Entries - Entry Category: Folklore and Folklife

Arkansans versus Arkansawyers

The name for residents of Arkansas has long been a subject of controversy. A fundamental premise of Arkansas culture and lore is the impossibility of defining, categorizing, or otherwise pigeonholing its people as any single type or group. This resistance to uniformity is seen in the question of whether “Arkansas” should be pronounced like “Kansas.” Because that argument was settled in favor of ArkanSAW by the Arkansas legislature in 1881, it follows that the demonym—the name of the inhabitants of a locality—“Arkansans” makes no sense, given that they live in ArkanSAW, not ArKANSAS. Although “Arkansan” has become the standard usage, some of the state’s best-known writers have argued in favor of “Arkansawyer.” To confuse the issue further, another term, Arkansians, …

Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness

aka: Bluebird of Happiness
The original Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness was created by Leo Ward at Terra Studios near Durham (Washington County). Since their introduction in 1982, over nine million bluebirds have been sold. Each bird is individually crafted from molten glass by artisans at Terra Studios and is signed and dated. Though Terra Studios creates glass birds in many colors, the bluebird has always been the most popular choice. While living in San Diego, California, in the early 1970s, Leo Ward discovered a passion for glass blowing. Along with his wife, Rita, Ward opened a gift shop and constructed a glass furnace on the premises. When a city inspector discovered this furnace, the shop was closed, and the Wards moved to Arkansas, where …

Arkansas Folk Festival

The annual Arkansas Folk Festival takes place on the third weekend in April in Mountain View (Stone County). Held since 1963, the event attracts thousands of people to the small mountain community, where the livelihood of many residents is based on tourism. The town has become nationally renowned for its folk music, and the downtown area is a popular place for impromptu “pickins” as musicians gather informally to perform. The Arkansas Folk Festival has its roots in the Stone County Folkways Festival held in 1941, celebrating the musical heritage of the area. Musical performances and a jig dance contest were among events held at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. World War II prevented subsequent gatherings at the time, but the …

Arkansas Food Hall of Fame

The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame was established by the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) in 2017, with the first honorees inducted in an event held that winter. The goal of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame is to honor the food traditions and the Arkansans involved in the local culinary arts that represent the culture of Arkansas. The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame divides the awards into five categories: Arkansas Food Hall of Fame (for restaurants), Food-Themed Event, Proprietor of the Year, People’s Choice, and Gone but Not Forgotten. Every year, a nomination period is open to the public to choose restaurants for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee selects the blue-ribbon …

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is a nonprofit collaborative network of more than 400 hunger relief organizations across Arkansas working to alleviate hunger in the state. Members include the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas in Jonesboro (Craighead County), Harvest Texarkana Regional Food Bank in Texarkana (Miller County), Food Bank of North Central Arkansas in Norfork (Baxter County), Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in Bethel Heights (Benton County), and River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), as well as numerous food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Arkansas has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. More than twenty-eight percent of Arkansas families with children experience food insecurity on …

Arkansas State Capital, Folkloric Relocations of the

There are a few staples of local history and folklore in the state of Arkansas repeated widely throughout numerous different communities. One such oft-repeated phrase is “Hernando de Soto went through here,” which many communities were able to claim more authoritatively before more modern and scientific reconstructions of the route of the de Soto expedition narrowed down the possibilities. Other stories deal with the location of Indian mounds or villages in the area before white settlement, or the presence of noted outlaw Jesse James, or a visit from Civil War guerrilla William Quantrill. Also among the legends presented in many local histories is that any number of towns were almost designated the state capital. Much of the confusion as to …

