A Visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas

Post by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain.

Each fall, we visited the family in Kansas while traveling with our RV. Then as we wend our way home to Florida, we make a tourist stop along the way. One year, we stopped in the Victorian spa city, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 What to See in Hot Springs

It’s a great place to visit, a Victorian and turn-of-the-century destination for its medicinal hot springs. Babe Ruth, Al Capone, and presidents vacationed there. Here’s what to see and do in the fascinating town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Tour the historic bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. Walk the length of it admiring the turn-of-the-century architecture. Pause to read the history of each (posted in front).

 

bathhouse-hot springs ark pixabay

One of the bathhouses – photo from Pixabay

 

Then stroll back along the promenade through Hot Springs National Park. Note the fountains, the view to the downtown and the bathhouses and the well-landscaped park. There are a number of trails to explore if you like walking and have the time for longer excursions.

Go inside the Fordyce Bathhouse to see the preserved steam room, hydrotherapy room, the men’s bath hall and the women’s bath hall, dressing room, etc. It really gives you the feel for the early days of the spas in Hot Springs. Watch the film to get a good overview of the town’s history.

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Photo from Pixabay

 

You can have the full spa experience even today. Buckstaff Bathhouse Company has been open since 1912. They have hot packs, steam cabinets, Swedish massages, and traditional thermal mineral baths.

Wander through the shops in the vintage buildings across from Bathhouse Row. They include antique stores and specialty shops.

The length of your visit depends on if you want to zip through the historic district and shops (one day) or if a more leisurely tour appeals. If your visit covers two or three days, then you can cruise Lake Hamilton on a riverboat that has luncheon cruises and a sunset dinner/dance cruise. Visit the Mountain Tower to get a bird’s eye view of the area. Search for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. You can keep any you find. The area is quite scenic so there is plenty of camping, hiking, and boating/fishing to enjoy.

The area is loaded with attractions including crystal mines where you dig your own crystals, a racetrack, a Gangster Museum, a winery, the National Park Aquarium, an alligator farm, woodland gardens, and more. Check ahead for special events (Oktoberfest, Balloons and BBQ Weekend, Documentary Film Festival, Music Festival, etc.).

Make a Stick Horse with a Child

The guest blogger today is Gail and Clyde Martin’s daughter, Cynthia Ross. This article first appeared on eHow in 2010.

How to Make a Stick Horse with a Child

This may sound old-fashioned, but making and playing with a stick horse can provide hours of fun for a young child. It’s a simple project, so involve the child in making the horse. Then send them out in the yard to gallop around with the stick horse. They’ll get lots of exercise and fresh air. As you can see in the photo on my book cover, my first stick horse was a 2 X 4 piece of wood with a rope reins. I’ve made several of the sock stick horses for my own children.

Cover for Ride a Stick Horse

Cynthia Ross – The cover for her first book of poetry.

Things You’ll Need:

  • a stick
  • a sock
  • string or light rope
  • something to stuff inside the sock
  • 2 buttons
  • odds and ends to decorate the horse’s head
  1. Choose a stick. A suitable stick horse can be a cut-down broomstick or another piece of wood. It needs to be long enough for the child to straddle it with one end on the ground and the other end about chest-high.
  2. Find an orphan sock and some string, rope or yarn. The sock could be white, black, gray, tan, or brown depending on the look you want for the horse.
  3. Rags make an adequate stuffing for the horse’s head or use some old pillow stuffing. Fill the sock with whatever you have on hand.
  4. Place the sock over the end of the stick. Wiggle the stick up into the stuffing. Add more stuffing if needed.
  5. Use the string, lightweight rope, or yarn to tightly tie the sock’s ankle part to the stick. Even a long shoestring would work. Help the child with this part, as it is hard for them to tie the rope tightly enough that the head won’t fall off.
  6. Tie the rope or string around the horse’s nose (the toe of the sock) and make reins for the rider of the stick horse. You can make a full bridle for the sock horse head if you want.
  7. Decorate the sock horse head any way you want. Glue or sew on buttons for eyes or just add them with a felt-tipped marker. If you want to get more elaborate, give the horse a mane. You can put a line of glue down the neck of the horse and stick pieces of yarn to it. An alternate way is to cut a fringe in a square of fabric, then glue the uncut side to the horse’s neck.
  8. Have the child choose a name for the horse. Now turn your little cowboy loose in the yard with the stick horse. It’s more fun with several children all riding their stick horses around. They can have races or play at rounding up cattle.
Tips & Warnings
  • Be sure the stick doesn’t have any splinters on it and is lightweight.
Resources
stick horse pixabay

Here’s a variation on the stick horse. This one has a wooden head with painted features, nailed-on ears, and straps for reins.

