Dance, tramping the floor in time to the music of "Old Joe Clark", "Cottoneyed Joe", "Chicken Reel", "Fire on the Mountain" or the "Eighth of January", and the Caller as he called the dance in his low voice, telling them to "promenade" or "do-si-do"! Many of the old calls are now on record for posterity.
The Wedding Party was another social event that involved banqueting, dancing and singing. Toasts were drunk to the happiness of the bride and groom. These toasts were choice juices ranging from pure fruit juice to real "sprits", served in small dram glasses. The charivari is one of the oldest customs of celebrating the new marriage, often unexpected by the blissful couple. In this custom, the newlyweds were serenaded by the awful noise of shotgun blasts, cow bells ringing, wash tubs and dish pans beaten with tin rods, hunting horns blowing, whistles tooting, anvils hammered, and shots of powder or dynamite while everyone was hollering and whooping to the top of his voice. The young couple had to show themselves before the clamor stopped and were often subjected to "embarrassing" tricks until they offered refreshments or money to buy treats for the riotous crowd, which had among its number those that were already well-laced with liquor and were hard to handle. But the custom was well intended and most often well received - with no harm done!
As time passed the social life of the county stemmed from three sources; (Page 52 Top) the home, the church and the school. Recreation was provided by each unit for the benefit of all.
To give a "Social" became the desire of most families. Ice cream socials, barbecues and large fish fries often took place with the invitation extended to most of the community. Those who were not invited came anyway.
The Church gave ice cream socials and box suppers. This was the first practice of bartering or selling at bazaars (the early form of our present-day garage sales and auctions) to raise money for Missions and building funds. Box or pie suppers became a favorite way to get money for books, school supplies and civic needs. Booths were set up at the annual picnics, reunions of any type. These booths were the forerunner of our present-day fairs. At these booths, handiwork of all types, canned goods of all sorts, and artistic and creative displays were sold on a percentage basis. Music, dancing, orations and sermons at these bazaars were entertaining to the citizens and anyone could get on the platform and perform. The annual Decoration Day, with dinner on the ground, gave the various preachers a time to speak and the service was ended with congregational singing.
The Singing School was a yearly event and a pleasant form of recreation for old and young alike who like to sing. The teacher, with his tuning fork, was held in high esteem.
The Friday Literary Society of the school entertained the students and patrons with plays, recitations, spelling bees, ciphering matches, debates and match games, and for the sports lovers - horse racing, boating, swimming, etc.
As money became more plentiful and tastes became more sophisticated, the people began bringing in the summer Chautauqua - (according to Webster's Dictionary) "an assembly for educational purposes, combining lectures, entertainment, and out-of-door life." The music at these assemblies was classical and done with small bells and xylophones. The songs were very romantic and nostalgic that set a poetic mood. The songs became household favorites for gatherings around the organ or piano in the parlor. Harmonizing to "Love's Old Song", "In the Gloaming", "Down by the Old Mill Stream", and "Threads Among the Gold" often reminded the listeners that love, begun when they were a "couple of kids", had lasted through the years. They were still together, though age had lined their faces and their families were grown and gone from home. The memories were like pieces of fabric woven of unions that had lasted a lifetime and brought to mind the lines of another old song, "I loved you then, I love you now". Soon the cylinder victrola came into the homes and neighbors gathered to waltz and fox trot to its music. Later came the radio and now television takes up the time of the household.
Probably the most enjoyed form of all recreation, early and later, practiced by our people was family reading. The family would gather each evening to listen as one member of the family would read the Bible, a novel or something chosen by one of the listeners.
Except for the County Fair and the Turkey Trot, all of these forms of recreation have faded into the past and now recreation is a family affair or small limited groups of friends. Memorial Day or Decoration Day, is a family affair and no longer is lunch served and fellowship enjoyed. Movies and other forms of entertainment have taken the children out of the homes and (Page 53 Top) divided the old from the young. Seldom do people come together because each age group finds its separate form of recreation, except for an occasional family reunion or church affair that brings them together again. The automobile has changed our way of life and "the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence", so traveling is the thing to do today for pastime. Everyone is on the move and the old ways are gone forever.
