Little Rock, Bill Clinton and West to the Ozarks
Richard J. Garfunkel
November 21, 2004
Little Rock is an interesting large small city located in the geographical middle of the state of Arkansas. According to the last census estimate of 2001, Arkansas, the Razorback and Natural State, has an estimated 2,692,000 souls, which ranks it 33rd among the states. It is about 80% white, and it is the smallest state west of the Mississippi with an area that makes it the 29th largest state. People have been traveling out to that part of the country since Hernan de Soto in 1541, and there were many Native Americans known as the Quapaw, Caddo, Osage, Cherokee and Choctaw living in that area at the time of European contact. Besides Bill Clinton, there were some other famous Arkansans, like Paul “Bear” Bryant, Douglas MacArthur, Brooks Robinson, Dick Powell, Johnny Cash and Sam Walton. Little Rock is the political capital of Arkansas, and therefore its state government is located there and operates in an absolutely magnificent State Capital building modeled after the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Little Rock this political, cultural, and entertainment center, is the home to 183,000 or so citizens and is the heart and County Seat of Pulaski County and its metropolitan area of over 360,000. Therefore to our New York standards, Little Rock would be considered quite small. In fact Yonkers has a larger population, and Little Rock is not listed in the top 100 of America’s most populous cities. Therefore, being the political nexus of Arkansas, it possesses a number of governmental and legislative layers operating out of this city on the Arkansas River.
Well the question is why would anyone go to Little Rock? It is an out-of-the-way place, and there are not many direct flights from New York. Up to now, there is little there that would innately attract the casual tourist. So the question remains why did we go, and what did we see? Of course we went to attend, a once in a lifetime happening, the opening of the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, and Graduate School Center. One could easily say that Bill Clinton was a real product of Arkansas, Little Rock, Hot Springs and Hope. He grew up relatively poor and disadvantaged much like many of his peers. His saga is a real American success story, and when one goes to Arkansas, one experiences his “world” and one can readily see what made him always come back to his roots.
I can say without reservation that I have always liked Bill Clinton. He’s very likeable. I can say also, with great confidence, that many people, both in Little Rock and Hot Springs, fifty or so miles from Little Rock and his home from the age of eight through high school, also like him. Not unlike any other political figure, there are many who do not like him. But many of those same people, over 3000, came to the138th annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon to hear him speak and applauded enthusiastically. I wonder whether in 1866 at the first Chamber of Commerce gathering there were 3000 people in the entire state?
Therefore Bill Clinton has been intimately intertwined with Little Rock’s recent past of 30 years, and through his library, he and his name will be indelibly married to Little Rock’s future. The 3000 business leaders of Little Rock knew that quite well, when they showed up with us to celebrate the ongoing and enduring legacy of Bill Clinton, and his vision for Little Rock. Of course Bill Clinton did not become a five-time Governor and a twice-elected President from being anyone’s fool. Clinton’s perspective and dynamic plan, design, and construction of the Library and the Graduate School have revitalized the downtown area of Little Rock. The River Market area that leads to the Clinton Museum Store, along President Clinton Avenue, is very reminiscent of a mini-Quincy Market, or South Street Seaport. Little Rock has been suffering the same fate, like many other urban centers, as shoppers flock to the outlying areas where the big stores with their malls and vast parking areas dominate. So to a degree, the city fathers and the business community are married to Bill Clinton in a way that they never may have realized. He gently reminded all of us at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, that Little Rock was not the highest bidder for the Library, but that he chose Little Rock because of the support it had given him over the years!
Meanwhile our trip to Little Rock and the opening of the Clinton Library would have never come about if Linda had not contributed, in my name to the original building fund. Without that effort we would have never been on the list to get tickets, and the idea of going probably would not have entered our minds. Beginning in January of 2004, Linda began to make arrangements with Sherrie Smith, the Director of Corporate Services of Intellimark, a portfolio company of Charlesbank Capital Partners LLC, all the details regarding our stay. With a place to “hang our hats” all we had to do was arrange our flight schedule, pack our bags and close the house. Linda found out that we could reasonably park at Dollar Rent-a-Car on 94th Street, and take a jitney across the road to LaGuardia Airport. With all that in mind we set off on our journey on Saturday November 13th. There is only one direct flight to Little Rock, so our trip had a stopover in Cincinnati, Ohio, and with an on time take off, we arrived smoothly in the town that Pete Rose and William Howard Taft made famous. Cincinnati, a city of 320,000 in southern Ohio, was named after the order of Cincinnati an American Revolutionary Officer’s Society and has a large airport complex, where we had to shuttle across the tarmac to reach our connecting flight. Our 48-passenger plane took off on time, and within two hours we were on the ground in Little Rock, where Jeff and Sherrie Smith met us. After renting a Chevy Malibu and following the Smith’s SUV we were safely at their ranch house in North Little Rock, a suburb of the capital, within 15 minutes or so. We learned right away that the Smiths were great hosts and that Arkansan hospitality was second to none. The Smiths took us out to eat at a great Chinese restaurant, Chi’s, with their son and his fiancé and colleagues and friends Ron and Linda McDaniel. Even in the heart of Arkansas can two New Yorkers find wonton soup, spring rolls and the rest of Cantonese cuisine.
