Opening of War Memorial Stadium on Sept. 18, 1948

On September 18, 1948, the Arkansas Razorbacks took on Abilene Christian and won the game by a score of 40 to 6.  It was the first game of the season, and the Razorbacks went into the game ranked #13. They maintained that ranking for four weeks before falling out of national standings.  The team ended up with a season record of five wins and five losses. Playing four of their games at War Memorial that season, they were two and two in Little Rock. They were one and two in Fayetteville and amassed a 2-1 record on the road.

Dedication ceremony in 1948. Photo courtesy of the War Memorial Stadium Commission.

Prior to the game, the stadium was dedicated to the veterans of World War I and World War II in a ceremony led by former Razorback standout and Medal of Honor recipient Maurice “Footsie” Britt.

Though Britt would later be known for entering politics and becoming Arkansas’ first Republican Lieutenant Governor, in his college days he was known statewide as an outstanding Razorback football and baseball athlete.  During World War II, his bravery and courage allowed him to become first person in American history to earn all the army’s top awards, including the Medal of Honor, while fighting in a single war.

Also participating in the opening ceremony were a mass of high school marching bands from across the state. Reports indicate up to forty bands were on the field to play the National Anthem as part of the event.

The construction of the stadium had been the brainchild of Razorback coach John Barnhill and Arkansas Secretary of State C. G. “Crip” Hall.  The duo shepherded it through the 1947 Arkansas General Assembly.   As a student at the University, Hall had been a team manager for the Razorbacks and had remained a longtime, active supporter.

In August of 1947, Little Rock was chosen as the location over Hot Springs and North Little Rock. West Memphis had abandoned its bid when it was unable to secure the necessary financial pledges.  Construction started in 1947 and continued up until opening day.  On the day of the game, newspaper photos showed heavy equipment grading the parking lot prior to paving.

The park in which the stadium sat would be renamed War Memorial Park in June 1949 and dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in a nationally-broadcast ceremony from War Memorial Stadium.

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On World Lion Day, a look at LIONS PRIDE sculpture in War Memorial Park

 

Saturday, August 10, is World Lion Day.  In honor of that event, today features three of the newest sculptures in Little Rock.

Dedicated on June 26, the trio of leonine creatures are located in the new roundabout at Zoo Drive and Fair Park Boulevard in War Memorial Park.

Lions Pride consists of three sculptures.  Created by Darrell Davis, they are made of cast aluminum. These are likely the first sculptures in Little Rock made of cast aluminum.

One is of a male lion, while the other two depict female lions.  All three are posed in sitting positions atop rocks which were installed last month in the roundabout.

One of the large rocks weighs over 37,000 pounds while another weighs more than 35,000 pounds.  There are several other rocks in the formation which weigh more than a ton.  The rocks were donated by Granite Mountain Quarry.

The project was a partnership between Sculpture at the River Market, the Little Rock Zoo, the Little Rock Parks & Recreation Department, and the Little Rock Public Works Department.  A portion of the money donated for this project was a memorial to former Zoo Director Mike Blakely.

MacArthur Museum hosts Arkansas State Archives exhibit on Territorial Arkansas

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“Territorial Arkansas: The Wild Western Frontier” will open at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History August 1st, 2019.

The exhibit will have a month long run and will end on August 26th.

The traveling exhibit consists of 15 panels that explore the history of Arkansas Territory though the collections of the Arkansas State Archives and their branch archives, the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan and the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives in Washington.

THE HELP concludes the 15th season of Movies in the Park tonight

The Help PosterMovies in the Park finishes its 15th season tonight with THE HELP.

Based upon the novel of the same name, The Help follows a young white woman and her relationship with two African-American maids during the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1963. In an effort to legitimize her writing career, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan decides to write a book from the maid’s viewpoints, exposing the racism they face from the white families that employ them.

It stars Octavia Spencer (in a performance very worthy of the Oscar she earned for it), Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and Cicely Tyson.

Families, picnics, and leashed pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, but no glass containers. Don’t forget the bug spray! An adult must accompany all children under the age of 18 and an ID is required. Chaperoned youth, sports, church and other groups are welcome!

The First Security Amphitheater will open an hour before film showings (approx. 7:30) and movies with begin at sundown each week (approx. 8:30).

For more information about Movies in the Park and to see which films will feature live performances or other activities before the showings, visit www.rivermarket.info or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lrrivermarket

Movies in the Park presents DODGEBALL tonight

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“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”

The man who spoke those immortal words, Rip Torn, shuffled off this mortal coil last week.