One of the earliest forms of recreation for the women of Marion County was quilt-making which was learned from childhood. The art forms of the quilt showed the creative fulfillment of the designer. Quilt-making was a necessity and intricate patterns came from loving memories as the designer sat by the fireside, using the bright pieces of scrap material gleaned from friends and relatives. Some of the traditional designs handed down from generation to generation that showed the practical use of every scrap, no matter how small, are; The Double Wedding Ring, The Flower Garden, The Log Cabin, Dove at the Window, The Courthouse Square, Arkansas Star, and Drunken Trail. The Album Quilt was a collection of favorite patters of patchwork set together in creative fashion. The Crazy Quilt, made from odd shaped pieces of brocades, satins and velvets, was embroidered with bright threads in the "briar stitch" or "herringbone stitch" to be used as a spread over a dust ruffle. The Memory Quilt was one pieced by friends with their names embroidered in the center space. This became an heirloom in many of the families. One of the most beautiful quilts, an appliqued masterpiece, was the Bride's Quilt. This was lovingly designed with the motifs of flowers, leaves, birds, fruits, or butterflies on a white block of material with exquisite stitches and quilted in the delicate feather design.
Quilt-making consumed many hours, often in solitude, and the idea of a Quilting Bee was born, thus giving company to the added incentive for accomplishment. Invitations were sent to neighboring women to attend a Quilting Bee. This entailed refreshments and certain preparations as for a social gathering, so often the husbands and children were invited also. In this case each family contributed to the refreshment by bringing a covered dish of food, a pie or a cake. While the women quilted, the men visited while they chopped wood, did blacksmith work, cleaned the barn, or whatever chore the host had need of help in seasonal work. The children played the old games. When they tired of these, they created games of their own.
The Quilting Bee was begun by bring out the quilttop to be placed in the quilting frames. These frames consisted of four strips of wood - two side strips 108 inches long and two end strips that were 90 inches long. On each of these stripes of wood a folded strip of heavy cloth was tacked. To this, the edges of the quit were pinned, after the side frames were placed on top of the end frames and secured at each corner by a long nail placed in the drilled holes of the frames. The quilt frame was hung from the ceiling - or placed on wooden horses - and rolled as it was quilted. Putting the quilt on the frame was not an easy task. The lining of the quilt had to be tightly tacked on the frames, the cotton batting was placed on the lining evenly, and the quilt top was then secured to the lining by pinning at intervals along the edges. Next, the quilting design was marked and the quilting began. A woman had "status" in the community if she was a neat quilter. The smaller she made her stitches, the more praise she received. The common "Nine Patch" quilts were done in the simple shell stitch design, while the more elaborate quilts (Page 54 Top) had stitch designs that were more complicated.
As a superstition, it was thought that whatever one dreamed the first time one slept under a new quilt would come true. It was also a custom, when the quilt was finished and taken from the frames, to "shake the cat" in it. The women stood in a circle. When the cat jumped out of the quilt, the nearest single person was, supposedly, the next one to wed. Often, the quilt was named or "christened" by putting it over some young couple who the women thought - or hoped - would marry.
Besides the social hours together, exchanging news, remedies, recipes, and garden lore was enjoyable and the pioneer women had the feeling of having helped create something beautiful as well as useful. Quilting Bees are still practiced to a lesser degree in this area.
By: Glenn Johnson
(Page 54 Top) The picnics were an annual affair generally held on the weekend nearest the Fourth of July. Usually a fireworks display, a patriotic speech, and a baseball game were part of the entertainment. In an election year - since the primaries were then held in late July or early August - district and county candidates spoke at these picnics, pleading for votes. Those candidates then in office "pointed with pride" to what they had been able to accomplish and pleaded for an opportunity to carry out the progressive programs they then had underway; their opponents, on the other hand, "viewed with alarm" the due consequence that would follow if the "In Rascals" were not ousted and they be elected to clean out the "courthouse gang". Sometimes these political speeches produced the fireworks for what otherwise might have been a rather dull picnic. Luckily the voters did not take these speeches too seriously.
Annual Decoration of Cemeteries
The center of attraction was usually the Merry-Go-Round. There were two types - one powered by a mule hitched to the center pole moving in a circle which kept the Merry-Go-Round moving - and the other was turned by four men or boys on each inside timber attached to the center pole. The boys who pushed were rewarded with one ride on the Merry-Go-Around lasting about 15 minutes for each hour they pushed. The ride was a popular attraction for courting couples as they could enjoy the ride as they "held hands".