Arkansas Traveler

A tune, a dialogue, and a painting from the mid-nineteenth century, the Arkansas Traveler became a catch-all phrase for almost anything or anyone from Arkansas: it has been the name of a kind of canoe, various newspapers, a racehorse, a baseball team, and more. The term is familiar to the present-day general public, especially as the name of a baseball team and a certificate presented to distinguished visitors to the state. Origins The Arkansas-based version of the Traveler is said to have begun in 1840. Colonel Sanford Faulkner got lost in rural Arkansas and asked for directions at a humble log home. Faulkner, a natural performer, turned the experience into an entertaining presentation for friends and acquaintances in which the …

Arkansas’s Image

Two defining forces have shaped Arkansas’s image. First, physical geography placed the Mississippi River floodplain on the state’s eastern border. Second, public policy determined that, for almost 100 years, the region adjacent to the state’s western border would be known as Indian Territory. The combination of these two forces were primarily responsible for Arkansas being less densely populated than its neighboring states and being predominantly rural for the first 150 years of its existence as a territory and state. Lacking a major urban area or dominant physical attraction, relatively few people had first-person knowledge of the state. As a result, this area came to be viewed as a rustic, backwoods region out of touch with mainstream America. In an effort …

Ashley, Eliza Jane

Eliza Jane Burnett Dodson Ashley spent more than thirty years as the cook in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, serving from the administration of Francis Cherry to Bill Clinton. Her 1985 book Thirty Years at the Mansion garnered her national attention. Eliza Jane Burnett was born in Pettus Township in Lonoke County on the Oldham Plantation on October 11, 1917. She was the daughter of William Burnett and Eliza Johnson Burnett. Eliza, who carried the same name as her mother, was often referred to as Liza or Janie. Although she had spent some time in Little Rock (Pulaski County) with her mother as a teenager, she was working on the Oldham Plantation when she married Calvin Dodson in 1933. Louis Calvin …

Atkins Pickle Company

Atkins Pickle Company was the major industry in the town of Atkins (Pope County) for more than fifty years, and its legacy survives in the annual Picklefest celebration that began in 1992. The building that housed the pickle plant now houses Atkins Prepared Foods. The new company employs more people than the pickle plant did at its end, but it does not provide the same level of recognition for the town once dubbed the “Pickle Capital of the World” and known as the home of the fried dill pickle. In 1946, a group of citizens led by Lee Cheek raised $17,000 for a loan to the Goldsmith Pickle Company of Chicago, which had agreed to invest $75,000 of its money …

Back-to-the-Land Movement

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, nearly one million people throughout the United States left urbanized areas for rural settings, intent on establishing themselves as “back-to-the-landers.” While many of these people moved to the Northeast or the West, which had long been centers of counter-cultural movements, a significant number were drawn to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. It is difficult to state how many back-to-the-landers (BTLs) moved to Arkansas between 1968 and 1982, but rough estimates suggest that it was somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000. Nearly all of the BTLs who moved to the region were in their early to mid-twenties. On the whole, the BTLs were well educated, with over seventy percent having completed an undergraduate degree. Approximately …

Barham, Ella (Murder of)

The 1912 murder of eighteen-year-old Ella Barham in Boone County was one of the most gruesome events to occur in northwestern Arkansas in the early twentieth century. The incident has intrigued people for decades, and some believe the wrong man was sent to the gallows for the crime. Much of the story has evolved into folklore. On the morning of Thursday, November 21, 1912, Ella Barham walked from her home south of Crooked Creek to the post office and store in Pleasant Ridge (Boone County), a community once located about eighteen miles east of Harrison (Boone County) near the Marion County line, to buy cloth for a hat. After returning home at about 9:00 a.m., she saddled her brother’s horse …

Basketry

Basket making is the process of interlacing short flexible fibers to form a container using a process of coiling, knotting, plaiting, or weaving. Early inhabitants of Arkansas such as the Caddo and Quapaw made and used baskets. Basket making has continued in modern times in Arkansas but for different reasons. At first, baskets were made for agricultural purposes; they later became objects of beauty—a fine craft acknowledged throughout the country and created for contemplation and decoration for museums and homes. Prehistoric baskets have been found in dry bluff shelters in the Ozark Mountains. Because traditional baskets are made of natural materials such as vines, grass, reeds, bark, or split wood, they are fragile and perishable and have not held up …

