Smart Talk Sept. 29 

Keep watch on Wal-Mart There’s a new movement afoot to bring better pay and benefits to Wal-Mart workers. Rather than try to unionize the retail chain, Wal-Mart Watch (www.walmartwatch.com) is trying to lobby the company publicly to be a “better employee, neighbor and corporate citizen.” Recently, it tried to run a newspaper ad encouraging better employee treatment in the Benton County Daily Record in Bentonville. The newspaper, once owned by the Walton family, refused the ad. Bigger events are scheduled and organizers are in Arkansas working up events for “Higher Expectations Week” Nov. 13-19. Higher expectations was a phrase Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton used for his hopes for the company. Wal-Mart Watch hopes to organize thousands of house parties nationwide that week for a screening of a new documentary film, “Wal-Mart: The high cost of low prices.” Wal-Mart Watch is working on enlisting groups that work for social justice and politicians to rally around their effort. It is proving hard work in Arkansas, though several organizations have signed on to endorsing Higher Expectations Week. Main Street experiment The Arkansas Main Street program is putting final touches on an experimental plan to create a downtown development network among more urban cities in Arkansas, and a portion of South Main Street will be one of the first two to be included in the network. (Pine Bluff Downtown will be the second). Unlike Main Street’s primary role, to help revitalize downtown cores with training, consultants and funding, the new programs will run themselves with networking assistance from the state office. South Main’s project area is mixed business and residential, stretching from Interstate 630 to Roosevelt Road. The South Main program, which is in the process of getting its non-profit status, is looking for an executive director who’ll help promote the area for living and working. They say don’t go there For those of you looking to buy a little piece of American music history — like, say, the patch of mountaintop land in Conway County made famous in the 1962 ten-million seller “Wolverton Mountain” by Claude King — you just missed your chance. Brenda Harwood, co-owner of Center Ridge Grocery, about five miles from the real-life Wolverton Mountain, said a parcel of land and a dairy farm once owned by the song’s legendarily protective father Clifton Clowers — the man who the song claimed was “mighty handy with a gun or knife” when keeping suitors away from his daughter — sold recently to a man relocating from North Carolina, who has renamed it “Wolverton Mountain Dairy.” It had been owned by a group called “Ark-Ten Holdings” Harwood said, and since the days when Clowers so steadfastly guarded his daughter there, it has often been the site of dairy research projects by the U of A. Harwood said she didn’t know how much the land sold for, though a source in area real estate put the price at just over $200,000. CORRECTION ADDED OCT. 3: While a dairy farm on Wolverton Mountain was purchased a few weeks back by an out-of-state buyer, real estate agent Richard Henley reports that the original 171-acre homestead owned by Clifton Clowers, the protective father from the song, is still for very much for sale, and can be purchased through his office (you can see pictures and details about the property at era.com). Though Henley said that Clower's house has long-since burned, a mere $190,000 will buy you the land once trod by a legend.

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