Another attraction was the "Doll Racks". Here, for ten cents, one could have three throws with baseballs at the nearby dolls and, if he were able to knock down three dolls, he would win a "Kewpie Doll". This looked easy and many of the men and boys spent their last dime without winning a Kewpie doll. Another gaming device and a sure winner for one out of six was a cedar cube numbered from one to six on the six faces of the cube. For a dime you took your choice of number you wished. When the six numbers had been taken, the operator then pitched the cube into the air letting it come to rest upon the table - the one holding the number appearing on top of the cube was the winner of fifty cents. The cube was kept in the air most of the time with the operator winning ten cents every time.
The hamburger stand was a busy place, particularly at lunch time and late in the evening. Hungry boys and girls gave little thought to the swarms of flies and ants that were ever present and to the dust that settled on buns (Page 55 Top Photo: Picnic - early 1900s. Summit, Arkansas) and the meat itself. Perculiarly now that we are so sanitary-conscious, that no ill results followed the eating of these unsanitary offerings.
The "old town pump" in a tub or keg of ice cold water colored perhaps with a taste of cherry, grape, or strawberry flavoring or a tub of lemonade with the proprietor calling out - "Right this way to get a glass of ice cold lemonade - made in the shade, stirred with a spade, by an old maid, come and get it - only a nickel - only five cents" was another familiar attraction. Since modern-day refrigeration was unknown, 100-pound blocks of ice hauled on an open bed truck from the ice plant in Cotter or Yellville over unpaved dusty roads was beaten into chunks and dumped unwashed into the uncovered tubs or kegs of drinks. One needed to watch his glass of lemonade lest he swallow a fly, a yellow-jacket or a bug that had fallen into the receptacle. What did a bug or fly matter? The ice cold liquid satisfied the thirst.
At most of these picnics there were two contests that created considerable interest: climbing the greased pole and catching the greased pig. The greased pole was a pole abut twenty feet long with the bark removed and thoroughly greased with lard. One end of the pole was then placed in the ground - the pole, with a dollar bill on the other end, was raised vertically and the contestant who could reach the top of the pole and removed the dollar bill was the winner. The winner was usually some boy who draped his overalls in sand, dirt and sawdust to make the climb.
The greased pig contest was along the same order - a forty or fifty pound pig thoroughly greased in lard was turned loose to be chased by all contestants. The winner had to catch and hold the pig unaided by others.
The picnics were discontinued in World War II and have been not revived in this county.
By Glenn Johnson
(Page 55 Top) Another event, though it cannot he termed amusement, entertainment. nor recreation, was the Annual Decoration of Cemeteries which was a leading social event in earlier days. Decoration Services at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery south of Yellville, at Mountain View Cemetery on Fallen Ash, at Patton Cemetery near Pyatt, Flippin Cemetery at Flippin, at Wild Cat (Page 56 Top) later Fairview - Cemetery north of Flippin, and Promise Land Cemetery east of Oakland drew large crowds. These services were not held on Memorial Day, but rather were held on successive Sundays in May and early June. Though there is no indication of any written agreement as to when each cemetery would be decorated, it appears that it was generally understood that the first Sunday in May would be Decoration Day at a particular cemetery. The following Sunday another cemetery, and the next Sunday another and so until all cemeteries had been decorated. Usually the services began with group singing, followed by a sermon or sermons by local preachers. Then all the graves in the cemetery were decorated with fresh flowers and roses. After the decoration of the graves, a "dinner on the ground" was held. Benches were carried from the building to nearby groves of trees and became the tables on which the food was spread. Food was abundant and no one need go away hungry. Women vied with each other in the preparation of food for this dinner. Fried chicken, country-cured ham, chicken and dressing, vegetables of all kinds, pies, cakes and cookies, each prepared to perfection, constituted the menu.
Gosepl Singing and Singing Conventions
In an election year, most of the candidates for county offices attended all of these decorations and an aspiring candidate found himself duty-bound to eat a little from each table lest he offend some good lady and lose the vote of the family.
The afternoon was for visiting and renewing acquaintances among the older people; for "sparking" among the younger set; and for playing and fighting among the children.
While Decoration Services are still held at some of the cemeteries, these services are usually brief and few attend. Thus another event is rapidly becoming only a memory shared by a generation that is passing.
