National Balloon Race starts in Little Rock on April 29, 1926

On April 29, 1926, nine hot air balloons took off from Little Rock’s airport (which was actually just an airfield at the time) in a national race to win the Litchfield Trophy.  In addition to the trophy, the winner would be on the American team in an international balloon race in Belgium.

The New York Times coverage noted that the weather conditions were ideal as the balloons took off in five minute intervals between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.  The test balloon (akin to a pace car in a car race) was the Arkansas Gazette‘s Skylark.  It took off at 4:25 and headed in the direction of the northeast, which was the desired direction.

The nine balloons, in order of liftoff were: the US Army from Phillips Field in Maryland; the US Army from McCook Field in Ohio; the Goodyear Southern California; the Detroit; the Goodyear IV (whose pilot Ward T. Van Orman had won the 1924 and 1925 contests); US Army from Scott Field; a balloon piloted by a Danish pilot Svend A. U. Rasmussen; US Army balloon from Langley Field in Virginia; and the Akron National Aeronautic Association balloon.

The pilots carried provisions for 48 hours and were equipped for sea flying.  Each had a radio and loud speaker.  KTHS radio of Hot Springs (a forerunner to today’s KTHV TV station) was broadcasting the location of each balloon.  As they left the Arkansas radio station’s range, there was a network of other stations which would do the same.

It was expected that the race would last between eighteen and thirty-six hours.  The last balloon aloft was Van Orman for the third year.  He lasted approximately 31 hours and landed near Chesapeake Bay.

Though no headcount was given, the New York Times called the viewing audience “the largest crowd ever assembled in Little Rock.”

Many thanks to Brian Lang of the Arkansas Arts Center for giving me the tip on this.

Advertisements

Little Rock is putting the LIT in Literary today at the 2019 Arkansas Literary Festival

Image may contain: textAll the world’s a page, or at least it may seem so as the 2019 Arkansas Literary Festival moves into full force in a variety of venues throughout Little Rock.

LIBRARY SQUARE
At the Ron Robinson Theater:
10am – Levi Agee, Mark Freeman, Mike Mueller, Sister Deborah Troillet
11:30am – Jericho Brown, Geffrey Davis
1pm – Dorie Greenspan, Elizabeth Minchilli
2:30pm – Elizabeth Eckford, Eurydice Stanley, & Grace Stanley, The Worst First Day
4pm – Chigozie Obioma, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Pitchaya Sudbanthad
7pm – Rick Bragg, The Best Cook in the World

At the CALS Main Library Darragh Center:
10am – Mitchell S. Jackson, Julie Rieger
11:30am – Rick Campbell, Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
1pm – Patrick McGilligan, Andre Millard
2:30pm – Liana Finck, Charles Forsman
4pm – Adam Smith, Mark Freeman, Esme Weijun Wang

At the Roberts Library, Room 124
10am – Book Club Panel with Christine Bonsib, Toshona Carter, Stewart Fuell, Carmen Langston, Gregory Wagnon
11:30am – Roman Muradov, Mary Laura Philpott
1pm – Nita Gould, Joe David Rice
4pm – Cherisse Jones-Branch, Erin Wood

At The Bookstore at Library Square
10am – Charles J. Shields, Brantley Hargrove
11:30am – H.K. Hummel, Short Form Creative Writing (workshop)
2:30pm – Songwriting with Bonnie Montgomery (workshop)
4pm – Andrés Cerpa, Ruben Quesada

At CALS Main Library Level 4
1pm – Emily X. R. Pan

At Nexus Nook
2:30pm – Teen Poetry Contest

At UA Little Rock Downtown
11:30am – Kevin Brockmeier, Kathyrn Davis,
1pm – Crystal C. Mercer, Randi M. Romo
2:30pm – Marina Lostetter, Arkady Martine,
4pm – Ian S. Port

Ron Robinson Theater Alley
Makers Alley 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. with Bang-Up Betty, Matthew Castellano, Control, Crying Weasel Vintage, Dower, Electric Ghost, Green Corner Store, Luna Tick Designs, Milk Dadd, Origami Heroes, Sean Sapp
5:30pm Music by DOT
6pm Music by Dazz & Brie

