When I was growing up in the Pea Ridge community, we had no parks in the usual sense of the word. Rogers had its Lake Atalanta picnic grounds, Bentonville had the park in the middle of the square, as well as Park Springs in the north part of the city in the area of North 7th and North 8th streets.
We had no city park as such, but that didn't necessarily mean that we didn't have places to do things.
At one time, our recreational areas were on the creeks and around the swimming holes.
One of the popular places for people who lived northeast of Pea Ridge was Red Bank, on Big Sugar Creek. Red Bank was located on the Webb farm, now owned by Kently Webb. The road, now Patterson Road, didn't go all the way to Red Bank; you had to open the gate and go across the pasture to get to the creek and the Red Bank swimming area, but the family was accommodating. Of course you needed to shut the gates behind you.
Another nearby area on Big Sugar Creek was at the Jacket Bridge. Today, the new Jacket Bridge stands over the old swimming and picnic area, and I don't think the area is suitable for picnics and outings in the way it used to be. I do notice that even today, the Otter Creek crossing on State Line Road is still an attraction for swimmers, but not so much for picnics or weiner roasts and the like. One thing about Otter Creek (and Big Sugar Creek), they are cold. Otter Creek gets a fresh input of water from a spring about a mile from the state line, and it carries a good charge of cold water into Big Sugar Creek near the Jacket Bridge.
We used to swim until we turned blue, and with that, our Moms would have us get out and wrap up to get warm again.
Pea Ridge has long had baseball and softball fields. In the early days, there weren't the nice baseball parks such as the Little League fields on Weston Street or the fields at Blackjack Corner (corner of McNelly & It'll Do roads at the intersection with Ark. Hwy. 94), but even in the beginning of the 20th century baseball fields were centers of community gatherings in support of community teams. Many of these teams were informally organized, ramrodded by interested local players who just wanted to play ball.
There would be a team from the Sassafras School community northeast of Pea Ridge, there might be a Twelve Corners team, and a Buttram's Chapel team. The ball fields would have no bleachers, and maybe not even a backup fence behind the catcher. Someone measured out the bases and the pitcher's mound, set out some kind of an object for each base, and someone would say "Let's play ball!" The object was not to have a fancy place to play ball, the object was to play ball. Our famous major league ball player, Clyde "Pea Ridge" Day, got his start in the Sassafras School area northeast of Pea Ridge on what is now Patton Road.
Our playgrounds, other than our home lawns, were on the school grounds.
At Pea Ridge School, the swings and merry-go-round and slides and jumping boards and jump-rope areas for the younger kids was located where the Veteran's Memorial is today. We were not nearly so safety conscious in those days compared to today's concerns. I guess you might say that we learned to play safely on dangerous equipment. Often if we arrived early before school was to start, we would get on the merry-go-round and see how fast we could make it turn. The object was to try to throw off the riders in the seats around the edges. You might say that sometimes we sacrificed safety for excitement.
Our ball fields, in the 1940s and 1950s, were on the grounds now occupied by the Intermediate School gymnasium. In those days, there was a drive connecting the north end of today's Davis Street to the intersection of Pike Street and Clark Street, and our ball fields were north of that road across the campus. Of course that area was for other things besides baseball and softball. They were our running fields, our wrestling fields, our discus throw field, our shot putt area, and so on. Softball was the usual recess time activity and lunch hour activity. There was usually time enough for a quick softball game after lunch before the school bell called us back to class. Softball was almost always self-organized by us kids. Coaches were for basketball.
For softball, we kids worked it all out ourselves. Most of the time we played work-up softball. In work-up softball, when somebody is put "out," he goes to right field, and everybody advances to a new position. the catcher becomes a batter (of which there are always three), the pitcher becomes the catcher, first baseman becomes pitcher, the basemen and shortstop advance in first base direction. Left fielder goes to third base, and so on. If the game is long enough, you may get to play every position. One advantage to work-up softball is that you can play as many players as you want. You can have 10 fielders if you need to.
Once in a while we would decide to choose up sides and play a team game of softball. Two people would be named captains, and then one-by-one they would take turns choosing their players. The teams would be formed on the spot before the game. We never thought about giving our teams a name. We were just playing ball.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 621-1621.
Editorial on 07/31/2019
Print Headline: Parks or no parks