By G.W. (Heavy) Ott
(Page 56 Top)Gospel singing as a form of community entertainment has long been a part of the history of Marion County. Nearly every community in the County, prior to the advent of the radio and television, had its group of gospel singers who sang at the community Church gatherings, funerals and the Saturday night community singings. Many of these singers had no voice training and little or "no knowledge of music", but were blessed by God with beautiful voices and a natural sense of rhythm and harmony and when they sang the old favorites-ROCK of AGES; BLESSED ASSURANCE; JESUS, LOVER of MY SOUL; GOD BE WITH YOU; JUST OVER in THE GLORY LAND; ON JORDAN'S STORMY BANKS, and such songs, they sang with spirit and understanding, and the old buildings where these singings were held shook with the volume of these voices as they praised their God and voiced their hope and faith in a better home than the one on earth.
It is impossible to recall all of the early song leaders in the various communities, and from lack of personal knowledge and little written record of these early harbingers of harmony, many names will likely be omitted. The following names come to mind as we write: Sam Medley, George Kirkwood, (Page 57 Top) Willie Wilbanks, W. C. Pilgrim, Tom Poynter, J. R. McCracken, George Brown, Sam Adams, Lee Fielder, Spurgeon McChristian, George Syler, Charles Koonzie, Preacher Beckham, Anthony Doshier, Marvin Doshier, Tom Covey, James Rose, Shell Cunningham, Edd Jones, Green Thompson, Winfield Sims, Felix Jones, Paul Jones, Linely Williams and many others.
With the coming of the radio and the "airing" of the many gospel quartettes and famous singers, it appears that interest in the community gospel singing fell to a low ebb and it was not until the Spring of 1932 that a singing school, taught at Eros by a Mr. Scott, renewed interest in community singing. Four young men in the community - Guy Rose, Karl King, Grady Elam, and Bynum Roberts - finished the school and secured licenses to teach singing schools, These young men formed a quartette and sang in various communities in the County. With the singing by this quartette, interest in gospel singing revived and each of these men taught singing schools where many of the younger learned to be song leader. Community singings became popular and in September, 1933, The Marion County Singer's Association was organized at the Antioch Baptist Church meeting at the No. 1 schoolhouse east of Flippin. Guy Rose was elected president and Karl King was elected secretary-treasurer.
This association has continued over a period of forty-three years and many changes in the names of those who have served as officers have occurred. It is impossible to recall all those who have served but these names come to mind: Karl King, Jewell Doshier, Shell Jarrett, Ancil Baker, Ray Robinson, Garland James, Buck Harris, Floyd Anderson, Eugene Johnson, Cecil Pierce, Lee Bowers, Auburn Keeter, and Harry Morrow. While the Singing Conventions have played an important part in keeping the interest alive in gospel singing, it must be kept in mind that the song leader in the various communities and the fine quartettes have done more and, in fact, had it not been for their interest and participation the Singing Conventions would have disappeared.
Among the song leaders since the organization of The Marion County Singer's Association in 1933 the following names come to mind: Jessie Morris, Eugene Johnson, Buck Harris, George Dodson, Charlie Morgan, Willie Wilbanks, Walter Bridges, Claude Hudson, Karl King, Guy Rose, Ancil Baker, Erette Williams, Jack Pace, Ernie Methvin, Jewell Doshier, Bridges Pannell, Cecil Pierce, Holland Davenport, Cecil Briggs, Mervin Wolf, Clifford McCracken, Willie Bailey, Max Wilbanks, Buck McCracken, Glen Hickey, Clifton (Sap) Sanders, Fred Bearden, Joe Harlin, Gale Allen, Ruth Gaines, Elizabeth Stonecipher, Ivon Sanders, Auburn Keeter, Clyde Still, John Lyons, Joe Jones, Steve Jones, Lee Bower, Jim Bogle, Virgil Ott, Bea Still, Troy Methvin, Rex Wood, Ray Adams, Lovell (Bally) Ferguson, and others whose names cannot be recalled. To all of these we owe a debt of gratitude, and hopefully, through their interest and effort and the efforts and interest of the younger singers, gospel singing and singing conventions will continue to be a part of our rich heritage in Marion County.
By Cecil L. Pierce
(Page 57 Top) First, I wish to go back to the first singing school teacher that I know of (Page 58 Top) Marion County. There may have been others at the same time of which I never heard.