On Sunday dawn came up with warm sunshine, and we headed west to the Petit Jean National Park and Forest. This beautiful area fifty or so miles west of Little Rock, of natural rocks and chasms was named after a legendary young French girl explorer of the 18th century who explored and died in that area. We climbed some of the amazing rock formations that looked straight down from the rim of the Cedar Creek Canyon to the Arkansas River Valley. The New Deal’s CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corporation built most of the structures in the state park. Lake Roosevelt, one of the man-made lakes in the area, built by the CCC honors the late president. After some hiking, we had lunch in the rustic Mather Lodge that overlooks the Cedar Falls Trail. After returning from the Ozark foothills we were driven around the heart of Little Rock and stopped off at the River Market, a restoration area that has been opened on President Clinton Avenue and leads to the Library. We wanted to go into the President Clinton bookstore, but it was closed. We made up our minds to return there on Monday. The store looked like a museum and store with displays of items to see and to buy. That evening Sherrie made dinner for us, chicken and stuffed artichokes, and we talked about the usual themes, politics and social issues. After a good night’s sleep we breakfasted and were off to the Fine Arts Center, which is located in a section called MacArthur Park. This area is named for General Douglas MacArthur, who was born in the old Arsenal Building, which is now a museum, in 1880, while his father General Arthur MacArthur lived there.
The Arts Center is a fantastic building and we were part of a large group that attended a lecture by Ms. Betty Monkman, the former White House curator. Ms. Monkman spoke for ninety minutes without notes accompanied by a slide presentation that chronicled the history of the architectural and artistic changes to the White House throughout its history. She was remarkably informative and the attentive audience was wildly appreciative. After the lecture we toured the art center, which was featuring a collection of photographic art of the White House First Families from 1960 to 2000. The other part of the exhibit was of selections of art that hung on the walls of the White House that made up the temporary collection. When a presidential family moves into the White House, they may select any work of art to be displayed in their new home. This work is borrowed from museums and private collections. It is entirely up to the first family to decide what they want to display. So we were treated to works of art that had hung in the White House from the administration of JFK to the current resident.
For lunch, we were seated at tables all named for the Presidents. We sat with Sherri and her friend Milli Alston, who was the personal corresponding secretary for Hillary for the first two years and Bill for the last six years! What a thrill for us! She had been Hillary’s administrative assistant in AR and moved to Washington with them in 1993. We were able to get a real insider’s perspective on the Clinton during those White House years. When asked if she was going to write a book, she said that she never kept a diary. She was glad that she had not done so, because she would have been subpoenaed by Ken Starr.
So, after our long and substantial meal, and plenty of interesting conversation, we moved on to the obligatory visit to the Museum Store, where we had fun trying to choose what to buy. We met one Harry Truman Moore, who, while a young lawyer, took one of the first campaign pictures of a young Bill Clinton back around 1979. It was adorned on a piece of campaign literature, displayed in one of the cases, and we gladly photographed HT (as he is known) and his wife in front of his now historically preserved work. We met them, because Linda. Moore just started talking to Linda. Mrs. Moore was just an example of the many warm and wonderful people we met in our week in AR. She even recommended places for us to visit in Hot Springs later on in the week.
After we finished in the store, we headed into the city to find Capital Street, which we knew, would lead to the state capital building. Arkansas has the only state capital building modeled after the US Capitol in Washington. Their capital is magnificent, and as we walked up the long steps we met some Italian dignitaries, who along with a Count were part of the official invitees to the ceremony. It was and is a truly a remarkable edifice and with only a few other tourists around, we were able to climb all over the inside, and visit the legislative and judicial chambers. The rotunda is a remarkable work of art and the marble neo-classical designed hallways were adorned with pictures of former governors that included; Orville Faubus, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers, and of course the five-time Governor, Bill Clinton. We also found a US post office in the building, and the kind clerk let me hand cancel mail with the state capitol cancellation.