Bittick, Helen Long

Helen Marie Long Bittick was an artist of the “primitive folk style,” meaning that she had no academic art training but developed her own unschooled, unique patterns of portraying her subjects. Helen Long was born on June 24, 1918, to Bette Ann Mangum and William Monroe Long on the Judge Level Farm between Washington (Hempstead County) and Hope (Hempstead County); she had three siblings. Her father ran a restaurant in Hope and farmed in McCaskill (Hempstead County). Long attended Brookwood School in Hope, the three-room schoolhouse in Friendship, and schools in McCaskill and Blevins (all in Hempstead County). She did not graduate from high school. She married Cloid Sykes Bittick on November 12, 1933, in Bingen (Hempstead County). They had …

Black, James

James Black, popularly known as the maker of the bowie knife, was one of the early pioneers of Arkansas and settled in the town of Washington (Hempstead County) in southwest Arkansas. James Black was born on May 1, 1800, in New Jersey; the names of his parents are unknown. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. Black did not get along well with his stepmother and ran away from home at the age of eight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, he was taken in as an apprentice to a silverplater named Stephen Henderson. During that time, Black apparently became strongly skilled in the art of silverplating. In 1818, when he was eighteen years old, his …

Blues Music

The origins of the blues are murky, but the state of Arkansas seems to have hosted the music and its creators since its beginnings in North America and helped spread it worldwide. Blues is acknowledged as the root from which sprang jazz, rhythm and blues (R&B), rock and roll, and hip-hop; in addition, it has informed the genres of country and western, gospel, and bluegrass. Blues and its offspring have long since crossed the globe, but its standard-bearers are largely confined to the Mississippi River Delta, especially eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi. Emerging in part from call-and-response “field hollers” dating from the slavery era, blues had practitioners originally belonging to many different groups with their own musical styles. Most scholars believe …

Bowie Knife

The bowie knife, made popular in the 1830s, has evolved into a specific form in current use. The bowie knife was worn for defensive purposes; its primary function was for personal combat. It was designed to be part of a gentleman’s attire, and the key difference between the bowie knife and a hunting knife, a dagger, or a dirk was, initially, the quality of finish of the bowie. Bowie knives came in a variety of forms—with or without guards, with differently shaped blades—and often were adorned with silver and other decoration, sometimes including etching and/or engraving on their metal surfaces. The knife got its name from a pioneer family who settled in early Arkansas and Louisiana. Jim Bowie, the best …

Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival

The Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival celebrates the pink tomato industry in southeastern Arkansas. Originally a one-day event, it has become a weeklong celebration that attracts approximately 30,000 people each year. In June 1956, the first Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival was held in Warren (Bradley County). Loran Johnson, who was director of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, was one of the founders of the festival. The one-day event included musicians, a carnival, and exhibits. Each year, a chairperson of the festival was chosen. A parade and beauty pageant were added the second year. Another festival event began after Jean Frisby, who was the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES) home economist for Bradley County, and Loran Johnson, who …

Breweries

Beer brewing in Arkansas dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. Documentation on early beer brewing in Arkansas, however, is sparse. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Little Rock Brewery operated until 1920. The Joseph Knoble Brewery operated in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) from 1848 to 1881. After that, however, breweries did not begin operating in the state again until well after Prohibition ended in 1933. As German immigrants migrated to and settled in Arkansas, especially in the western portion of the state, many found homesteads near Fort Smith, where the state’s best-known historic brewery is located. Built circa 1848, the Joseph Knoble Brewery served locals until 1881. Joseph Knoble, a native of Wittenberg, Germany, constructed this three-story building using typical …

