Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Rain and cold kept us inside most of our stay at the Spring Hill COE Park in Barling, Arkansas and then at Aux Arc COE Park in Ozark, Arkansas.
We did venture out on the one sunny day we had while at Aux Arc to Fort Smith National Historic Site.
We began our tour at the visitor Center where we watched a short film detailing the significance of the fort and then walked through the extensive exhibit hall.
The visitor center is located in the old Barracks/Courthouse/Jail building.
The exhibits focus on Fort Smith’s military history from 1817-1871, western expansion, Judge Isaac Parker and the federal court’s impact on the Indian Territory.
Judge Parker became known as the Hanging Judge due to the large number of convicts whom he sentenced to death.
Also on the grounds is a reconstruction of the gallows used by the federal court. From 1836 – 1896, eighty-six men were hanged for the crimes of murder and rape.
After leaving the visitor center we drove a short distance to Miss Laura’s Social Club that serves as the Fort Smith Visitor Center.
Miss Laura’s was one of seven row houses that lined Fort Smith’s Old West red light district.
The building is the only house of ill-repute on the row that survived a tornado.
The site, fully restored to its original grandeur is currently the only former bordello on the National Register of Historic Places.
Laura Ziegler, an enterprising prostitute, was able to get a $3,000 loan in 1904 to open the bordello.
Miss Laura’s Social Club became the most seductive brothel in a city with several bawdy houses.
In 1910 a fire on Front Street forced occupants of the house to run down the street in their underclothes resulting in the event now known as “the night of the lingerie parade.”
Most of the girls who worked at Miss Laura’s were from farms around the area who came into town to get a job and make a living. Prior to 1924 when prostitution was still legal in Fort Smith, prostitutes were required to pay a $5 certification fee each month.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
We chose to stay at Lake Thunderbird State Park because it was close to Oklahoma City. We had a lovely waterfront site but unfortunately the only sunny day we had while there was the day we were in the city.
Our first stop in the city was at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum that honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.
The memorial, formally dedicated on April 19, 2000, is on the former site of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building.
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is accessed through The Gates of Time, twin monumental bronze gates.
The 9:01 gate, found on the eastern side represents the last moments of peace, while the opposite 9:03 gate represents the first moments of recovery.
In between the gates is the Reflecting Pool. The Reflecting Pool contains a thin layer of water flowing over polished black granite.
The outside of the gates bears the following inscription:
We come here to remember Those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
The Field of Empty Chairs made from glass, bronze, and stone represent the 168 people who lost their lives, with a name etched in the glass base of each chair. Sitting on the site where the Murrah Building once stood, the chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims’ families.
The chairs are arranged in nine rows to symbolize the nine floors of the building; each person’s chair is on the row (or the floor) on which the person worked or was located when the bomb went off.
The children killed in the bombing are represented by 19 smaller chairs. Three unborn children died along with their mothers, and they are listed on their mothers’ chairs.
The Survivors’ Wall represents the only remaining original portions of the Murrah Building including several panels of granite that inscribed with the names of more than 600 survivors from the building and the surrounding area.
The Survivor Tree is an American elm. It was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building. Heavily damaged by the bomb, the tree survived after nearly being chipped down during the initial investigation. The force of the blast ripped most of the branches and glass and other debris were embedded in its trunk. Almost a year after the bombing, survivors, family members and rescue workers who had gathered for a memorial ceremony noticed the tree had begun to bloom again.
Hundred of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing in public and private places all over the US.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum contains numerous exhibits and artifacts related to the bombing. The chronological self-guided tour of the museum tells the story of April 19, 1995, and the days, weeks and years that followed the bombing.
I can’t imagine how anyone going through the museum and reading the stories of the survivors and rescuers not being touched and sickened by the cowardly act of the bomber. The victims were just ordinary people going about their business. It just reinforces the fact that no one can truly feel safe. These events have changed our lives in countless ways.
After leaving the museum we drove a short distance to the American Banjo Museum, the only established facility in the world devoted exclusively to the collection and conservation of the instruments, recordings, film, video, printed music and memorabilia associated with the banjo.
I’m not really interested in banjos but Monte plays the instrument and as he is a good sport about going to all the historic places I love to visit I thought I should go to a museum he wanted to tour.
I was pleasantly surprised and actually enjoyed the museum that is home to over 400 instruments.
The museum’s massive collection of ornately decorated four-string tenor and plectrum banjos from the Jazz Age is the largest collection of its type on public display in the world.
For dinner we made our way to the Bricktown District along the riverfront where there are several restaurants to choose from.
We opted to eat at Earls Rib Palace.
After dinner we walked along the Centennial Land Run Monument, at the south end of the Bricktown Canal, that commemorates the opening of the Unassigned Land in Oklahoma Territory with the Land Run of 1889.
The land run refers to a historical event in which previously restricted land was opened to homestead on a first-arrival basis. The Run started at high noon on April 22, 1889 with an estimated 50,000 people lined up for their piece of the available two million acres.
We planned on returned to The Oklahoma City National Memorial after dark because I wanted to see the memorial lit up.
To kill some time before sunset we walked through Bass Pro.
It was well worth returning to the Memorial in the evening. Walking along the reflecting pool felt different than it had earlier in the day.
In the daylight I viewed the memorial more as a historical site but in the evening, sitting across from the lit chairs, I experienced more of a spiritual feeling.