From the statehouse it was off to the famous Central High School, where the modern Civil Rights movement began. Here Federal troops from the famous 101st Airborne Division had to be mobilized so that a handful of African-American children could register, enter, and attend the formerly all-white school. It was in Little Rock where Governor Faubus, attempted to prevent the integration of Central High, and where the “Jim Crow” system of laws and tradition started to crack. Central High looks about the same as its pictures from 47 years ago. The museum is in a former gas station across the street and is run by the National Park Service. Finishing at Central High we headed back to N. Little Rock and the Smith Home. We cleaned up and all went out to dinner to celebrate Jeff Smith’s 52nd birthday at a lovely place called Acadia on Kavanaugh Boulevard. After our meal we went into downtown Little Rock and walked into their leading hotels, the Capital and the Peabody. We were trying to star gaze, but it was too early in the week for the stars to be out!
The next day, Tuesday, we were the guests of Intellimark at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the Convention Center. There, Mack McClardy, Bill Clinton’s former Chief of Staff at the White House, welcomed 3000 guests, including us. He introduced the former President who was warmly welcomed by many in the large overflow crowd who probably had never voted for him. But his message was good for Little Rock, and they all knew it. President Clinton was a bit thinner and paler, but his speech was vintage Clinton. He told us why he had wanted the museum to be in Little Rock. He wanted the building to inspire and capture the imagination of the public, and to make his public papers available as quickly as possible. He talked about energy independence, and how he planned his building to be energy efficient. On Thursday, during his opening ceremony speech, he praised Al Gore for being his inspiration on energy efficiency. He stressed that even though he had received offers from many other locations to build his Library Center, he chose Little Rock where his career began and flourished. From our perspective, and I am sure from the vast majority of business guests at the luncheon, his choice was a good one for their city. President Clinton finished up his speech with a call for people to come to Little Rock, see the city, enjoy its hospitality and take advantage of what his Library and Graduate Center can provide.
Later that afternoon, after some shopping along President Clinton Avenue, and attending an art festival on the banks of the river, and strolling around the River Market we met Sherrie Smith at the Capital Hotel for “high tea.” The Capital is where everyone who is everyone stays in Little Rock. Before long we weren’t disappointed, because Aretha Franklin strode in with her entourage. That was fitting, because we were one of the lucky ones who had tickets for her performance that evening.
But before her concert we were invited to meet General Wesley Clark at a reception, in his honor, at the Capital Hotel. Steve Bova, a personal friend of the General, introduced Linda and me to him. I happened to have served on the New York State Finance Committee for Clark, so I was pretty enthusiastic about finally meeting him. I said to him that if he were still interested in another run for the presidency, he should travel the country and meet the County and Town Democratic leaders and officials. Of course, I am an appointed Deputy Supervisor in the Town of Greenburgh and took the liberty, in the name of our Supervisor Paul Feiner, of inviting him to visit our town, and address our local Town Democratic Committee.
We dashed back to the Smiths’ home for dinner so that we could then turn around and head back into Little Rock for the Aretha Franklin Concert. Linda had purchased the tickets as a gift for the Smiths. The Joseph T. Robinson Music Hall was packed with cheering fans of all colors and ages. The Robinson is a massive New Deal depression-era structure that was named after Senator Joe Robinson who was one of FDR’s greatest Senate allies in the early and mid 1930’s. He was the majority leader at the time of the Court Reorganization fight of 1938 and died of a heart attack in the midst of that effort. Well we really were lucky to get seats, and we sat all the way up in the next to the last row of the balcony. We needed binoculars to see her, but hearing her was no problem! The show opened with a performance by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra lead by conductor, David Itkin. After performances of variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America,” Ms. Franklin, put on a bravura show and dominated the second half. She sang her old favorites, including “Respect” and played the piano with style. All in all, she was on the stage for about 90 minutes, and the crowd loved her, applauded with gusto and sent her off with a long-standing ovation. In other words, it was a great artistic success for all who were there.