In the Fall of 1868, a family from Forsythe County, Georgia, settled in Marion County, in what is now known as the Snow community. This was the family of Bayless Taylor (known as Uncle Bale Taylor). Mr. Taylor was a great singer, and taught many singing schools in the communities of what is now Pyatt, Snow, Cedar Grove and Eros. My Grandfather Pierce's family, also from Forsythe County, Georgia, came to Marion County in the Fall of 1870 and settled in the same neighborhood as the Taylors two years before. My Grandfather and Grandmother were also good singers and they were acquainted with the Taylors before they left Georgia. Both families had brought along a few song books entitled "THE CHRISTIAN HARMONY". At that time there were very few, if any, churchhouses or places to meet in the community, so they would all meet in some of the larger homes and sing until midnight.
Before the Marion County Singing Convention was organized in 1933, Singing Conventions were held in the county, irregularly. Most of these were held in late summer, usually at the close of a singing school.
The singing teachers, most of whom Heavy has mentioned, would teach a ten or twenty-day school and close with a big community singing. These schools were day schools, starting at 8A.M. and ending at 4 P.M. with fifteen minutes for a break in mid-morning and mid-afternoon and an hour for lunch. This was like a regular school; some teachers would charge tuition which was one dollar per student or five dollars for a family, regardless of the number in the family; some teachers would teach for a certain price and the community would raise the money by donation; others would teach for the proceeds of a pie supper. Most of the good teachers would charge tuition.
Most of the singing was without instrumental music. The teachers and leaders had "tuning forks" which would give the key of C. The students would run the scale from C to the key that the song was written. Later, however, the "Chromatic Tuning Fork" came into being. This would give you the pitch in any key by sliding a bar, which was between the prongs, up or down to the specified key.
The first singing school I attended was in 1919 at Antioch for ten days with Charlie Koonzie as the teacher. In 1920, 1 attended a 20-day school at Duren Valley. The teacher was George Brown, who was blind in one eye, near-sighted in the other, but really knew his music and was an outstanding teacher. There were no pianos in our community and very few organs, so we seldom had the chance to sing with music.
At the close of Mr. Brown's school, the class attended a convention at the Chapel near Eros. People came in wagons, on horseback, on foot, and brought their lunches and stayed all day. There was a large crowd so most of the people spread their lunches together at noon. Only a few ate at their wagons.
The morning session was group singing and the afternoon session was given to individual community groups. Weeks of practice and preparation were spent before the "big convention." (Page 59 - Photo: Snow Community Singers - from Left, Ewell Doshier, R A Young, Audice Stoncipher-pianist, Cecil Pierce, Auburn Keeter)
After the Marion County Singing Convention was organized, the community classes gave way to group singing with quartets (the favorite), trios and solos spaced throughout the program. Marion County produced several (Page 59 Top) good quartets and many of these became very popular. Some that I can name that have continued to sing together for a period of time are: The Eros Quartet-Guy Rose, Karl King, Grady Elam, Binum Roberts with Faye King as pianist.
The Caney Quartet-Everett Williams, Ancil Baker, Errett Williams, and Ray Robison. The Marion County Quartet-(A few years later) Holland Davenport, Garland James, Marie Dillard and Ray Robison. After Garland James left the county, Cecil Pierce joined this group. Retha Robinson was the pianist.
While I was a member of this singing group, we made two trips to Little Rock. We sang at the Lafayette Hotel and on the "Little Rock Today" program on Channel Four TV.
The Court House Quartet-Karl King, Jack Pace, Rue Stokes and Cecil Pierce. Later Rue Stokes dropped out and Ewell Doshier joined us. Gwindola Wilburn, about 18 years of age, was our pianist, and she was very good.
Karl King was County Clerk, Jack Pace was sheriff, Ewell Doshier was County Assessor. Usually they were not too busy in the Court House on Saturday afternoon, so this became one of our practice periods in one of the offices. By the time we finished practicing, we usually had a good congregation and this is how we were named The Court House Quartet.
The Snow Community Singers; also a quartet, started with Auburn Keeter, Elizabeth Brown, E. L. Kirkwood, Garland James. In a short while, Garland dropped out, and Auburn called me to help out, Later, Kirkwood dropped out and Ewell Doshier joined us. Gwindola Wilburn was our (Page 60 Top) pianist until her work at Harrison forced her to stop. Her sister, Mrs. Audrice Stonecipher, became our pianist. We sang at all the conventions and had a radio program on the Radio Stations at Harrison and Mountain Home, Mrs. Brown, because of her two small children, could not always go with us. When this was the case, she was replaced by R. A. Young. This quartet remained together for twelve years.
