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It's called perusing. At least that's what Webster calls it. I've always used the word to describe reading a book or ... just reading. That's what I was doing the other day ... Just scanning some pages and clippings, just wandering from headlines to stories about happenings from those "good old days."

Do you ever peruse? Maybe you even just dig out old pictures and relive happenings and how they affect you even today, say some 50 or 60 years later. Isn't it fun to look on the back of a clipping and see part of a grocery advertisement? What's that? A can of pork and beans cost fifteen cents; grapes were fifteen cents a pound; sliced bacon was twenty-nine cents a pound, and you could buy two bars of Dial soap for a quarter?

I confess, now I'm digressing. That's what columnists sometimes write when they stray off the subject of their column. Sound familiar? Isn't there lots of digressing in the 'cuff? Maybe some of the stuff in the 'cuff needs digressing, or ignoring? So let's quit digressing and get to the point of this 'cuff. Not the weather; the topic is roads.

But first (there he goes again) let's digress a little more about a picture printed on the front page of the old Gravette News Herald during the first week of June in 1950. It was a photo of a light pole at the corner of Main Street where it intersected Highways 59 and 71. Yes, you read right. Good old Highway 71 went right down Main Street in Gravette, east to Kindley Park where it turned right for a block and then left and headed for Hiwasse and Bentonville.

Gathered around that pictured pole were several local dignitaries, as well as local banker Stokes Ballard, who was climbing down from a perch he had occupied on the pole -- way up there -- for who knows how long. Wanna take a guess? There were grins on the faces in the crowd and you could almost hear the words, "Good job, Stokes," and other compliments and thanks to Stokes for sitting atop that pole.

He was trying to get attention to the state to pave that dusty or muddy road they called a highway from Gravette to Maysville. He was coming down because it was a special day. A telegram had arrived from Little Rock announcing a bid had been let to pave Highway 102 (that was its number) from Gravette to Maysville. It was some years later when it was renumbered Highway 72, its number today. The road from Decatur to intersect with 45, south of Maysville, became the new 1o2.

But what about old Highway 71? What happened to it? First, it was rerouted off Gravette Main Street to one block south, and some years later when 71 was rerouted south from Anderson, Mo., to Bentonville, the final 72 designation occurred and Highway 59 continued north from Gravette to the Missouri line. Just draw a map to wade through this garbled bit of information.

Isn't that enough digressing? Well, it wasn't completely wrong. It was about roads -- just not about current updates on the Hiwasse/Gravette/Bella Vista bypass. Other projects of local interest, and even about some things that hopefully will not require light pole sitting. Any pole-sitting volunteers?

Let's digress just a little bit more about that paving project which began in June of 1950. That's 68 years ago. The rest of the story is, it took just 14 months to completion of the project, which occurred in August of the following year. In fact, it spawned quite a celebration on August 14, 1951, when Arkansas Governor Sid McMath came to Maysville to cut the ribbon, officially opening the new pavement which replaced dust and mud.

The celebration then moved to Field Kindley Park in Gravette where a crowd of some 3,000 celebrated by eating barbecued beef. Hearing the Gravette High School band, led by David Boyle, added to the excitement. It was followed with a rousing talk by the governor. There were pictures in the News Herald of the many events, including the barbecuers who for many years participated at the annual Gravette Day activities. Everything was free except for a carnival with games, concessions, bingo and treats, all sponsored by the Lions Club to raise money for improvements in the park. I believe a tennis court was one of the projects. Wow! What a great day for the area. What do we need to do to have such a celebration, say maybe sometime next summer? Any ideas?

One last little bit of digressing. Also on the front page of that June '50 issue of the News Herald was a headline story announcing a contract had been let for the construction of a sewer system for the city of Gravette. The contract total cost was $95,188.75. That's right. Wonder what it would cost today? It was goodbye for the path out back and overflowing septic systems. Things were really popping. Just as they are today, not only in Gravette but also in Gentry and Decatur, the other Westside Eagle Observer cities.

Can we get to today's 'cuff column about roads? Sorry, they'll have to be continued in another 'cuff. In the meantime ... here's to almost 70 years of flushing and almost 70 years of enjoying a dust/mud-free road between Maysville and Gravette. What can we expect for the next 70 years or even the next five or 10?

Repeat: How about next August when Gravette native Governor Asa Hutchinson comes to cut a ribbon on Gravette Day?

Dodie Evans is the former owner and long-time editor of the Gravette News Herald. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 09/12/2018

Print Headline: It's called perusing -- when we're not digressing

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