OTHER VENUES
Christ Episcopal Church – 1pm – Erin McGraw
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church – 2:30pm – Barkley Thompson
Allsopp & Chapple Restaurant – 2:30pm – Rhett Brinkley, Lillian Li, Vaughn Scribner
Eggshells Kitchen Co. – 4pm – Elizabeth Minchilli (fee to attend)
Sticky’s Rock & Roll Chicken Shack – 7pm – Pub or Perish

FAMILY EVENTS AT THE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON CHILDREN’S LIBRARY

  • Pose Like a Prince/Princess – 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Classroom
  • Take Home Free Tales: Book Fair; Books provide by the Junior League of Little Rock and CALS – 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Store
  • Create a Crown: Crafts You Can Wear; Build one in preparation for The Emperor’s New Clothes, or simply to feel royal all day. – 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m
  • The Kinders, a rollicking, good-time concert for kids – 9 a.m., Theater
  • Meet the Billy Goats Gruff (Provided by Heifer Village Urban Farm) – 10 a.m. to Noon, Front lawn
  • StoryTime with Nancy Pruitt, Winston the Pony Goes to a Party. – 10 a.m., Art Gallery
  • Making Merry Music: Drum Circle, Searcy Ewell, Jr. helps kids explore the power of percussion – 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Amphitheatre
  • Hot Dogs for Hansel and Gretel, Free lunches are provided for hungry tots – 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Back patio
  • Grow Your Own Bean Stalk, Plant some magic beans with Drew Bradbury and carry home your new stalk-to-be – 10:30-11 a.m., 11:30 to 12:30 p.m., Greenhouse
  • StoryTime with Craig O’Neill, the lively KTHV anchor shares a bit of Jack & the Beanstalk, and encourages kids to create their own stories – 11 a.m., Theater
  • StoryTime with Higgins Bond, Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away, 11:30 a.m., Theater
  • StoryTime with Jeff Henderson, Stone Soup – Noon, Kitchen
  • Breathe & Believe: Children’s Yoga, Tanesha Forrest is back with her terrific animal yoga workshop – 12:30 p.m., Back patio
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes, enjoy a live stage play about a vain emperor and his “special clothes” that are visible only to the smartest people. What could go wrong? Sponsored by Rebsamen Fund – 1 p.m., Theater

Little Rock Look Back: Implosion of the Grady Manning and the Marion

On February 17, 1980, a cold and clear Sunday morning, over seven decades of Arkansas history came tumbling down as the Hotel Marion and Grady Manning Hotel were imploded.

Thousands of people watched from places in downtown Little Rock and along the Arkansas River.  Many more were able to watch from live coverage carried on KATV, KARK and KTHV.  Those that missed it were able to see the replays multiple times on the news.

It was the first large-scale implosion in Little Rock’s history.  (It was likely the first implosion, but there could have been a small one that is not known.)  The two hotels were torn down to make way for the construction of the Excelsior Hotel and the Statehouse Convention Center.

The Hotel Marion, named after the builder Herman Kahn for his wife, opened in 1907. For four years it was Arkansas’ tallest structure.  It was the largest and grandest hotel in the City. For decades it would be the host to many dignitaries, conventions, and gala celebrations.

The Grady Manning Hotel was originally known as the Hotel Ben McGhee when it opened in 1930.   Manning was the head of the company which owned both the Marion and Ben McGhee properties.  Upon his untimely death by drowning in September 1939, the property was subsequently renamed in his memory.

The Manning Hotel, though taller, was never as grand a hotel as the Marion.  It was more of a mid-range property in pricing.

By the 1970s, both hotels were suffering from neglect and disinterest.  Changes in the lodging industry combined with a decline in downtown Little Rock had left both facilities with little business.

When Little Rock civic and government leaders decided to construct a larger convention center downtown with an adjacent hotel, it was decided that neither of these facilities could be properly renovated to be part of the project.  Instead, the land on which they stood (and the space in between) would be prime for the new hotel and center.