Bruno’s Little Italy

Bruno’s Little Italy in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is one of the most well-known restaurants in central Arkansas, serving authentic Neapolitan food since 1949 and introducing hand-tossed pizza to Arkansas. It was founded by Vincent “Jimmy” Bruno and continues in the twenty-first century with his sons and grandson, although it has operated in several locations with brief interruptions over the years. Known for its fine food and also for the many photos of celebrities on the walls, it has been recognized as having the best Italian food in the United States. Giovanni Bruno emigrated from Naples, Italy, in 1903 to join his brother in opening one of New York’s first pizzerias—actually a bakery from which they served pizzas. He was …

Bullfrog Valley Gang

The Bullfrog Valley Gang was a notorious counterfeiting ring that operated in the wilderness of Pope County during the depression of the 1890s. The gang’s origin and methods were mysterious, but the New York Times reported its demise on June 28, 1897. The article said deputy U.S. marshals attached to the federal district court at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) had captured three men, effectively breaking up “the once-famous band of counterfeiters known to secret service operators all over the United States as the Bullfrog Valley Gang.” Previous arrests were reported in Arkansas earlier in the year. In all, some fifteen men were arrested and convicted in federal courts at Fort Smith and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Others, in Arkansas and …

Carlisle, Irene Jones

Originally from Texas, Irene Carlisle lived much of her life in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she became a widely respected teacher, poet, and folklorist. Carlisle taught Latin and English at Springdale High School; published poetry in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals; published a well-received book of poetry; and collected folksongs and folklore in northwestern Arkansas. Irene Jones was born to Stephen and Tela Jones on May 24, 1908. She married Jack Carlisle in 1929, and the couple moved to Fayetteville. She earned a BA from Texas Christian University in 1929. During World War II, her husband served in the U.S. Navy, and she worked as a welder in a California shipyard; she composed a popular poem, “Welder,” about …

Caviar

Arkansas caviar, which is distributed nationally, consists of eggs from certain freshwater fish caught in the state’s rivers. The commercial fishermen who supply the product to wholesalers generally obtain the eggs from the Arkansas, Mississippi, White, Cache, and St. Francis rivers in eastern Arkansas from late November until early April. The eggs come from paddlefish (commonly referred to in the Arkansas Delta as spoonbill catfish), shovelnose sturgeon, and bowfin. Armenian brothers Melkoum and Mouchegh Petrossian often are credited with popularizing caviar in Paris, France, in the 1920s and spurring a worldwide interest in the product. Paddlefish eggs make up the majority of the Arkansas caviar that is harvested. Paddlefish can be distinguished by their large mouths and elongated snouts, called the rostrum. …

Chateau Aux Arc Vineyards and Winery

One of several new vineyards in Arkansas, Chateau Aux Arc of Altus (Franklin County) promotes itself as the largest planter of Cynthiana grapes in the world as well as the largest planter of Chardonnay grapes in the United States outside of California. Chateau Aux Arc is named for the French term meaning “at the bend,” which is generally believed to be the origin of the name “Ozark.” The winery is owned and operated by Audrey House, who started it in 2001 at the age of twenty-five. House was born in Oklahoma in 1976 but lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1989 to 1994; she graduated from Pulaski Academy. She then studied psychology at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, …

Cheese Dip

Cheese dip is considered to be an important part of Arkansas’s food culture. Not only is cheese dip more popular in the Arkansas area than in other parts of the country, but some claim that the original cheese dip was invented either in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) or Hot Springs (Garland County). According to Nick Rogers, who has researched the history of cheese dip, the dish was invented by Blackie Donnely, the original owner of Mexico Chiquito restaurants. The Mexico Chiquito chain, which now has multiple locations in central Arkansas, was opened by Donnely and his wife in North Little Rock in 1935. Whether or not Donnely’s cheese dip was the first is hard to say, but his restaurant …