Completely coincidental (but perfectly timed), Movies in the Park presents Torn’s 2004 Opus DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY tonight.

Movies in the Park continues its 15th season tonight with Dodgeball.

Joining Torn in this film are Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Alan Tudyk, Missi Pyle, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman, Hank Azaria, and many more.

Families, picnics, and leashed pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, but no glass containers. Don’t forget the bug spray! An adult must accompany all children under the age of 18 and an ID is required. Chaperoned youth, sports, church and other groups are welcome!

The First Security Amphitheater will open an hour before film showings (approx. 7:30) and movies with begin at sundown each week (approx. 8:30).

For more information about Movies in the Park and to see which films will feature live performances or other activities before the showings, visit www.rivermarket.info or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lrrivermarket

126 Years of MacArthur Park in Little Rock

On July 4, 1893, Arsenal Park opened in Little Rock.  This was the City’s first municipal public park.  Though it predated the establishment of a formal Parks and Recreation Department by several decades, it is the oldest part of that department.

The land now known as MacArthur Park had originally served as a horse racetrack in the early days of Little Rock.  By 1836, the federal government purchased the land for construction of a military arsenal.  The flagship building, the Arsenal Tower building, is the only remaining structure from that time period.

The land served as a military outpost until 1892.  On April 23, 1892, a land swap took place where in the City of Little Rock was given the property with the stipulation that it would be “forever exclusively devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park.” (Never mind that the federal government took part of the land back for the construction of the Wilbur Mills Freeway.)  Congressman William L. Terry was active in negotiating the land swap. (His son David would also serve in Congress.)

In return for giving the City this land, the federal government took possession of land on the north side of the Arkansas River (then part of Little Rock) – that 1,000 acres became Fort Logan H. Roots.

The park officially opened on July 4, 1893, with the name Arsenal Park. Since it was the City’s first and only park at the time, residents started referring to it as City Park. In time, the designation Arsenal Park fell from use.  In fact, it is referred to as City Park exclusively and officially in City documents throughout the first 42 years of the 20th Century.

On March 9, 1942, Little Rock’s first public park was renamed by the Little Rock City Council.  By a vote of fourteen ayes, zero nays and four absent, the alderman approved Ordinance 6,388 which renamed the park in honor of General Douglas MacArthur.

In 1952, General MacArthur (contemplating a run for the GOP nomination for President) visited Little Rock in March.  Later that year, the eventual GOP nominee (and 34th US President) General Dwight Eisenhower visited the park.

Today, MacArthur Park is the anchor of the burgeoning MacPark district as well as the MacArthur Park Historic Distric.

A Decade of the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden

Wayne Salge’s SIZZLING SISTERS, one of the original sculptures installed in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden

On June 25, 2009, members of the Sculpture at the River Market committee and City leaders broke ground on the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park.

The groundbreaking followed an unveiling of the design plans for the new sculpture garden, which will be located east of the Peabody Hotel near the Forever a Rose garden and the Jack Fleischauer Garden.

“As part of the continuing improvements to Riverfront Park, we wanted to put more sculpture into the park to complement the new gardens, Peabody Park, and the upcoming La Petite Roche plaza,” said City Director Dean Kumpuris. “At the 2008 Sculpture at the River Market, six pieces were bought through proceeds from the show and sale to be placed in the park in 2009.”

According to Kumpuris, seven new pieces will join a dozen other sculptures in the park and along President Clinton Avenue that have been installed since 2004.

The sculpture garden features natural terraces and walkways. The design creates a space to host receptions, weddings or other events as well as to allow visitors to enjoy the sculptures in solitude.

The seven pieces which will be installed are “Full of Himself” by Jan Woods, “Cascade” by Chapel, “Bateleur Eagle” by Pete Zaluzec, “Sizzling Sister” by Wayne Salge, “Conversation with Myself” by Lorri Acott,  “First Glance” by Denny Haskew, and “Straight and Narrow” by Lisa Gordon.

“This is only the start,” said Sculpture at the River Market Chair Jane Rogers. “In addition to continuing to place sculpture in Riverfront Park, the committee is discussing ways to place public art throughout the city. In the months to come, we hope to be able to make some more announcements about sculpture and public art in Little Rock.”

The sculpture garden is made possible through the support of the Vogel Schwartz Foundation. Robert Vogel represented the family during the ground-breaking ceremony commending the city of Little Rock on their efforts to support the art community.