So, on the cold Sunday morning, the explosives were detonated, and the buildings came down.   Sunday morning was chosen because it would have the least impact on traffic flows since it would cause numerous streets to be closed for safety reasons.  The blast was delayed due to a rumor that someone might be in one of the buildings.  After checking both sites and finding them empty, the charges were set off.

And the Marion and Grady Manning became as much a memory as the long gone people who had once populated them.

The University of Arkansas’ Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History has a video of the implosion.

Remembering Aretha Franklin at Robinson Center with the ASO

On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, Aretha Franklin showed why she was an unparalleled entertainer.

She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  The ASO brought Miss Franklin to town as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the presidential library.  Long a favorite of the Clintons, Miss Franklin sang at his 1993 inaugural festivities the night before he took the oath of office.

Resplendent in a series of white dresses, Miss Franklin was in top form feeding off the love from the audience.  While backstage she may have been dealing with back and knee issues (which I saw first hand), when she stepped on to the stage she was giving her all as she rolled through hit after hit from her starry career.  She sang, she played the piano, she entertained!

It was a sold out house and her voice and energy reached the last row of the balcony.

Prior to her appearance, the ASO played a few selections including variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America.”

Earlier in the day, I had the chance to meet her.  The ASO had contacted me to see if I could pick up three copies of Bill Clinton’s autobiography for her to have him sign.  I was out and about on Clinton Library-related errands that day, so I happily obliged.  I picked up three copies and delivered them to Robinson Center.  Miss Franklin was on a break in between rehearsals and was about to be interviewed by Craig O’Neill for KTHV.  I only got to shake her hand and briefly say hello, but I could tell she was thrilled to receive the books.

I obviously did not ask to be reimbursed for the expense. The chance to spend a few seconds with her was payment enough.

Little Rock Look Back: Sermons, TV Shows Dominate Final Day of 1959 Recall Campaign

A rainy Sunday afternoon did not stop STOP canvassers on May 24, 1959.

Sunday, May 24, 1959, was election eve for the Recall Campaign.  As such, the election figured into some Sunday morning sermons.  Reverend M. L. Moser Jr. spoke from the pulpit of his church and described the issue of segregation as Biblical. As many had before him, and would after him, he used the story of Noah’s three sons as a way to justify segregation of the races.

(Supposedly one of the sons was the father of the white race, one the father of the African American race, and one the father of the Asian race.  In this narrative, no explanation is given for other variations such as Native Americans and other indigenous people or persons from the sub-continent of India.  Also excluded is the likely race of everyone in the story – those who live in the Middle East.)

At Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Dean Charles A. Higgins prayed for the schools but did not tell his parishioners how to vote.  Rev. Aubrey G. Walton at First Methodist Church spoke about the schools needing to be free from politics and pressure groups.  (Though Rev. Walton did later appear that evening on a STOP sponsored TV show.)

Embattled School Board president Ed McKinley refused requests from the media and others to divulge his plans for the future of the Little Rock School District.  Earlier he had stated he had an idea on how the schools could be reopened and segregated, but still remain in compliance with the courts.  Across the river, segregationists were planning a rally in North Little Rock to head off any plans for future integration on the north side.  Congressman Alford had already agreed to speak at this rally.

In paid time on TV, Governor Faubus spoke at length in a criticism of the Arkansas Gazette. He called the fired teachers pawns in a larger game.  He noted in his remarks that he did not expect to sway any votes by this point.

Not to be outdone, STOP was on all three TV stations. Sometimes the program was aired on more than one station simultaneously.  In an appearance sponsored by STOP, William S. Mitchell noted that May 24 was coincidentally Children’s Day.  He noted that never before in Little Rock history had so many people volunteered for a cause as those who had worked on STOP and with STOP.  The Women’s Emergency Committee, PTA Council, labor unions, and numerous other organizations had come together to raise money, knock on doors, and otherwise get the word out.