The Copeland Sisters Trio-Jean, Barbara and Deborah lived in the Snow Community and did much good singing in the county.
The Cedar Grove Trio-Fannie Keeter, Sibyl Parker and Louanis Kelley, with Eula Ledbetter as their pianist, sang at conventions, gatherings of many kinds, but did most of their singing for church services.
The Pleasant Ridge Quartet-Buck Harris, Edith Jones, Ewell Doshier and Joyce Doshier. Joyce was also the pianist. This quartet sang at conventions, gatherings and church services. After Buck Harris moved to Texas, I started singing with this group and, a few years later, Garland James joined us.
The Harris Sisters-a quartet with Vela, Viva, Orpha and Gail. These singers started as teen-agers,- went far and near to sing, and sang together for approximately eighteen years.
I am unable to name all the good singers of the county, but wish to mention some of those whose untiring efforts kept the Gospel Singing going in Marion County. First, I mention the late Eugene Johnson who, with his wife, attended every singing convention that was held in the county and drove to State and Tri-State Conventions. He was one of the presidents of the County Convention, a good leader, one of the best boosters of Gospel Singing and was always ready and willing to help any way he could. Second, a little guy known as "Heavy" (G. W. Ott) attended all the singings in Marion County and many outside the county. He was one of the presidents of the Convention and was the president of the Third Sunday Singing... for twelve consecutive years. He was forced to retire because of ill health. He still attends most of the county singings and is a great booster because he could always get more people out to a Sunday afternoon singing than anyone I have known. He kept the program moving-sometimes forty-three to forty-six songs on an afternoon program.
I must mention this funny incident about Heavy. He was "up and down" several times during an afternoon's program while he was "running" the singing. At this particular time, Heavy was sitting on a short seat behind the pulpit. The singing was progressing nicely and he got up to call another leader. While he was making a few remarks, someone moved his seat a little and, when he started to sit back down, he missed his seat. This stopped the singing completely for awhile. Everyone had a good laugh, including Heavy, then we started to sing again.
The Third Saturday night and Sunday afternoon singing session of March 1976 was one of the best. This meeting was held at New Hope Baptist Church under the direction of President Garland James. Mrs. Joan Dilbeck, Yellville's Elementary School Principal, was the pianist. She is an outstanding pianist, loves to play Gospel music and never gets tired at a meeting.
The older singers are passing on and the younger people, for some reason, do not seems to be interested in singing. I hope Gospel Singing will never end in Marion County.
By Earl Berry
(Page 61 Top) The dictionary defines musical as "devoted to, or skilled in, music." It would, perhaps, be stretching this definition to use the term as it was used in the early part of this century in Marion County to a form of entertainment common in practically every community. These "musicals" were usually held in the homes of families in the community-not necessarily the same house-and usually, not always, on Friday night or Saturday night. These must not be confused with the "Square Dances" as portrayed by Mrs. Smith, for there were, in practically every community, those who looked upon the "Square Dance" as sin and a device of Satan to destroy the virtue of women. No dancing or partying was permitted at these musicals.
Fishing in Marion County
The musicals featured both vocal and instrumental music. Sometimes the vocal music was group singing. For the most part, the songs sung were taken from the church hymnals but a good many were ballads and folk songs kept alive-not from a printed book-but handed down from generation to generation. A few patriotic songs found their way into these musicals. Such folk songs as: Poor Little Lost Baby, The Hangman Tree, Casey Jones, I've Been Working on the Railroad, Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home, were favorites. The Battle Hymn of the Republic and America, the Beautiful were favored far above The Star Spangled Banner as patriotic songs and Dixie was always, when sung or played, sure to bring foot-stomping and a "Rebel Yell" at its conclusion.
In many of the communities there were those who furnished instrumental music. There were fiddlers-not violinists; there were those who picked the banjo; there were those who strummed the guitar. Occasionally, someone played the mandolin and, in some homes, the old-fashioned organ became the center of the musical.
The favorite tunes of the fiddlers were: Buffalo Gal, Arkansas Traveler, and Red River Valley.
Many of the songs taken from the church hymnals were sung with the fervor of a camp meeting revival, accompanied by the organ and, on occasions, by the other instruments.
