Ed Walker’s Drive-In

Somewhere or other, I found a list of the best drive-in in each state. This was Arkansas’ claim to fame. It’s been around since 1943. It brags about having the largest cheeseburger (5 pounds of meat) and the only curbside beer service in the state. This later fame has something to do with Fort Smith being a border town and the service being grandfathered in.

It’s a typical diner, with typical diner fare. It’s mainly famous for its French dip sandwich, and that’s what I got. It was very tasty. The fries that accompanied it were average.

And in keeping with the Elvis theme of the day …

Posted in Food | Leave a comment

Fort Chaffee Barbershop Museum

This museum, located on the grounds of Fort Chaffee, is dedicated to that important moment when Elvis got his famous sideburns trimmed upon induction to the Army.

The room that housed the barbershop has been redone, with photos of Elvis’ haircut on the walls and a cut-out of him in one of the barber chairs.

A display reads:

Elvis Aaron Presley, US 53310761, arrived at Fort Chaffee on the night of March 24, 1958.

He reported to the installation for induction processing. The Army planned a low-key affair, but Presley’s manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, had other plans.

According to reports, Parker turned a routine military procedure into a media circus, much to Presley’s chagrin. On March 25 the installation barber shop at Building 803, was filled with army recruits and press coverage from all around the world in addition to local photographers and reporters. Everyone was waiting for the sideburns to fall to the floor.

To make sure that souvenir hunters did not make off with any clippings, the hair was swept up with the other recruits’ clippings and military personnel then escorted it to a waiting garbage truck.

In addition to the haircut, Presley also received his uniform issue and inoculations. Almost every move he made during his three days at Chaffee were under the watchful eyes of the media.

After his stay here, Presley was shipped to Fort Hood, Texas for training as a tanker. After training, he served with the 2nd Armored Division in Germany in September 1958. Reports say that Presley was a good soldier and was promoted to the rank of sergeant on January 20, 1960, shortly before his discharge in March.

The bit about not wanting any to grab his hair as a souvenir struck me as a bit much.

They even have one of the cameras used to take the photos!

One of the reporters suggested that Elvis blow some of his hair out of his hand. He did, quipping, “Hair today, gone tomorrow.”

Anyway, reports online suggest that the museum often isn’t open when it’s supposed to be, but I got lucky. I arrived just as a tour from a local old-folks home came by. I joined the group without waiting for an invitation and, although I got a few odd looks, nobody questioned me. Beside the Presley barbershop display, there are other bits about Fort Chaffee and it’s history, but those mostly consisted of unlabeled artifacts and photographs. I didn’t stay long.

It was all ridiculous, of course, but in a harmless, fun way. After all, it’s more significant than the monument in northeastern Arkansas to the time when the Beatles changed planes.

Posted in Museums, Music | Leave a comment

Lake Fort Smith State Park

I’ve been to most of the state parks in the west-central part of Arkansas, but I’d never been to Lake Fort Smith before. I arrived at 7:40 and had the place pretty much to myself. There isn’t a lot to it. Woods and campgrounds on the shore of a pretty, albeit man-made lake. I strolled for a couple miles, only a tiny bit of it on official trails and enjoyed the cool weather and the onset of fall colors. There weren’t many birds to be seen besides a flock of Turkey Vultures that circled over the lake and surrounding hills.

Posted in Scenery | Leave a comment

Tiny Town Depot

Frank Moshinskie built a train display around the family Christmas tree every year. After a while, he decided it was too fun to take down. He kept adding to it and the end result is Tiny Town. It’s just the sort of twinky tourist attraction I was in the mood for.

We were met in the gift shop by Frank’s granddaughter. She escorted us into the display room and talked with us for five minutes or so about her grandfather and his hobby. Frank made most of the items by hand from leftover parts—matches, paper clips, hangers, tin cans.

It’s actually the made-from-scratch primitiveness that makes it interesting, because it certainly wasn’t polished or fancy.

Various features—trains, dancing bears, moving figures—are powered by motors hidden under the display. Some of these were permanently on. Others we activated with the push of a button.

We had circled most of the display when an older woman greeted us. She was Frank’s daughter and she gave us more details about Frank and his work. It was she that put most of the manufactured items in the display—cars and figures that weren’t homemade.

We stayed perhaps 45 minutes and looked at everything twice. It wasn’t a place to return to, but it was fun to see once.

Posted in Museums | Leave a comment

McClard’s Bar-B-Q

McClard’s has been around since 1942 but became famous when Bill Clinton named it as a favorite spot. It’s on a lot of lists of things to do in Arkansas, but I’d never been.

Even on a Wednesday, it was busy. We picked one of the few open tables. It wasn’t a fancy place.

Our waitress said the ribs and the tamale spread were the best things on the menu. My wife got the spread and I got a sampler plate that included ribs. We let the waitress make our decisions on sides too.

My wife enjoyed the tamale spread—it kinda reminded her of Cincinnati Chili. The ribs and slaw were very good. The sausages were amazing. I couldn’t eat it all, so I barely touched the pork and found the brisket … meh. We both thought the sauce wasn’t bad but also wasn’t our favorite. We’d go again given the opportunity, but would be a bit less optimistic about the amount of food we ordered.

Posted in Food | Leave a comment