The next day, Wednesday, the activities kept coming. After an early quick breakfast we headed back into Little Rock and stopped by at the Curran House, which is their “Information Center.” This is a wonderful restoration of an elegant private home dating from the mid 19th century. After viewing their displays of Arkansan history and Clinton artifacts we drove over to the Holiday Inn, which also had a display of Clintonia. There we re-met a fellow whom we had originally met at the opening of the Clinton Museum Store. We were constantly meeting and re-meeting people through out our stay. He was originally from New Rochelle and had graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1964, and we compared names from those bygone days. It was quite funny to meet up in Arkansas after all these years and to talk about old times.
From there we headed back to Kavanaugh Street, which we heard had some great shops. Again another surprise! We wound up in a lovely store that was owned by the women we were sitting next to at the Arkansas Fine Arts Museum luncheon for Betty Monkman. At another store, we met a guy who had signed us in at the Clark reception. That was what Little Rock was all about. Everyone knows every one! It was just a big small town. We finished up our business and then got directions to University Street and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Linda had found a symposium on presidential libraries and had gotten us tickets. We found the school, parked, found the right building and located ourselves in the front row. The symposium included all of the heads of the 10 current Presidential libraries. Of course, to our surprise (not really) and delight, Cynthia Koch, the director of the FDR Library, was one of the participants. She looked down at us and asked, “What are you doing here?” All of the directors got a chance to speak about the libraries and how they were established. That was a unique experience and from our perspective, never to be duplicated. After it was over, Linda and I said hello to Cynthia, and talked about our visit. We also met the director of the JFK Library that is located in Charlestown. Dana, our daughter, had worked at the JFK Library when she was in graduate school in Boston. Anyone who has a chance should visit both libraries, which are easily within driving distance of New York. They are both great!
Our next stop was the MacArthur Museum and birthplace. I was going to tour the museum, and be on my own for a few hours while Linda was being picked up by Marcy Wilson, from Intellimark, and taken to a tea at the Governor’s residence with the current and former First Ladies of Arkansas. I had the museum all to myself for about 25 minutes until a delegation of South Koreans came by. They were an advance team for the former President of South Korea. Eventually they all came through, and I met them and was able to answer some of their questions about MacArthur. I even was introduced to the President Kim Young Sam. President Kim, in 1993 was the first democratically elected civilian President since 1961. It seems that some of his staff were mystified by the 5 stars on General MacArthur’s collar and asked me what that meant. They all assumed a full General had only four stars, but I informed them that MacArthur, a national hero in South Korea, held the rank of General of the Army. During WWII Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, King, Nimitz and Leahy reached that rank. After the war Admiral Halsey and General Bradley were elevated to that level. Only General Pershing, during WWI was elevated to the rank of General of the Armies, and he only wore 4 stars. John Adams awarded George Washington that rank, retroactively, in 1800, but that was never really confirmed by Congress. In 1976 President Gerald Ford made that rank permanent for Washington. Also, during the Civil War and after, Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan were awarded the General of the Army commission, but not with 5 stars. Because of my knowledge of MacArthur that stemmed from my grandfather’s contact with him, I became an instant authority for the contingent of Koreans.
Linda, meanwhile returned from a tea at the Governor’s mansion, and was very sorry she did not have a camera with her. According to Linda the Governor’s mansion is quite impressive. The tour included the living room and dining room of the magnificently decorated mansion. The late former Governor Winthrop Rockefeller donated the oriental rugs in the living room and dining room. The rugs have been appraised at upwards of $100,00 apiece. Mrs. Huckabee, the current first lady, was joined by Mrs. Pryor and Mrs. Bumpers. There was also an exhibit of first ladies of Arkansas memorabilia in the courtyard between the original mansion and the addition, which is enormous. The addition can seat 350 at one sitting for a meal. The floor, carpeting, staircase, drapes and furniture have been created especially for the mansion and are spectacular. Mrs. Huckabee welcomed the crowd and introduced the former first ladies. Linda introduced herself to Mrs. Pryor, because her husband is the new dean of the Clinton School of Public Service. After Linda told her that Dana worked at the Kennedy School, Mrs. Pryor told Linda that they had lived in Boston for 3 years while he was a fellow at the Kennedy School. We both had our own adventures to relate to each other. That evening we were invited by Steve Bova, the president of Intellimark, to his magnificent townhouse on the banks of the meandering Arkansas River. Steve and his lovely wife Barbara were really wonderful to us, and after much excellent wine and cheese, we went to the Little Rock Country Club for dinner. After a long and terrific meal we all drove to the Intellimark’s offices to watch the firework’s display on the river. Though we have seen some pretty good fireworks in New York, I am sure this one in Little Rock was up to their standards.