Cowie Wine Cellars

On August 17, 1967, Cowie Wine Cellars was established as a federal and state bonded winery in Paris (Logan County), fulfilling the lifelong passion of founder Robert Cowie, who had begun making wine as a hobby at age fifteen. Cowie Wine Cellars remains, by choice of its founder, the smallest winery in the state, though it has won a number of state and national awards, in particular for its Cynthiana and Robert’s Port. Robert Cowie built his winery, originally a small metal building, on the former property of St. Ann’s School, just west of Paris at Carbon City, in 1969. Three years later, his family was able to build a house on the property and move to the winery site, …

Crop Circles

Crop circles are a relatively recent phenomenon in Arkansas, appearing in northeastern Arkansas wheat fields in 2003. Crop circles are geometric patterns, sometimes simple and other times astonishingly complex, that appear in fields of wheat, barley, rye, and other crops. The formations are created by a flattening of the stalks of grain; in the more refined crop circles, the grain is bent rather than broken. Crop circles have been reported as far back as the late seventeenth century in England, but it was an outbreak in England in the 1970s which brought the phenomenon worldwide attention. Thousands of formations were subsequently reported across the globe, leading to speculation that they were created by extraterrestrials or other paranormal entities, given the …

Crossett Light

Outside of Crossett (Ashley County), where the old railroad tracks once lay, an unexplained light has become a local legend. It has reportedly been seen consistently since the early 1900s by multitudes of people. The light is typically seen floating two to three feet above the ground but also is said to move into the treetops and sometimes side to side. The light reportedly disappears as one walks toward it and then reappears the same distance away, so that one can never get a close look at it. The Crossett Light’s color reportedly ranges from yellow or orange to blue or green. The Crossett Light is one of many similar phenomena commonly known as “spooklights” in the South. There are …

Dark, John William (Bill)

John William (Bill) Dark was a bushwhacker in north-central Arkansas during the Civil War. From June 1862 to January 1863, he served as captain of Company A, Coffee’s Recruits, a guerrilla band that attempted to thwart Federal advances in northern Arkansas, as well as to conscript state troops. Dark soon gained the reputation as a cruel and ruthless plunderer who preyed on citizens of Searcy, Izard, and Van Buren counties. Bill Dark was born in Arkansas sometime around 1835. Most of his short and violent life remains shrouded in mystery, and what is known about Dark comes through oral history. He was apparently a handsome and literate young man with long red hair. In 1850, the first time his name …

Dialects

The classification of dialects is an inexact science, as it is often difficult to track the minute differences in grammar, vocabulary, phonetics, and intonation that distinguish one from the next, and more importantly, track how those changes occurred. Migratory routes provide a basic framework for identifying dialects across the country. Informed by this framework, linguists identify two umbrella dialects in the state of Arkansas:Midland, sometimes called South Midland or Mountain Speech, andSouthern, which refers to east-coastal Southern speech. Geography also plays a decisive role in the distribution of dialects. The Ouachita Mountains, for example, form a natural barrier for language and culture. John Gould Fletcher observed as much in his historical study, Arkansas (1947): “One may say that there are roughly two …

Diamond Bear Brewery

Diamond Bear Brewery in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) revived beer brewing in the state of Arkansas. Its name is derived from two previous monikers used by Arkansas: the “Diamond State” and the “Bear State.” Russ Melton, president and chief executive officer of Diamond Bear, served in the military in Germany for four years, where he acquired a taste for fine beers. He and his wife, Sue Melton, came up with the concept of a local brewery in 1999 and, along with seven other owners, started production in the fall of 2000 at a Little Rock (Pulaski County) facility. The mission statement of the company is: “To provide the people of Arkansas and the surrounding region with their own local brewery, which produces great …

Dye, “Aunt Caroline”

aka: Caroline Tracy Dye
Caroline Tracy Dye, better known as “Aunt Caroline,” was a highly respected seer whose name was recognized in Arkansas and the Mid-South in the early years of the twentieth century. The fact that she was an uneducated African American made her popularity at the time all the more unusual. Caroline Tracy’s parents’ names are unknown, and there has been an abundance of conflicting information through the years about her date of birth and early life. A 1918 obituary described her as being eighteen years of age at the start of the Civil War, which would put her born around 1843; however, the 1880 census records her birth year as 1843. Her tombstone records her age in 1918 at 108, which …

