NEWS FROM THE WOODS
By Bob Ketchum
Originally Published June 20, 2013
"You Know You're From Mountain Home, AR When:"
If Facebook has done anything, it has provided a forum for many of us who live here in the heart of the Ozarks. An open group called "You know you are from Mountain Home, AR when:" was started on August 3rd 2011. It all started with the words: "A place to reminiscence about the Mountain Home you remember. . . . Where you can begin the journey back as if you were growing up in "Small Town America". A more apt description could not be made.
Since that first posting, more than 1,776 (an ironic number to say the least) members have joined the group. Hundreds of photos have been posted by members, depicting Mountain Home's journey from a sleepy little mountain town to the bustling community it is today. Video clips have also been posted, dug out from the closets of many long time residents and posted for others to discover.
The site has become a repository of tall tales and personal stories from the residents of Baxter County. Several newer additions to the population have joined this page in order to learn more about this community that they have learned to love. Many of these stories jar the memories of others, which in turn ignite their brains to remember other long lost memories. The page has become a sort of common collective history of Baxter County, containing many personal accounts of events in our town that we would have otherwise only known from what could be read off the headlines of a local newspaper story. ANYONE can read a news item from a paper, but hearing someone's personal account of an event is so much more rewarding and sometimes you even "get the whole story" in a post from an eye witness that was never discovered or interviewed at the time of the event. Or perhaps it was passed down from one generation to the next. In any event, the real treasure is that these stories (and their spin-offs) can be found on this page with some dedicated digging.
I wish there were a way to cut and past the entire timeline of this page into a document that could be preserved by the Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society. Even with all the side comments and occasional argument, the timeline is a record of people discussing the history of Baxter County and the town of Mountain Home.
It seems after two years, many of the current and former residents that held positions of importance have come forth with a richness of memorabilia, whether it is a personal account mentioned in another thread or a posting of a newspaper clipping from forty years ago. Members of the group pour over each offering as if it were a new discovery of the Lost Scrolls. New threads pop up with each posting, spurring more discussion.
Now, I realize this is nothing new. There are many, many similar pages for other communities across the country. I am also a member of a "You know you are from Ft. Smith if:" group, because I lived in Ft. Smith during the 70's, when I was honing my career skills in broadcasting, concert promotion, and that is where I began learning the black arts of audio engineering. But I have noticed a distinct difference between the two groups. The Ft. Smith page has to do a lot more "cleansing" of the ranks than the MH page. Perhaps this is because the Ft. Smith page has over 8,000 members. However, I point out that most of the posts are made by a small handful of people - usually group administrators whose real love for their city prompted the page start up. I found after a while that I had to wade through a lot of stuff I wasn't interested in… History so far back I felt no connection to it. I also discovered more than occasional "hate posts" made by people who have an agenda or felt "left out" or even moved off because they had bad experiences living there. My first question to them would be…. Why even join that group in the first place??
Now I won't claim there haven't been…. Arguments…. That have appeared, but they usually die down after a few counter-posts. Occasionally someone joins in on a thread and makes disparaging remarks about the community. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don't think the group administrators have banned more than two or three people in the entire time this group has been opened. All in all, I would say the vast majority of comments are made by folks who genuinely love this area or have fond memories of growing up here.
Almost half of the posts are about "whatever happened to?" a business or a family. There is just something so personal and exciting in nostalgia. Some say "never look back" but I disagree. But then, I had a blessed childhood growing up here so naturally my memories are all good. Even the bittersweet memories are good when looking back. If not for those crucial times, what kind of benchmark would we have to govern the outcome of our lives? My mother always used to say "You have got to take the bitter with the sweet" and I embrace that logic. If not for the bad, how would we recognize the good in our lives?
I believe another factor involved in why we love this group is that today's times are fraught with such uncertainty and there is so much injustice in our lives, that looking back to the way things were has become a popular pastime. Call it "looking through rose-colored glasses" if you want to, but I do not LIVE in my past, I simply visit it regularly. I have come to realize that not everyone shares this passion, and perhaps it is because I personally find great solace in archiving the past. I believe that is important. I think that future generations will be grateful for the little things we leave behind…. Hints as to what life was like during these times. I am on my third read of Mary Ann Messick's wonderful book "The History of Baxter County" and with each new read I find some new gem of history I knew nothing about. It's like a big puzzle… putting together the pieces of local history into a searchable timeline.
I love our little community of "Mountain Homies" that contribute to this group, and hang on just about every word they post. The topics covered are wide and varied, from "who was at this event" to the deeply controversial mystification of the two water towers. Popular topics are the old Lake Norfork ferries, popular doctors and teachers of the past, favorite memories of growing up in Mountain Home, high school photos, telephone party lines, the Baxter Theater, The Farm and other old eateries, local characters, famous parking spots, and post cards from the past.
The most important point in this little story is how wonderful, generous, and thoughtful this group is. Everyone is so willing to contribute to the whole. Everyone is supportive of the contributions and offerings. It's the very same people that I grew up with here. Maybe some of the names are new or different, but the mindset of the group is still the same as those people I grew up with. Maybe there is something in the water, but folks from Mountain Home are just friendlier, more giving, and more accepting than from other locales. I suppose that's one of the reasons why I moved back. I have lived in other cities and in other states, but there is just something special about my home in the mountains.