What is it about Elvis? I can’t seem to get away from him. Okay, I’m just kidding, but I have to say I was surprised when I visited Fort Smith AR that his name came up. Right after I arrived, someone said we should check out the barber shop where Elvis got his first Army haircut. Come to think of it, I remember all the hoopla when Elvis was drafted. Even back East, we were hearing about it.
Anyway, when we got to Fort Chaffee, the darned barber shop was closed. It didn’t matter, though, because I really had a great time in Fort Smith. It’s way west in Arkansas, just before you hit the border with Oklahoma.
Someone at ACBL Headquarters said the bridge players in Arkansas were among the friendliest I would meet (one of them even took his new bride for their honeymoon at the Fort Smith Regional many years ago), and they were right.
The day I arrived, it was a lovely, cool fall day when the leaves were at their peak colors of god, red, rust and orange. The fall colors in New England have nothing on western Arkansas. I can see why people like to live there.
My hostess was Joann Humphrey, who teaches bridge, directs and just generally promotes the game. I especially liked her efforts to get people to join the ACBL.
At Joann’s club, they always have lots to eat. It’s a miracle I still fit in my clothes after hanging out in Fort Smith for about a week.
Joann runs the Fort Smith Duplicate Bridge Club, where I spent a lot of my time during the visit. One Monday, Joann ran a game for a charity that the club supports. It’s called Bost Inc. They help people with disabilities. It was a 10-table game, and players were asked to come up with an extra $1 for the special game, but the final take was $260. I was impressed with their giving spirit.
Everyone was really nice to me at the club, and because it was the week leading up to Halloween, I got to pose with a jack-o-lantern and a black cat at the club.
The bridge players really got into the Halloween spirit. Some players were decked out in costumes for Halloween. In the photo below, you can see Sally and Elvin Frick with Drs. Sam and Annette Landrum, a “policewoman” and “jailbird.” I think the policewoman thought I had been kidnapped (they should have been in DC when I was hijacked, although as you may have read, it wasn’t all that traumatic for me). Actually I was just having a good time trying to decide what to eat.
One afternoon I visited the Fort Smith Museum of History. This gave me a close look at everyday life more than 100 years ago. I learned that there were 86 federal executions that occurred in Fort Smith between 1873 and 1896. Judge Parker was known as “The Hanging Judge.” I got to see the original courtroom just as it was in the 1800s. I pictured myself with the gavel pronouncing sentence on anyone who violates the Zero Tolerance rules, but maybe I should just use it to conk them on the head. Too bad, though . . . they wouldn’t let me take it with me.
Before I left the museum, I had to stop in at the old-fashioned soda fountain and pharmacy. That really brought back memories of the days when every drug store had a soda fountain and a soda “jerk,” the guy who made your milkshakes and malts. That root beer float was a real treat.
One day they took me to the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, once part of Fort Chaffee. It now occupies about 170 acres. The main building overlooks Wells Lake and I watched Canadian geese swimming around. A large window in the Wildlife Watching Area was a place to sit and relax and view a variety of native birds at the feeders and in the trees. Squirrels were cleaning up the seeds that birds had dropped. There were many models of forest animals around an enormous oak tree and I viewed several live animals as well.
This deer greeted me at the entrance and kept an eye on me when I sat on his back.
The last stop for me before I departed was to visit a nursing home, where I was introduced to Erna Krone, who taught bridge and directed games for many years in Fort Smith. She was delightful, and I learned from talking to her that she is still teaching at the retirement home. You just can’t keep a bridge lover down.
I hated to leave Fort Smith, but I’m wanted elsewhere in ACBL land. I tell you, it’s hard to keep all these trips straight sometimes. Still, it has been a lot of fun traveling the country and meeting so many bridge lovers, not to mention all the good-looking women. If only I was a bit taller . . .