Eureka Springs Baby

aka: Eureka Baby
aka: Petrified Indian Baby
The 1880 discovery of a fossilized human child in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) was not revealed as a hoax until 1948. The find was exhibited locally and then around the state. Within a year, the carving—known variously as the “Eureka Baby,” the “Petrified Indian Baby,” or as a Hindu idol—had been exhibited in St. Louis, Missouri; Galveston, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana. It was also reportedly en route to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC at the time of its disappearance. This hoax was the brainchild of Henry Johnson, a Scottsville (Pope County) merchant who closely modeled his deception on the nationally famous Cardiff Giant. This massive stone man was “discovered” in 1869 in Cardiff, New York, and publicly acknowledged …

Festivals and Parades

Arkansas hosts a variety of annual festivals, fairs, and parades throughout the year. Some of the more well-known affairs, such as the Hope Watermelon Festival or the Arkansas Apple Festival, celebrate the centrality of agriculture to both local life and the wider state economy. Others celebrate some aspect of industry that is central to town life, such as the Malvern Brickfest or the Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival. A number of festivals focus upon arts and crafts, music, and movies, as well as an array of holiday-related celebrations centering upon Christmas or Independence Day. In addition, such events as Toad Suck Daze or the Lepanto Terrapin Derby simply provide opportunities for amusement.    For additional information: Arkansas South. http://www.arkansassouth.com/ …

Feuds

A feud (sometimes referred to as a vendetta or private war) is a long-running argument or period of animosity, especially between families or clans. Feuds usually begin over a perceived injustice or insult. The feud cycle is fueled by a long-running cycle of retaliatory violence that often escalates into a “blood feud,” in which the cycle of violence involves the relatives of someone who has been killed or dishonored seeking vengeance by killing the culprits or their relatives. In theory, the cycle of killing continues until one entire family has been killed. Arkansas has had its share of feuds, particularly in the Ozark Mountains region of the state. Pioneers who came west from the southern Appalachian Mountains at the beginning …

Folk Music

Folk music is part of a society’s “unofficial culture,” much of which is passed on through face-to-face contact among close-knit people. Early folk music in Arkansas falls into two broad categories: folksongs (which do not present a narrative) and ballads (which tell a story). Folksong collectors sought to record and preserve this traditional music in the twentieth century, with Vance Randolph, John Quincy Wolf, and others working in Arkansas. The lyric folksong form of the blues developed in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions in the late nineteenth century among the first generation of African Americans to come of age after slavery. Protest music of the early to mid-twentieth century, dealing with labor and social conditions—as well as war, civil rights, and …

Folklore and Folklife

When English antiquarian William J. Thoms introduced his new coinage “folk-lore” in 1846, he intended it as a “good Saxon substitute” for “popular antiquities,” a Latinate term that referred to the manners and customs of the “olden time.” Although subsequent folklore scholars have recognized that their subject is an ever-changing, modern phenomenon, the association of folklore with antiquity has often sent folklorists to people and places that seem to lie outside the mainstream of cultural development and where, they assume, a way of life untouched by modernization and globalization endures. In the United States, the “folk” were those who lived in isolation as a result especially of geography but sometimes of ethnicity or another distinguishing factor. Arkansas, especially its Ozark …

Food and Foodways

Because nutrition is essential to human survival, the production and consumption of food has been central to life in what is now Arkansas for more than ten thousand years. Evolving social customs dictate when, where, and how food is presented. Because of Arkansas’s ties to rest of the South, as well as to the Southwest and Midwest, the core components of local food preparation followed traditional “American” lines, with little impact being felt from the small immigrant population. The globalization of food, mostly via restaurants, came generally after 1960. Prehistory The first humans in Arkansas, the Paleoindians, were hunter-gatherers. Despite Arkansas’s lack of excavated and analyzed sites, evidence from adjacent areas suggests that besides hunting the now-extinct mega animals (mammoths, …

