Wednesday, August 2, 2017

That Arch!

In 1924, the world was simpler.  The world was slower. There were fewer choices. Nothing makes that more evident than the presence of old highways usurped by new ones.

Living in the southeastern corner of the Bootheel makes this particularly evident.  Drive 20 minutes on Hwy 155 and you cross into Tennessee.  Drive straight south on I-55 and you cross an invisible line out of Missouri and into Arkansas.  A sign saying "Welcome to Arkansas" in your only clue that you have changed states.

Unlike many state line crossings, there is no monument or arch across the highway to mark this transition.  However, on Old Highway 61, once the only major route between Memphis, TN and St. Louise, MO, you will find just such an arch.

July 31st was a road trip day for Jane, Brenda, and me.  It was the first time the three of us had been together again since our trip to Hall, TN in the winter of 2014.  Jane wanted to introduce me to a little collection of shops, back then.  It was a true destination place called "Charlene's".  Today our trip was more prosaic.  We ate at Dixie Pig, waited for Jane at her medical appointment, and stopped in at the Blytheville, AR Wal-Mart.

The usual route to Blytheville is straight south on I-55, crossing that aforementioned unmarked transition from one state to another.  But like all rural areas, there are little bits of hidden history that, unless you are a local, or lead by a local, you will entirely miss.  And so it was that I encountered the Missouri Arch.

The Missouri Arch is a freestanding, horseshoe shaped, concrete arch that was built in 1924 by the H. H. Hall Construction Company out of Mississippi County, Arkansas.  It remains the only highway arch in Arkansas to this day.  In 2001 it was added to the national Registry of Historic Places and was designated part of the Great River Road. Details about the arch can be found HERE.  Be sure to scroll to around page 8 or 9 of this pdf to get some meaty details about this arch.

Jane and Brenda both remember the arch dating back to their childhood in the 50's.  They both remember getting excited when they and their siblings would see the arch because that would tell them that they were almost home.  Later that evening, Don told me that Mississippi County, Arkansas was a dry county back then and just over the line, in Missouri, thirsty men could find a lot of bars and saloons.  I had to smile as I imaged the weekends being especially lively.

So, now, like in 1924, I am finding that my life has become simpler, slower, and less complicated.  I have one grocery store to visit.  If I want a coffee drink, I go to the local BP/Subway where they have a respectable Espresso/Latte/Iced drink machine.  If I need to visit a bookstore, I go to the Cape, north of me 90 minutes or I point myself southwest towards Jonesboro, Arkansas (another 90 minutes).  In the meanwhile, I am intrigued by the Great River Road and am thinking about mapping out some of the "nearby" possibilities.

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