The next morning was the big day. It had started mild but a bit overcast. We had raincoats, and slickers and assumed we would be well protected if the rains began in earnest. We left at 7:53am for a parking area near the Alltel Arena where we could catch a bus to the line for the Library. The “red” buses were waiting, we boarded, and within twenty minutes we were on President Clinton Avenue, standing on a long line waiting to be searched and “wanded.” It took about an hour and twenty minutes for us to pass through the checkpoints and enter the grounds. Unfortunately for us, and the 30,000 or so others, the rains began to steadily drop. We found seats in our designated area, and then endured about 3 hours more of the torrents. Finally we got up from our seats and found an open spot under a courtesy tent where hundreds were huddling. Finally when President Clinton was about 2/3rds through his speech, we gave up. We were soaked through to the skin and quite chilly to boot. We felt so bad to be leaving, but we just could not endure the wet cold any longer. 1000’s of others were leaving with us. Our car was packed for our trip to Hot Springs, so we found the “red” bus marshalling area, road back to the Alltel Arena, got lost for a few minutes, and finally found our warm and dry Malibu. Since we hadn’t really eaten all day, we immediately stopped, at Linda’s suggestion, at a Wyndham Hotel, called the Riverfront Steakhouse, stripped off our besodden outer garments and crawled into a warm bowl of soup. Of course the restaurant was filled with other veterans and victims of the wrath of the rain god Juvius Pluvius. For the next hour we ate, drank and wound up exchanging conspiracy stories regarding the past and unlamented election. Wherever, we went on that day, we met Democrats from all over the country who could not believe that GW had won a second term. It was just wonderful talking to other folk from blue states, blue counties or blue cities. The opening ceremony had huge screens so that we all could follow along with the program and see the podium. When the cameras found John Kerry and displayed him up on the screens, the place went wild with cheers. Only Bill Clinton received more applause!
After our meal was finished our meal and talking to some people from Ohio who were big Bill Clinton fans, we asked for directions to route 30 West and headed for the resort town of Hot Springs. This famous resort town of 35,000 people has been hosting visitors for hundreds of years. Because of its natural springs that bring mineral waters to the surface at 143 degrees Fahrenheit, Hot Springs has been the center of tourism since at least the Bronze Age. As our nation spread forward into the west, the springs were discovered and a town sprung up around the magic waters. Eventually bathhouses were constructed, and the springs attracted hundreds of thousands of travelers looking for cure-alls that they thought would emanate from the warm mineral waters. Eventually these classically designed marble bathhouses would dominate Central Avenue the main street in Hot Springs. Today they are all closed, save one that still operates as a bathhouse. The rest are being rehabilitated by the federal government, and will open soon in other capacities. One of the former bathhouses now contains the visitor center for the Hot Spring National Park. We took a self-guided tour to see how people “schvitzed” years ago.
We stayed in the massive seventy-five year old Arlington Hotel that abuts up against the mineral laden hills of Hot Springs. The original hotel was built in 1876, but was destroyed in a fire. The hotel still has its original bathhouse, which Linda enjoyed shortly after we arrived there from Little Rock. Then Linda convinced me to undergo the “works” which started with a steaming hot mineral bath where I was soaped from head to toe. That “cooking” lasted 20 minutes and after I was thoroughly “boiled,” Matt, my attendant mercifully rescued me and sent me on to the next stage. I had the choice of the “steam closet” or the sauna. I choose the seven minute dry heat of the sauna, and when that was finished I was placed on a cot, and hat hot, and I mean hot, towels wrapped around my legs and my shoulders. Then for some relief Matt place an ice cold one around my neck and face. After that relative period of rest I was de-mummified and led along to the multi-headed shower, which riveted me with needlelike blasts of hot water from every angle. When that finally ended only the massage table stood in my way of freedom. The final chapter began as the masseur, another very strong gentleman, took my flesh in his vise-like grip and needed my body with exotic heated body oils for a full twenty minutes. Every muscle I possessed was attacked with a professional ferocity that I had never endured before. Finally it ended and I was happy that I was able to waddle out the door. We both rested in our rooms for a time, and then we decided to look for a place for dinner. But Central Avenue in Hot Springs isn’t the liveliest place in the “free” world and it took a little while before we found the right place to have supper.