Fouke Monster

Fouke (Miller County) is a small town in southwest Arkansas that attracted attention in the early 1970s when a resident of Texarkana (Miller County) reported being attacked by a mysterious creature there. A reporter for the Texarkana Gazette wrote an article about the events, and from that small publication, a legend was born. Fouke and its monster became famous and were featured in a 1973 movie. In May 1971, Bobby Ford reported to the Fouke constable that he was attacked at his house by a hairy creature that breathed heavily, had red eyes, and moved very fast. Ford said the man-like creature, which was about seven feet tall and three feet across the chest, put its arm around his shoulder …

Franke’s Cafeteria

Franke’s Cafeteria was established by C. A. Franke in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1924. It is widely recognized as a culinary institution in the city and is one of the oldest restaurants in Arkansas. After leaving the military, C. A. Franke opened a doughnut shop in 1919 on West Capitol Avenue and then a bakery at 111 West 3rd Street in 1922. After determining that bakeries would soon spread and start competing with his own, he sold the bakery to Safeway and switched to the cafeteria business. He opened the first Franke’s Cafeteria in 1924 at 115 West Capitol. Since the 1920s, the cafeteria has seen four generations of Franke family members take the helm of the business. C. …

Fried Dill Pickles

In 1960, Bernell “Fatman” Austin (born on February 26,1921) leased a parcel of land east of Atkins (Pope County) from Griffin Oil Co. for ten dollars a month and began building a drive-in restaurant. The Duchess Drive In, a small pink building, opened for business in April 1960, just across the highway from Atkins Pickle Plant, the pickle capital of Arkansas. As business increased, with U.S. 64 being the main road to Little Rock (Pulaski County), Austin started toying with the idea of a gimmick to attract additional business. The first fried dill pickles ever sold anywhere were sold in the summer of 1963 at fifteen cents for an order of fifteen hamburger slices. They still did not taste or …

Funeral Customs, Traditional (Ozark Mountains)

Settlers to the Arkansas Ozarks brought burial traditions with them from their home states of Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Prior to the establishment of a funeral industry with undertakers, embalmers, and factory-made caskets, every job associated with burial was handled by members of the deceased’s community. This work required practical know-how, physical strength, and access to materials, and was influenced by religious custom, folklore, and superstition. The modern death-care industry evolved from the trade of cabinet making, when stores that made and sold furniture added wooden coffins and caskets to their wares. By the late 1800s, many such businesses also offered the use of elaborate, horse-drawn hearses; burial goods (such as shrouds); and, later, embalming. The Arkansas …

Geophagy

aka: Geophagia
aka: Pica
Geophagy, or geophagia, is the practice of consuming dirt or clay. In the United States, the practice is associated with the South, where clay is still sold for consumption in some rural areas. Humans regularly ingest dirt in trace amounts in everyday life, but most Western societies declare a threshold at which deliberate consumption is treated as a symptom of physiological or psychiatric disease (called pica). Although geophagy is often met with disgust or dismissed as prehistory or pathology, it exists in many cultures around the world as a healthful if not vital practice. There are a number of reasons why humans might deliberately consume dirt. Some practitioners believe that the soil or clay affords nutrients and minerals, such as …

Ghost Legends

Arkansas is rife with legends of ghosts and haunted places. Some of these legends, such as those surrounding the nationally famous Gurdon Light or the Crescent Hotel, are unique to the state, though Arkansas has also been one of the locations cited in well-known, widely reported legends, such as that of the “vanishing hitchhiker,” which has been ascribed to localities across the country. The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) is one of Arkansas’s most famous haunted locations. The ghost of former owner Dr. Norman Baker, who turned the hotel into a health resort in 1937, is said to wander around the old recreation room by the foot of the stairs leading to the first floor. In July 1987, …