Ladies Calling Cards

Post by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain.

The image below is a calling card from the 1880s. It came to me with a batch of antique valentines for my collection. At one time, someone saved this many years ago and pasted it into their scrapbook.

Back in those days, ladies made formal visits to their friends. A card like this would be left on a fancy tray to show they had been to call. It’s sort of a lady’s version of business cards. Probably women saved them since they were so pretty.

Calling card from the collection of Virginia Allain

Notice how lavish the design is with roses and lily of the valley flowers, and along the edge violets. There are lace and lavender ribbon with a gold edge. The words in the center say “Peace Forever.

I like that thought. I wish we would have peace forever. Peace in our families. Peace in our communities. Peace in the world.

You can see a sampling of my ephemera collection on the Hubpages site. It’s called “My Tips for Collecting and Displaying Vintage Valentines.

When I shared this photo with my friends, here are their thoughts:

Chula – I’ve collected old paper since I was little. I love the calling cards. Even the plain ones with just names printed on them are fun to see. This one is very beautiful.

Karen – We used “calling cards” in the expat community in India when I lived there, probably a carryover from British colonial days. Most of them included a map on the reverse side giving directions to your residence. Addresses were long and complex and streets/roads often weren’t marked–you just had to “know” it was such-and-such street, hence the map.

Kathy – Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did have peace forever. I thought that was a curious thing for this calling card to say, by the way. It is lovely.

Marsha – I love the older cards like that. My mom has so many of them, including Valentines.

Pammie  – Wow that is cool, I had never seen such a card before.

Rachel – What a great old custom that was, dating back to a simpler time when manners still mattered.

Marilyn – I love it. It’s so pretty. I have scrapbooks of cards my mother collected. I will have to look and see if she had calling cards in her collections.

calling cards in a tray

Calling cards on a tray in a vintage house museum in Kentucky

 

Ha Ha Tonka Ruins

In 2011, Gail’s sister, CJ Garriott wrote this:
I’ve been having the most fun sorting a box of old photos! Found this shot of a teenaged Carol, posing in the ruins of something. I vaguely remembered going on a trip with the folks, “to the Southeast,” which in my today mindset, would be something like Alabama or Georgia. Got to thinking, with my view of the world at the age of 16 or so, the “southeast” could be Missouri or Arkansas! So, I set to googling “ruins” in Arkansas or Missouri and found Ha Ha Tonka Castle ruins in Missouri, much more likely a trip destination for us in the late 1940s.
TeenagedCarolRuins Tonka
Here is what I found, and this could very well be the “ruins” Daddy photographed me standing in, with a nice juxtaposition of my summery white polka-dotted dress amidst rocky ruins.
Lots of photos of the park on that site and also on this article.
Imposing architecture and breathtaking scenery combine to make Ha Ha Tonka State Park one of Missouri’s most treasured spots. Located on the Lake of the Ozarks, the park features the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle built by a prominent Kansas City businessman high atop a bluff.
The Ha Ha Tonka Castle was started by Robert McClure Snyder Sr in 1905. He was killed in an auto accident in 1906 and the castle was completed by his sons Robert Jr., LeRoy, and Kenneth in the late 20s. The master architect, Adrian Van Brunt from Kansas City, designed the three-and-a-half story masterpiece. A central hallway rose to the height of the building. An enormous 80-foot-tall water tower, a stone stable, and nine greenhouses were ultimately constructed on the estate. The stone and timber originated locally.
In 1942 disaster struck – sparks from a fireplace ignited the roof and within hours the huge castle was completely gutted. The remains of the estate now stand stark and lonely at the edge of the cliff, a blackened remnant of one man’s great dream.
The State of Missouri purchased the estate in 1978 and opened it to the public as a State Park. Ha Ha Tonka is about five miles southwest of Camdenton and comprises nearly 2400 acres on the Nangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
Maybe I can inspire a niece or two to accompany me on a trip to this area some crisply cool autumn!
Love, Carol

Let’s Write More Letters

When was the last time you wrote a personal letter on real stationery, added a stamp and put it in the mailbox? I’m trying to do this more often since my brother had his stroke and lives in a nursing home. Using email isn’t an option for him and he has told me that the arrival of the mail is the high point of his day.

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Our lives are busy and that’s the excuse most of us give for not writing real letters anymore. It seems we have plenty of time to putter around admiring cute kitten pictures on Facebook or watching the latest reality show on television. I remind myself, that writing a letter is not a huge commitment of time. Sometimes I opt for sending a postcard when I don’t have much to say or am short on time. It lets him know that I’m thinking of him.

