The Clark County Historical Museum in Arkadelphia displays detailed instructions on how to use a rotary-dial telephone. Photo by Marcia Schnedler
Category: Worth the Drive

Fascinating finds at statewide exhibits

Local museums across Arkansas can dish up attractions a lot more amazing than Grandma’s tea set or Aunt Millie’s milk pitcher. They can amuse and even astonish with offbeat or startling exhibits that inspire a chuckle of delight or a gasp of surprise.

At Clark County Historical Museum in Arkadelphia, a detailed set of instructions explains how to use the newfangled dial telephones that replaced human operators in the 1940s. Please stay on the line for details later in this story.

At Siloam Springs Museum, a bulky piece of furniture in lustrous tea-green almost begs visitors to snuggle down. It is labeled as the very first La-Z-Boy lounger made when the company’s Siloam Springs plant opened in May 1973. The facility still manufactures the iconic recliners. Visit

An homage to the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” starring Julie Adams is featured at the Hot Spring County Museum in Malvern. Photo by Marcia Schnedler

At Hot Spring County Museum in Malvern’s Boyle House, a technicolor poster pictures actress Julie Adams screaming in terror as she is kidnapped by the amphibious “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Adams spent some of her childhood in Malvern, where she is buried. Visit

At Lower White River Museum State Park in Des Arc, a 5-by-7-inch washboard mussel shell harvested a century ago from the White River served as an unorthodox canvas for a local Picasso. The oil painting by H.A. Peller depicts the town’s waterfront in remarkable detail. Visit

At Van Buren County Museum in Clinton, a glass case contains the pistol fired to murder his wife by Bill Newman, the only person ever legally hanged in the county. A photo of the 1895 hanging is displayed. The execution “brought to Clinton what old-timers maintained was the largest crowd ever gathered in the town.” Visit the Van Buren County Musuem’s website.

At Arkansas Country Doctor Museum in Lincoln, an iron lung and a large photograph tell an intrepid story of overcoming tragedy. The iron lung kept Peggy Ann McCormick alive for 33 years after she was stricken by polio at age 16. The photograph shows her astonishing achievement as an artist. She painted still-life and other images with a brush attached to a long stick held in her mouth. Visit

Boone County Heritage Museum in Harrison has a display of vintage coin-only parking meters, shown here with a horse. Photo by Marcia Schnedler

At Boone County Heritage Museum in Harrison, an array of vintage coin-only parking meters is lined up with military precision. The meters are multilingual, including one from Kuwait in Arabic and another from Hong Kong in both Chinese and English. One has been turned into a lamp. Visit

At the Chaffee Barbershop Museum at Fort Chaffee, where Elvis Presley got his first military haircut in 1958, his meteoric rise to fame is celebrated by an entire magazine devoted to his Army induction. “Elvis in the Army” contains “150 pix” and “10 big stories.” The headlines include: “His Hours of Tenderness and Turmoil,” “Scoops From Germany” and “Those Foreign Dating Parties.” The museum, alas, does not display a lock of his shorn hair. Visit

At Grant County Museum in Sheridan, visitors can view “a bell won by Mary Freeman of Sheridan in a cow-calling contest in 1926.” Sadly, there is no recording of the prize-worthy mooing. A snapshot portrays Minnie B. Humphrey Clark, “believed to have been the second female sheriff in the United States. She succeeded her late husband in 1937.” Visit

As for that exhaustive dialing guide at Clark County Historical Museum (, it surely was created because the new calling method baffled some users.

The six-step “How to dial” begins with, “Be sure you know the number.”

Then comes, “Lift the receiver to your ear and listen to the dial tone.”

Next is, “Place your finger in the opening where you see the first figure of the number you are calling. Pull the dial to the right (clockwise) until your finger strikes the finger stop.”

Then, “Remove your finger and let the dial spin back by itself. Do not touch the dial while it is returning.”

Next, “Do the same thing for each of the other figures in the number you are dialing.”

Finally, “When you have finished dialing the number, you should hear the ringing signal, which is a bur-r-ring sound repeated at regular intervals. This will continue until the party you are calling answers or you hang up.”

Readers inclined to chortle at this painstaking guide to this technology should remember how challenging it may have been to use their first smartphones. That’s even truer if they are old enough to remember how to dial.