Book of Memory Moments debuts Thursday
Three years ago, Bobby Rea Thurman came up with an idea for a radio show: to feature short vignettes on people who had figured in Carroll County history during the past 150 years. And he knew the perfect person to do it: historian June Westphal.
"My roots go back to the 1800s in the county, and so do June's," Thurman said. "Hers go farther back than mine do."
Bobby Thurman is fourth-generation owner of Nelson Funeral Home, which sponsors of the vignettes, called Memory Moments, that Westphal writes and records for KESA Radio. Now, 50 of the scripts have been transcribed into a book, which makes its debut Thursday at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.
"So many people have moved here and don't know about our history," Thurman said. "It's a quick read, an easy read -- short and informative."
Westphal will sign books at the museum from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday during a Business After Hours Chamber of Commerce function. The book, illustrated with photographs, is $10, with proceeds divided between the ESHM and the Carroll County Historical Museum in Berryville. That's where Thurman's great-grandfather, Rea Lawrence Nelson, started a funeral parlor in a storefront on the city square in 1930. Eight years later, Nelson bought the old Magnetic Springs Hotel building on Hillside in Eureka Springs for back taxes, and used the lumber and stone to construct the current funeral home a block off the Berryville square. His great-grandfather's story is the third "Memory Moment" in the book, and naturally one of Thurman's favorite.
"I also like the ones about Bonnie and Clyde, and Bill Doolin, of the Doolin Gang," he said.
Westphal is the fifth generation of her family in Northwest Arkansas, where her great-great-great grandparents settled in the 1820s. One of her favorite Memory Moments is the one about Perry Mark of Mundell and his friend, John Schnitzer, who in 1929, floated down the White River to the Mississippi and down to New Orleans on a flatboat.
"I love the idea that as residents of this area, we never lose our pioneer spirit," Westphal said.
She also likes the story about Maria Von Trapp, who came to town as a guest of the Passion Play, but spent most of her time visiting the Kukler family, who had also escaped from the Nazis. The Kuklers, who were musical, lived across the street from the museum in the house next to what is now The Office Supply and Penguin Graphics.
"You could always hear music coming out of their house," Westphal said.
The main criteria for inclusion in the book is that the person the story is about has passed away, Westphal said. She has recorded a total of 80 Memory Moments, which run on KESA, 100.9 AM, between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Westphal said she has at least 25 more stories in her head, waiting to be recorded.
"There are several stories that link people in Eureka Springs to other parts of the county ," Westphal said. "It's not a Eureka Springs book. It's a people book."
Cande Doty of Penguin Graphics did the graphics, formatted the book and printed 500 copies. If it sells well, a second volume will be published, Thurman said. People have asked about an audio version, and a CD with multiple photographs is another option, Thurman said.
The goal: to preserve local history that might be lost with the passing of the people who lived it.
"That's what we do every day," Thurman said of the family business. "When someone passes away, we write an obituary, which is the story of that person's life. We are capturing that moment in history."
The book-release and signing is Thursday, Dec. 6, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, 95 Main St., during Business After Hours, a free Chamber of Commerce function. Refreshments will be served. Free parking available at Cornerstone Bank across the street.