Using attractive cards or pretty stationery makes letter writing a pleasant experience. I even have my favorite pen that moves smoothly over the paper and doesn’t leave blots. Since my brother likes street rods, I found some cards on Zazzle with vintage hot rods on them. I figure he can enjoy the graphic as a bonus and it shows I took the trouble to select cards with him in mind.

For my sisters, I usually email them but now and then get inspired to write a real letter. People seldom bother to save emails or go back to read them later. An actual letter or card often gets stashed in a box or a drawer and later is pulled out to savor once more.

Sometimes I use my own photos to create cards on Zazzle. I like sending these to show off my photography and I know the site does a good job with the printing and quality of the card stock. It just seems to add an extra dimension to the letter to have a photo I’ve taken on the card. You could print out your own photos with your printer and leave some white space to add your letter.

Here’s an example of my own photo on a Zazzle card:

White Daisy Postcard 
White Daisy Postcard by virginia allain

This post was originally posted on Daily Two Cents with the following bio added. “Virginia Allain is a retired librarian passionate about sharing information on the Internet. Areas that interest me are genealogy, photography, self-publishing, gardening, golf, and enjoying life.”

Comments on Letter Writing

Nancy  – I like the thought here.  “An actual letter or card often gets stashed in a box or a drawer and later is pulled out to savor once more.” I’ve done that myself so many times. emails are wonderful, but I can’t see them taking the place of a piece of paper we hold in our hands, knowing that loving hands held it before we did as they thought of us.

Danielle – I used to LOVE writing letters! My friends and I used to write these long letters to each other all the time. Now I have no one to write to on paper that would actually write back!

Candy – I have several friends who are in their 80’s and 90’s and live 2,000 miles away. They don’t have email. We communicate by writing letters and I always look forward to seeing one of their handwritten envelopes in my mailbox.

Ruined Farmhouse

Ruined Farmhouse

It’s sad to see a vintage farmhouse falling into ruins. This one caught my eye as we traveled across Kansas a few years ago. It’s springtime, but there is no joy, no rebirth likely to happen for this dilapidated building.

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(Photos and essay by Virginia Allain)

Most people would pass it by without giving any thought to it. To me, this house symbolizes the failure of some farm family. Too many failed crops or perhaps the death of the farmer led to the sale of the land. Another farmer now keeps that land productive but didn’t need the house.

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Expanding the view shows you the outbuildings that once served a useful purpose. The metal-roofed granary still stands and a barn beyond that. Closer to the house a small building gave in to gravity and soon will be just a pile of boards and rusty nails.

The cows, the chickens, the farm tractor, and the family are all gone now. Only memories of better times remain. Once a family lived and worked here. There would have been curtains in the windows. The children probably slept on pallets in the loft of the small house. At the back is a room, perhaps added-on as the family grew.

In a few seconds, we passed this old farm and I forgot about it. When I sorted my photos, I felt again the sadness of a deserted house and farm. I wonder if any of the buildings are still standing.

I Remember Mama

 

Since my mother lived 88 years, I have many memories to treasure and to store away for savoring later. Her grandchildren have their own memories, but for her great-grandchildren, the memories may be skimpy.

To pass the stories down through the generations requires sharing and repetition. Often that oral tradition falls by the wayside after a generation or two. We need to preserve those memories of our mothers. Writing the stories, creating a scrapbook or publishing a family history book are ways to keep those memories alive.

gail in pink in chair

Gail Lee Martin in her favorite spot for TV watching, newspaper clipping and chatting.

I’m on a crusade to encourage people to collect and store family memories. Future generations will want to know what their ancestor was like, what made them special and little anecdotes that show their personality.

Although you remember your mother, the memories fade and become fragmented over time. Write them out to preserve them. It really is important.

I’ve chosen to blog about my mother’s life and the many traits and behaviors that made her special. Most of the people who follow Discovering Mom are siblings, cousins or friends of hers. By writing about little things like her hobbies, recipes, or stories about her activities, I preserve my own memories and share them with others.

Over time, the blog has added more followers, even people who never knew my mother. Perhaps the topics I write about bring back memories of their own mother. I hope it might inspire them to do something similar. Perhaps someday I’ll gather all the blog posts into a self-published book. Then my siblings and Mom’s cousins can have a keepsake copy. That book can be passed along to future generations so Gail Lee Martin’s memory is preserved long after I am gone.

(article first published on Daily Two Cents)