Some of the favorite musicians were the Gay family of Kingdon Springs- Enoch, Robert, Aaron, Joe Lee, Fate, and some of their wives, who could play practically any instrument and were gifted singers. Clayton Dilbeck of Flippin was a fiddler and members of his family could play and sing; George Smothers, a fiddler, and members of his family who played and sang; Uncle Tom Reeves of the Happy Hollow Community was a fiddler who played at musicals, as well as "Square Dances". The story has it that at the dances while the "sets" were being arranged, someone would always inquire of Uncle Tom as to what tune he would play first. His reported reply always was: "Well, I just know two tunes and I allus plays one or tuther of them first." Other musicians remembered were the Lee Fielden family of Bruno-Anderson Flat, the Medleys of Rush, the Wilbanks and Hillhouses of the Oakland area, the Pierce and Wolf families of Duren Valley, the Shaw family of the Big Foot Community, Bill Hogsed family of Flippin, Joe Stovall family of Bruno, and the Davenports and Dillards of Mull and Caney. There were many other individuals and families in the county who, prior to the advent of the radio and TV, furnished wholesome entertainment in their communities (Page 62 Top) whose names cannot be recalled; but to all those, many of have long since departed, we owe a lasting debt of gratitude that they came our way and eased the burdens and cares of this life.
By Glen Johnson
(Page 62 Top) Marion County is ideally located so far as good fishing is concerned, with the White River on the east and north, the Buffalo River on the south and Crooked Creek through the center of the county. All of these streams are good fishing for bass, catfish, buffalo, drum, sunfish, and goggle-eye perch.
As we look back through history, we find the Indians staying near these waters because it was a source of food. There has always been the reasoning that there was plenty of fish until the white man came and began to over-kill or take more than he needed. It was a sport and I am sure it was for the Indians, but the Indians had a problem with the fish and game they could not eat. There were the panthers, bears, wildcats and other animals that were drawn by the smell of fish and then the stench of the over-kill that lingered for many days around the area where the camps were, generally, near the rivers. We are not defending the over-taking of fish or game, but most of the time we are able to give to neighbors and friends if we have more than we can eat. Since the common use of electricity is available, the deep freeze makes it possible to keep the fish and game for later needs.
The Indians had the spear, bow and arrow, as well as hooks, made of bone and rock, and they watched for the rise and fall of the river for any fish that might have been trapped after an over-flow of some streams.
With the arrival of the early white settlers, there came the blacksmith who could fashion a three-prong metal gig that gave man an advantage of distance in taking fish from the streams after night with a light made from pine knots. It was not the most pleasant and cleanest type of fishing because the fire would attract bugs, and burning seasoned pine knots would create a very black smelly smoke that settled on everyone in the boat.
With the invention of the gasoline lantern and the car battery with a light bulb under the water fastened to a piece of tin that reflected the light, improvements in this method of fishing were noticed. Many fish were taken in this manner. Some of the men who were very accurate in throwing a gig were E. L. (Sug) Kirkwood, Everett Hurst, Truman Cornell, W E. Rose, Jake Flippin, Frank Flippin, Ralph Wood, Paul Flippin and Vester Smith.
The early settlers also built fish-traps on Crooked Creek and Buffalo in the summer when the water was low. They were not easy to build and took a lot of material. It was actually a fence made of logs diverting the water to a waterfall under which a vat made of wood was located with openings so the small fish could go through but the larger fish were trapped. Generally, it was a neighborhood project and the people for miles around were able to have fish when they were wanted. The last trap that this writer remembers was constructed by J. 0. Linck and the John Jefferson boys. Mr. Luther Owens of Green Forest, Arkansas, the earliest game warden, received a report of the fish trap. He found it by J. 0. Linck's home and the boys were ordered to remove the trap or be arrested. Mr. Linck was the local Justice of the Peace where the case would be tried, if they were arrested, so he told Mr. Owens he (Page 63 Top would get the trap removed and he did.
Other than the trap, the noodlers or grabblers were the real fish catchers. They were able to dive into the deep water after much practice and could stay under water longer than others. There were stories of men who would go under and ask someone to hold them down until they shook themselves. There was a danger of getting the hand in the mouth of a large catfish and not being able to bring him to the top of the water. Many large catfish were taken in this manner, generally in the 20 to 40 pound weight. The Wilson boys of Fallen Ash were the champion noodlers.
