Features
COLUMN: Musical Meccas and sports pilgrimages in unlikely places
By VAL GAUGHT
Jul 11, 2018, 08:49

There are no rules when making a bucket list, and the possibilities are endless. If you look around, you might find an interesting spot that you didn’t know you were looking for.

Arkansas has produced its share of interesting people and in turn, those legacies immortalized places in our state that might otherwise be forgotten.
You’ve probably heard of Bill Clinton and his library in Little Rock or his birthplace in Hope, but Arkansas was once home to a few other names that you might recognize as well.

If you like country music and know who “the man in black” is, you might find it interesting that his birth place can be found about 60 miles from here in a place called Kingsland, which has built a small memorial to honor its famous son, Johnny Cash.

One block away from the memorial, you can find a small Cash collection inside the post office. The memorial is available any time day or night, but the post office is only open during normal business hours.

If you’re a fan of Cash like I am, then a stop in Kingsland would be a good addition to your bucket list.

If you’re up for a longer road trip, Arkansas has even more to offer Cash fans. It’s not quite as close to Ashley County, but Cash’s childhood home and museum can be found in Dyess.

Arkansas State University started efforts to restore and preserve the Cash home in Dyess in 2011.

The singer-songwriter’s family moved to Dyess with a colonization project established by the federal government as a part of the New Deal. After the Great Depression, families of sharecroppers and tenant farmers were chosen to relocate to the colonies, where they would work to own the homes and surrounding land.

The Cash home, built in 1935, has been restored to its appearance when the Cash family lived there, from 1935 to 1954, and the house is furnished based on the memories of the family members.

Cash lived there from 1935 until he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950.

Cash isn’t the only big name musician to turn a normal spot in Arkansas into a tourist attraction.

Fans of Elvis Presley might find a pilgrimage to the northwest side of the state worth their time.

A barbershop in Fort Smith became famous 60 years ago when Elvis made international headlines by shaving his iconic hair and sideburns. “Hair today, gone tomorrow,”was all the superstar had to say after the Arkansas barber shop gave him an army haircut.

Headlines called the haircut, “the haircut heard round the world,” on March 24, 1958, when Elvis suspended his music career to serve his country in the U.S. Army.

The Chaffee Barbershop Museum not only lets the visitor ‘step back in time’ to that day in 1958 but also serves to honor Fort Chaffee and the important role it played during that time and decades that followed.

A little closer to Ashley County in Dallas County, travelers will find another interesting spot.

Iconic football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant made a name for himself coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide, but he was born southeast of Fordyce on Highway 8 not too far from where Cash was born. Bryant’s house was just as close to Kingsland as it was Fordyce, but he played football for the Fordyce Redbugs, so he called Fordyce home.

In 1981, Bryant became the winningest coach in football history. He got his nickname “Bear” when he wrestled a bear at a carnival.

In 2012, before a nonconference game against the Crossett Eagles, Fordyce High hosted members of the Bryant family for a ceremony to dedicate and rename the stadium in Bear’s honor.

On Highway 8, you can view Bryant’s home, and in Fordyce you can see the field where he played lineman in 1929, and if you really want to learn about Bear’s history, you visit the Dallas County Museum.

These are just a few of the places marked forever by names you might recognize, and if you look around you’ll see that Arkansas has other unique places to check out.

Even the fictional world left its mark on Arkansas as some locations became sacred because of a film or television show.

“Gone with the Wind” gave the Old Mill in Little Rock something special to add to its tourist resume by filming scenes there. Even southeast Arkansas was marked by the stars who visited the area to film the movie Mud.

The Villa Marre house in Little Rock will forever be known by fans as the Designing Women House, a popular television show in the eighties.
You can ride by 1321 Scott Street in Little Rock and snap a picture of the show’s mansion, or if you’re a huge fan, purchase it. The house is actually on the market right now for those super fans who have “owning a movie location” on their bucket list.

The excitement in Arkansas is out there, you just have to look around as the attractions are unique in their own way.

Plenty of interesting people got their start in our state and left something special behind such as the actor Billy Bob Thornton and the author of the popular show “True Blood.’

Joe Jackson, the father and creator of the Jackson Five, was born right here in Ashley County, though he left the Fountain Hill area when he was 12.

Unfortunately, some of these places aren’t even marked with a sign, but others are places worthy of being added to your Arkansas Bucket List.

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