Gibson Baskets

The history of the Gibson family of basket makers—which, as of 2009, has produced split white oak baskets for four generations—parallels the history of basket making in the United States. The split white oak basket is distinctive to the Ozarks and is woven from thin, flexible splints used as ribs and weavers. The Gibson family has continued the tradition of making baskets using handmade tools and natural materials. The characteristics of a Gibson basket are a heavy hand-carved handle, herringbone weave on the flat rectangular basket bottom, and construction without nails. Christopher Columbus “Lum” Gibson (1865–1947) reportedly began making baskets in the 1880s and is said to have had a blind man as a teacher. His workbaskets were sold door …

Gilbert, Ollie Eva Woody

Both a local and national celebrity, Ollie Eva Woody Gilbert, known popularly as Aunt Ollie, performed with Jimmy Driftwood, Woody Guthrie, and many other folk musicians who have come to define the voice of the Great Depression. Venues ranged from friends’ and family members’ front porches and living rooms in the Ozark Mountains to Cow Palace in San Francisco, California; the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee; and Madison Square Garden in New York City. The eighth of thirteen children of James (Jim) Franklin Woody and Mary Minerva Balentine Woody, Ollie Eva Woody was born on October 17, 1892, in the Hickory Grove area of Stone County. Shelearned to play the banjo at the age of five. Her instrument was made …

Gowrow

The gowrow, one of several fabulous monsters reported in Arkansas popular lore, may owe its origins more to journalism than to traditional narrative and folk belief. The principal documentation of the creature’s existence is a story that appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on January 31, 1897, apparently written by Elbert Smithee. Elmer Burrus provided an illustration, allegedly based on a photograph, to accompany the piece. Fred W. Allsopp, who edited the Gazette at the time, recounted the circumstances that led to Smithee’s story. William Miller, a Little Rock businessman who had been traveling in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas, told Smithee of a “horrible monster” known as the gowrow. Its name came from the noise it made during its nocturnal …

Grapette International, Inc.

Grapette soda was developed by Benjamin Tyndle Fooks in Camden (Ouachita County) in 1939. Once one of the bestselling non-cola soft drinks in the United States, Grapette virtually disappeared from the marketplace for most of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s after being bought by a leading competitor. As the twenty-first century began, Grapette International in Malvern (Hot Spring County), the last remaining subsidiary of Fooks’s Grapette Company, re-acquired the Grapette and Orangette trademarks, reuniting the original flavors with the brand names. Currently Grapette, Orangette, and two other flavors made by Grapette International are distributed nationwide exclusively in Walmart Inc. stores as part of their store brand line of soft drinks. Fooks bought a soft-drink bottling plant in Camden in 1926 …

Greek Food Festival

aka: International Greek Food Festival
The Greek Food Festival, which is organized by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is an annual three-day event that raises money for the church and for charities around Arkansas. In 2008, approximately 30,000 people attended to enjoy the food and entertainment. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox church was founded in 1913 and, a few years later, received an official church charter. By 1921, the members had their first building, at 15th and Center streets. For more than thirty years before they began the Greek Food Festival, members had a church pastry sale offering Greek food. The church moved to Napa Valley Drive in 1983 and began the first official Greek Food Festival that June. The one-day …

Gurdon Light

The Gurdon Light is a mysterious floating light above the railroad tracks near Gurdon (Clark County), which was first sighted during the 1930s. Many theories and stories exist to explain the light, including one which connects it the 1931 murder of William McClain, a railroad worker. The popular local legend drew national attention in December 1994, when NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries television show documented the phenomenon. Gurdon is located approximately eighty-five miles south of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on Interstate 30, just east of the Interstate on Highway 67. The light appears along a stretch of railroad tracks outside of the town. Some people believe the light originates from the reflection of headlights of cars off of Interstate 30. However, the …