Another method was seining a hole of water where fish had been trapped or seining in shallow streams. This was hard work and required several men, wading in the streams, to pull the seine to the bank.
The use of dynamite was used sometimes, but was not acceptable by the general public because of the complete kill of all the fish in a hole of water. There was also the green walnut way that was known by the Indians who would beat walnuts into a mulch and place into the water where it would kill the fish if the flow of water was decrease to a minimum. The fish were still edible. This writer knows of two men who tried this method while on a picnic with their families and they came up with their bathing suits walnut stained - no fish.
Mr. Bill Wilson of Yellville was one of the early sportsmen who did more for the county in the way of promotion of fishing than anyone because he worked for this alone for many years. He was one who helped create the State Game and Fish Commission and saw it develop into the well-organized, helpful group that he dreamed and publicized so much through the press. He wrote articles for both of the state's papers, as well as the local papers. To him we give much credit.
When the lake behind the Bull Shoals Dam was filling, it was one of the best fishing lakes in the United States. Anyone who could fish at all could catch the limit of fish each day. When the fishermen all over the nation began to hear of this place, they came in great numbers. With the cold water below the dam, there was added to the species the Brown Trout and the Rainbow Trout.
In the mid-1950's Mr. Sam Welch and his wife, Harriet, moved to Bull Shoals from Gamaliel, Arkansas, with their weekly fishing newsletter called THE OZARK FISHERMAN. Each week thousands of people in the midwest were able to hear from radio and TV and read the newspaper accounts of the amount, kind and location of fishing activity on the three lakes in the Ozarks. Mr. Welch certainly deserves much credit for the growth of the fishing industry.
From the MOUNTAIN ECHO, November 13, 1958, this headline was taken: "CBS WILL TELEVISE FLOAT TRIP IN MARION COUNTY." Mr. G. 0. Tilley secured this group from Chicago with Art Micier as narrator for the float trip from below the dam to Buffalo, a distance of 28 miles. Guides on the trip were Forrest Wood, Virgil Humphrey, Truman Erwin, Dan Cornell, Hester Jones, and Paul Flippin. Charley (Polk) Williams and Leland Hurst were commissary men. Mr. Tilley deserves much credit for his great help in advertising the good fishing in this area. There are others who deserve credit but it is impossible to name each one. John Eastwold, Bull Shoals boat dock owner, is continuing the good publicity needed to keep (Page 63 Top good fishing for the visiting tourists. Those who have fishing services and boat dock services in 1976 are: Rack Pace, Nubbin Stoner, Donnie McCracken, 101 Boat Dock, Wild Cat Shoals, Sportsman, Country Lodge, Stetson's, and White Hole Acres.
Fishing is becoming more competitive and specialized, since the tournaments are growing every year. With the coming of the fish-finders, new baits, fast motors, spin-cast reels, and the many studies made of fish and fishing, the number of people retiring, who like to fish for sport, may not become specialists for many years. We are confident, though, there will always be fish and fishermen trying to land the big ones as long as civiliation lasts.
With the coming of the railroad passenger service in the early 1900's, sport fishermen from the north and east began to visit the county to enjoy good fishing. In the late 1930's, Mr. Russell Evans and Mr. Clay Nowlin began a float fishing service for the streams of the county. This was the beginning of a type of business that has grown and flourished. It is one of the most prosperous enterprises of Marion County.
It has taken a good, patient, hard-working Game and Fish Commission to make the fishing industry what it is today. There was not much enforcement by the game wardens in the beginning because it had to be a work of educating the people to take care of their fish and game. The position of game warden was political in the beginning, but now it is free from this as long as what is good and necessary is done.
Some of those who served as Game Wardens in Marion County were: John Evans, Erwin Wood, Jim Layton, George Fee, Jim Moore, J. B. Osborn, Bill Keeter, R. H. (Perk) Hurst, Loyne Hurst, Dewey King, and Bob Sanders.
In the 1920's, the Frost brothers had a boathouse on White River at the end of the Frost Bluff. A Dr. Frank O'Riley and Mr. A. B. Scott of the Scott Book Company would spend two weeks each year staying with Pearl and Molly Frost where they fished every day and received the finest home cooking this side of Chicago.
Mr. Frank Flippin was one of the best known and most successful fishermen in the county and had a boathouse with boats for rent at Wild Cat Shoals, still a popular place near the airport.
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Linda Haas Davenport