Of course the next day was caught up with touring and we traveled up and down Hot Springs. We ate lunch in Bill Clinton’s favorite place, McClard’s over on the Albert Pike, which specializes in the best BBQ ribs west of the Mississippi. One has to think that McClard’s cooking had a lot to do with the President’s clogged arteries. But one meal probably won’t kill me. Frankly it was pretty tasty, but I still rather have hot pastrami at Katz’s on Houston Street. Linda was a bit more cautious and had a great grilled cheese with a tart and delicious homemade coleslaw. We finished up at McClard’s, got back into downtown to inspect the old bathhouses, bought some jewelry from one of the local politicians, Mr. Steve Smith at Cheyenne Trading, and then purchased a leather bag at Sonya’s. Eventually we drove up the 1016 foothill to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, which stands another 216 feet in the sky. From there we could see all of Hot Springs and rolling Ouachita Mountains. It certainly was spectacular. On our way down we decided to find Park Avenue and Bill Clinton’s old home. It wasn’t far up the road from the Arlington and I was able to park across the street and get a few good pictures. One could certainly see that he came from quite modest surroundings. What a climb from Hope to Park Avenue in Hot Springs to Little Rock and then the White House. He is living proof that it could happen to anyone with enough brains, sweat and determination.
Well eventually it came to checkout and departure time, and after a good breakfast, we packed up our car, and headed out in bright sunshine to Central Avenue, route 70 and then onto 30 East and Little Rock. Linda suggested that, when we get into town we should go over to the library and see if we could get in. She, as usual, was right on the mark. There were no long lines, we were able to get in for free because we were original contributors, and the place was sensational. It was more than I could have ever believed. What a remarkable job was done regarding its construction, displays, technology and style. It was magnificent. I had been numerous times to both the FDR and JFK Libraries, and my admiration for both FDR and JFK is well known. But, as wonderful as both libraries are, in their own way, nothing could compare to the Clinton. It’s beyond description. In other words it is spectacular! We enjoyed over an hour there, met and talked to other “worshippers” and then got back to the car for our trip to the airport and the start of our final journey home.
When one arrives at any airport these days, one always must be prepared to be checked out thoroughly. I certainly appreciate their efforts and small inconveniences are certainly worth some added delay to insure greater security. As we got on line, a woman stepped out of our way so we could be together, as we were having our bags checked and our sneakers probed. The woman was slightly recognizable, and I noticed that she had Congressional identification. Linda found out that she was Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky who had served in Congress with her husband Ed. They were a unique couple that wound up representing Congressional districts in two different states. Unfortunately both lost their seats in the1994 midterm elections.
Well the flight home was filled with some different adventures. I had said earlier that there are few direct flights to Little Rock. So on our return trip we were again booked on a small jet, that was supposed to take off at 2:30 Central Time, and take us to the Delta hub in Cincinnati. Of course, as they say in the trade, the equipment was late! Finally when it arrived and we were safely ensconced in our seats the announcement came that we were too heavy. Maybe that recent report about the overweight travelers that are costing the airlines billions in fuel is really true. They offered $200 for two people to leave, but no takers were to be found. Of course their next alternative was to summarily to remove luggage and they did! With all that business behind us, we departed at least 30 minutes later then planned for, but thankfully the trip was smooth and uneventful.
Of course we landed with only 15 minutes to make our connecting flight to New York. We made every effort to get off the plane first and have the steward alert the connecting flight that we were hurrying over. With another women, we literally ran to the shuttle that would take us across the tarmac to another part of the terminal. Unfortunately we were one minute too late, and the other departure gate had never been called. So it goes. There was another flight at 7:30 pm on a bigger plane, and Linda and our new friend jawboned for dinner vouchers and we were upgraded to first class. Hurrah! We had dinner the next flight left on time, and made great time to New York. I was much happier to be in a bigger plane when we approached the murky weather that enveloped New York. Funny how things work out!
So Little Rock was a fabulous experience for us. In most cases I cannot imagine a similar situation happening just like this one. But of course Presidential libraries don’t open every day! Little Rock was great and the hospitality was second to none. Generally the people were exceptionally warm, gracious and outgiving. There is much southern charm in Arkansas, and it is reflected in how people get along. Again, there is life outside of New York and people should experience it as much as possible. The city of Little Rock has come a long way since those ugly confrontational days at Central High School in the mid 1950’s. It should be a lesson to all of us how “time can heal most wounds.”