Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Vivid Memory

I lived in Heber Springs, Arkansas from first grade through the middle of fifth, when we moved back to Minnesota, as far north as possible. My dad was the pastor of a very small church. He was bi-vocational, which is a fancy word for working like crazy on any job he could find to support his growing family of 4 children. The church was too small to pay a regular salary.

Dad could fix anything, and he set up a fix-it shop in our house. I think I've shared before that we didn't have a television set in those early days of the invention. Dad repaired quite a few sets for people lucky enough to have one, and we would always try to get him to keep it over the week-end before he called them that it was repaired, so we could watch Saturday cartoons.

Heber Springs was a small Mayberry-like town in those days. It was a great place for kids to grow up, and I have fond memories of those five years. One of those strong memories involves Tumbling Shoals Bridge over the Little Red River. The approach to the bridge was a winding country road and at the approach, you could see the far end before the near one. We would go out there to swim in the old muddy river on those incredibly hot, humid days. The other memory of this bridge is that it was rather rickety and scary to drive on.

In 1959, a huge project began which would change the face of Heber Springs. Greers Ferry Dam would bring about this change. The dam’s primary function was to be flood control, but it also would serve as a hydroelectric power plant. The dam was named after the little ferry that used to cross the Little Red River. Greers Ferry Lake, created as a result of the dam, is a popular recreational destination. Tumbling Shoals Bridge disappeared under the new lake.

Dad had been trained as an electrician when he was in the Navy, and he was blessed to get a job on this project, using this skill. I don't remember how long he worked there, but we moved to Minnesota before the project was completed.

When I was a junior in high school (in Nebraska by that time), we heard that the dam was now completed and that the dedication ceremony was to be held in October of that year, 1963. We decided to take an adventurous trip back down there for the big event. I never was a fan of the Kennedys, but it was a huge deal that President Kennedy was going to be the speaker for the dedication.

We all got to miss school for a few days and we headed south from Omaha. I think we drove all night and at one point, close to Kansas City, we stopped to get Mom a cup of coffee so she could drive for awhile while Dad slept. Dad woke up an hour or so later, only to discover that she had turned wrong and was headed back north and we were on our way back home. We had to decide then whether to keep going back home or to turn around and finish the objective of the trip.

We decided to keep going to Arkansas. When we arrived at the site, we were standing on a bridge, looking down at the scene - when we realized we had just missed the speech and, unbelievably, were looking down at the motorcade with John and Jackie in a convertible with his hair blowing in the breeze and hers held down by her signature pill box hat.

I remember saying (though my brother insists he was the one who did) that anyone could shoot him from where we stood. I still get chills when I realize that one month later, that is exactly what happened.

I found this picture on the internet - it is actually from Dallas, but portrays very much what we saw that day. I read an article today that said he wanted it that way and insisted on riding in convertibles, not even allowing secret service men to ride on the running boards, so that he could be more accessible to the crowds. The article said that this trip to Arkansas was his last public appearance before the Dallas trip.

It's one of those defining moments that we all have. I was sharing it with someone this week-end when we got on the subject of having both lived in Arkansas. I thought I'd share it with you.

Have a great week!


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

I am glad you shared that! Thanks!

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

LOL....not on the subject of JFK, but the fact that your mom driving in the wrong direction. That so happened to us several times. And I still get confused by the direction I'm headed here in THIS town. Someone will tell me 'go south on such and such street'...and to me it's not south, it's east. The streets here are ALL in a kilter like all the other cities I've lived in. Oh well...such is life.

39­°?!!! Wow....bring out the shorts! It's been that temp here a couple days this past week, and with the humidity factored in, it's downright bone chilling....but today it's in the low 60s right now. Rain and misty.

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

I mean...."unlike"...not LIKE. Geez...chalk that up to being Monday morning. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Needled Mom said...

That really does give one chills to think that those words were uttered so close to the actual event.

Your poor mom must have felt terrible to have made the wrong turn.

That is an amazing change from the simple bridge to that huge dam.

nannykim said...

so interesting and so sad. One always thinks, "if only"....but God has his purposes....I was just thinking that today. My Dad used to do repairs as a side job and he too repaired TV's.We used to have a lot of television tubes in our basement!

PS. We have not moved far--just across town.

Brenda said...

What a neat, yet sombering memory to have. Thanks for sharing that.

Susan said...


Linda said...

what a neat memory Dawn. I love it when you share these stories.

nancygrayce said...

That is certainly a great memory.....even if I'm not fond of a president, it's still a big deal to see them in person. My grandmother dearly loved JFK and was so sad when he was killed.

I had to laugh about your brother remembering it was him and you remembering it was you that said that. My older sister is always correcting my memories!

grammy said...

What a great picture and a memory of the 'Times'.
that is crazy it was just a month before he was shot
Just yesterday the two big girls were talking about what assignation meant. They said they don't ever want their Dad to be president because they almost always get shot. That led to a conversation about that.

I am with your Mom on being the helpful co-driver. On a long road trip with my sister...I put the gas in while she was in the rest room....only to find out later that I had put NO gas in. I heard a click and thought it was full...duhh... I really have no good excuse (o:

PEA said...

Your mom and I have that in common, I can get turned around so fast! lol My mom never did learn how to drive so any trip was up to my dad to do the driving. It's great that you all decided to go ahead and go to Arkansas anyway but what a shame you missed the speech.

It's funny how we can say something out of the blue and then it comes back to haunt us when it actually happens. I can well imagine how you felt when you heard the news.

Must have seemed so strange to see the dam where that bridge used to be. I would prefer to see that bridge than that big wall of concrete! lol xoxo

Midlife Mom said...

That is an amazing story! I remember that day so vividly, everyone crying and feeling so bad about it. When we were in Dallas last year we went to the site where he was killed and it gave me chills. The Ken*nedys have always intrigued me, not because I liked their politics but because of their history. It seems odd today to just have Caroline Ken*nedy the only one left of that family. If you want to read a really eye opening book as to how they all lived read The Other Mrs. Ken*nedy, I was floored over so much of it!

DIL and I went the wrong way one day when we were going to a fabric shop an hour or so away! She noticed it and we just howled with laughter!

Pam said...

what an unforgettable experience!

I really stopped by to thank you for praying for my Josh. He has repented and seems to desire to draw close to our Savior once again. Praise the Lord! I know it won't be easy to leave old habits and friends behind, so please continue to lift his name before the Father when it comes acrosee your mind.