News From The Woods - May 10, 2011

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published May 10, 2011


"Reflections as written by my father"

For the past few years I have been writing my memoirs in a book I have titled "Face The Music". Being a well documented man, I have lots of stories, pictures, letters, newspaper articles, and family keepsakes which have aided me in researching my book. While going through some of my parent's scrapbooks and newspaper collections, I recently ran across an article that my father wrote in Rayburn's Ozark Guide, the "Magazine Of The Ozarks" in July/August, 1960. Starting in 1948 he and my mother owned and operated Blackberry Hill Resort on Tracy Ferry Road located on Lake Norfork, Arkansas.

The lake had just been created by the US Corps of Engineers and President Truman dedicated the project in 1952. My father was on the stage with the other dignitaries that day. He was very active in promoting this wild, new territory to the tourism trade. He was a member of the "Ozarks Playground Association" starting in the late 40's, and represented Mountain Home and Lake Norfork whenever he attended the many sports shows where he signed people up for a resort vacation- complete with meals, accomodations, and guide service. I remember he would return from a trip to Miami, Chicago, Dallas or Oklahoma City with small trips of paper with people's names and dates scribbed on them, and wads of cash in his pockets.... advance deposits for week-long stays in the Ozark wilds.

Marketing in the 1950's was more direct and immediate. By the 60's there were more established organizations dedicated to promoting the interests of the area and my father got interested in real estate. The title of the article, written in the late 50's, gives an indication that he was perhaps looking back on his past 12 years in the resort business, and pondering the future of a real estate venture he had in mind for 110 acres in Henderson, across the lake from Mountain Home, separated by a ferry crossing the lake. It is a nostalgic look at life past and a glimpse of our beautiful garden spot as seen through the eyes of an early settler to this area:

TWELVE YEARS ON LAKE NORFORK
By Bob Ketchum (Sr.)

Twelve years ago I decided to leave the turmoil and time clocks of the big city forever and as I had always been an active sportsmen and nature lover I decided to settle in the this beautiful country around Lake Norfork.

I chose this secluded spot nestling on a hillside overlooking the lake and built Blackberry Hill Resort which has earned a living for our family, and where we have been enabled to actually live in the true meaning of the word!

The past twelve years have seemed like a dream. The time has flown by and one has to stop and think before one may speak of developments!

The simple charm and friendliness of the people still remains, however one can see the influx of people from all points of the compass and from all walks of life that have gathered in our midst for pleasure and retirement. Our streets are paved, sewers are installed, and we have electricity where we had Delco plants. (Ed note: Delco plants were a system of 12-volt batteries networked together which furnished power for lighting)

Our towns and cities have undergone a facelift and rejuvenation. Stores have become modernized; industry has blossomed out tremendously hereabouts. One may purchase any known or advertised product locally, even to the purchase of imported foreign cars! Service and parts for home, farm, or sporting equipment are available locally. Boats, motors, and equipment of every sort and description that are usually seen only in large cities are on display. Produce that tickles the palette of the true gourmet is obtainable at the fully stocked local stores. Clothing, shoes, etc., are of the latest cut and design and are shown from gleaming glass cases! Everybody seems to be on the modern trend, and homes, farms, resorts and even barns have almost all been freshly repainted - with gleaming white homes and fences dotting the countryside.

Farms have kept apace with this trend also and one now sees find herds of registered cattle, hogs, and livestock of all descriptions in the fields. Large and modern sale barns had been erected and weekly sales are held.

Resorts and boat docks continue to be responsible for the main economic upgrade followed closely by the fine folks that have elected to retire and live in our fine country. Land has tremendously increased in value both on the lakes and in the area generally. Subdivisions are laid out and sold - with planning and thinking behind them as to the addition of more beauty to this area.

Our local civic groups and officials have been made fully aware of the importance of the visitors to our area, and strive to present our most attractive front to them.

Almost all of the resorts, docks, and business houses in general are stretched to their financial limit trying to keep modernized and to build additional facilities and equipment to keep abreast of the constantly increasing tourist attractions and sportsman appeal of our communities in the Ozarks. Additional available money for this purpose would be a great benefit in the future development and continued prosperity of the area.

Yes, in looking back twelve years one does see a great change. The beauty and charm is still here and the increased facilities which is seen the change from the catalog to the stock display have only added to the comforts of life. Our placid and sometimes just downright lazy way of living is still here and I, for one, welcome it! I welcome, too, the increased schooling facilities for our children and the attitude of our lawmakers who, strangely enough, do seem to try to enact laws that benefit their own particular areas whom they represent, both on a state and national scale.

In Mountain Home, our county seat for instance, the beautiful high school will soon be a grade school with the building of a new modern high school which is to be started very soon. We have a night-lighted ball field, an electric scoreboard, concrete stands, a 100-piece marching band, and box seats cost as much as in the city! One can almost see a "Fish Bowl" game scheduled any year now! A grass green 9-hole sporty golf course is now enjoyed by the people of our area . . I quail hunted on the spot not more than two years ago.

God, in his infinite wisdom, created this beautiful country with its hills and the vales and streams of clear blue water and man, in his fumbling way, somehow managed by the creation of the dams to form huge bodies of clear sparkling stream-fed lakes that not only add power to our economic resources on a national scale but created a natural spawning and habitat for the finest of game fish for the fisherman . . . an area unsurpassed for the nature lover or sportsman.

Our Lake Norfork area might well be summed up by the fact that it is listed in military publications as one of the ten most desirable places for retirement.

Lucky indeed are we who ere able to live and enjoy the beauty and benefits of our area!

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