Finally, it was all over but the voting.  Nineteen days of outrage, exasperation, and hyperbole was coming to an end.  When dawn broke, it would be election day.

Little Rock Look Back: National Balloon Race starts in Little Rock

On April 29, 1926, nine hot air balloons took off from Little Rock’s airport (which was actually just an airfield at the time) in a national race to win the Litchfield Trophy.  In addition to the trophy, the winner would be on the American team in an international balloon race in Belgium.

The New York Times coverage noted that the weather conditions were ideal as the balloons took off in five minute intervals between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.  The test balloon (akin to a pace car in a car race) was the Arkansas Gazette‘s Skylark.  It took off at 4:25 and headed in the direction of the northeast, which was the desired direction.

The nine balloons, in order of liftoff were: the US Army from Phillips Field in Maryland; the US Army from McCook Field in Ohio; the Goodyear Southern California; the Detroit; the Goodyear IV (whose pilot Ward T. Van Orman had won the 1924 and 1925 contests); US Army from Scott Field; a balloon piloted by a Danish pilot Svend A. U. Rasmussen; US Army balloon from Langley Field in Virginia; and the Akron National Aeronautic Association balloon.

The pilots carried provisions for 48 hours and were equipped for sea flying.  Each had a radio and loud speaker.  KTHS radio of Hot Springs (a forerunner to today’s KTHV TV station) was broadcasting the location of each balloon.  As they left the Arkansas radio station’s range, there was a network of other stations which would do the same.

It was expected that the race would last between eighteen and thirty-six hours.  The last balloon aloft was Van Orman for the third year.  He lasted approximately 31 hours and landed near Chesapeake Bay.

Though no headcount was given, the New York Times called the viewing audience “the largest crowd ever assembled in Little Rock.”

Many thanks to Brian Lang of the Arkansas Arts Center for giving me the tip on this.

Little Rock Look Back: Farewell to the Hotel Marion and the Grady Manning Hotel

Manning Implosion.JPGOn February 17, 1980, a cold and clear Sunday morning, over seven decades of Arkansas history came tumbling down as the Hotel Marion and Grady Manning Hotel were imploded.  Thousands of people watched from places in downtown Little Rock and along the Arkansas River.  Many more were able to watch from live coverage carried on KATV, KARK and KTHV.  Those that missed it were able to see the replays multiple times on the news.

It was the first large-scale implosion in Little Rock’s history.  (It was likely the first implosion, but there could have been a small one that is not known.)  The two hotels were torn down to make way for the construction of the Excelsior Hotel and the Statehouse Convention Center.

The Hotel Marion, named after the builder Herman Kahn for his wife, opened in 1907. For four years it was Arkansas’ tallest structure.  It was the largest and grandest hotel in the City. For decades it would be the host to many dignitaries, conventions, and gala celebrations.

The Grady Manning Hotel was originally known as the Hotel Ben McGhee when it opened in 1930.   Manning was the head of the company which owned both the Marion and Ben McGhee properties.  Upon his untimely death by drowning in September 1939, the property was subsequently renamed in his memory.

The Manning Hotel, though taller, was never as grand a hotel as the Marion.  It was more of a mid-range property in pricing.

By the 1970s, both hotels were suffering from neglect and disinterest.  Changes in the lodging industry combined with a decline in downtown Little Rock had left both facilities with little business.

When Little Rock civic and government leaders decided to construct a larger convention center downtown with an adjacent hotel, it was decided that neither of these facilities could be properly renovated to be part of the project.  Instead, the land on which they stood (and the space in between) would be prime for the new hotel and center.

So, on the cold Sunday morning, the explosives were detonated, and the buildings came down.   Sunday morning was chosen because it would have the least impact on traffic flows since it would cause numerous streets to be closed for safety reasons.  The blast was delayed due to a rumor that someone might be in one of the buildings.  After checking both sites and finding them empty, the charges were set off.

And the Marion and Grady Manning became as much a memory as the long gone people who had once populated them.

The University of Arkansas’ Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History has a video of the implosion.