The observer, March 12 

The Observer has long been a history buff. Last weekend, we indulged that cranny of our troubled psyche with a trip over to Booneville for Arkansas Historic Preservation's tour of the buildings and grounds of the former State Tuberculosis Sanatorium.

The main hospital building — the Leo F. Nyberg building, named after a state senator from Helena who died at the Sanatorium — is a sight to behold; a massive buff-brick pile that still lords over the countryside below, six stories high and exactly a tenth of a mile long. Thanks to the blessings of antibiotics and modern medicine, the hospital is largely empty these days, the patient rooms inside occupied only by dust, flies, and the occasional pigeon.  

A good-sized crowd gathered before the steps. The guide started where the epidemic did: with a simple germ, stealing down into a healthy lung. As she described over a loudspeaker clipped to her belt the scourge of tuberculosis and how it spread, a hush spread over the crowd.

After walking through the Nyberg Building, the tour moved on through the massive boiler plant, up the hill to the chapel and over to the guinea piggery, where tiny test subjects were bred and raised en masse. The tour made its way to the children's school, built by the Belle Pointe Masonic Lodge. Inside were bare classrooms, faded colors, and the faint smell of chalk.

The Observer wandered into a large and brightly lit day room at the end of the hallway. It wasn't much to look at. A better view was outside the room's huge windows: springtime on the cusp of breaking through in a leafy riot. As we turned for the door, we caught sight of the floor. There, set into scuff-worn tile, were game boards of all kinds: checkerboards and parcheesi boards and boards for games so old we've never played them. Along one wall was a black bowling alley, with circles for the triangle of pins at the end. 

All at once, the tragedy of that place crushed in on us. We saw the sick children who must have played there and died there, all of them staring out those same windows, wishing they could feel the grass under their feet. The Observer stood in that almost-spring sunshine and felt like crying, one denizen of the bright and glorious future, communing with ghosts in a glint of cloudy tile.     


The rowdies are going to the picture show.

Last weekend, The Observer went to the movies. We endured the ticket and concession lines and made a last-second grab for extra napkins and a small cup of toxic butter salt. But before we could get past the ticket taker, we stumbled on a belligerent teen-ager, face down on the carpet, hog-tied at the wrists, rambling incoherently in an unknown dialect. Two police officers stood above him, peering down with some bemusement. “What's he going in for?” The Observer asked the ticket clerk. “Who knows?” she replied. “He does this every so often. Never causes any harm to anyone, he just runs off at the mouth and winds up there on the floor before someone has to come and claim him. Don't know who he's with or how he gets here.” Offering a feeble explanation, The Observer said, “Maybe it's the moon cycle.”

Exiting the theater after the film, The Observer had more excitement. We and our cohort were nearly mowed down by a huge four-door land yacht cutting a sharp turn out of the parking lot, blown speakers roaring with the windows down, and “KICKIN'” painted across the rear windshield in white shoe polish. No sooner had the car taken the curb on two wheels, the boys in blue hit the lights and pulled over the driver, who's more than likely soon to be kickin' it on the way to traffic court.

Art can stir folks up, yes it can. Got to say, the action in the lobby and parking lot beat what was going on in “The International.”


The Observer's own teen-ager surprised us with the breezy announcement that she was going to the opera. Huh? Did Lil Wayne write the libretto? Pulling on a new-found high brow as easy as she would a ratty camisole, she was off to Breckenridge to see a performance at the Met on the silver screen. Guess what? The opera — turned out to be “Madame Butterfly” — drew a nearly full house. Turns out many brows among us are high. That's kickin' it.


NEWS ITEM: The purple martins have returned.








Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

  • Friday's headlines and your holiday open line

    What happened at the State Board of Education and what does it mean; Legislation filed for Hutchinson's government reorganization plan; Pediatric flu-related death in Arkansas reported; Suspect arrested in unsolved 2008 North Little Rock homicide.
    • Dec 21, 2018
  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "Juice In Your Own Life"

    In this week’s episode, Charles and Antwan provide perspective and conversation on the Little Rock Mayoral Election and State Board of Education’s consideration of the anticipated request to waive the Fair Teacher Dismissal Act. In addition, Charles and Antwan discuss all things happening in the Little Rock School District with Superintendent Michael Poore.
    • Dec 11, 2018
  • End of the week headlines and your open line

    Alderman candidate misses chance to cast deciding vote for himself in runoff election; Dem-Gaz to phase out print delivery in El Dorado, Camden and Magnolia; Rapert threatens UA Fort Smith over 'Drag Queen Story Time' event; The Van seeks to raise $35,000 in three weeks for new warehouse facility in South Little Rock.
    • Dec 7, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • On Walmart and state money

    No they don't need state help. Any conservative legislator who is true to their tea party principles will crow on about crony capitalism. I look forward to deafening silence.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • On shitholes

    The Observer is at home today in our kitty cat socks, weathering a combination sick day and snow day. Way down in Stifft Station, we live at the top of a hill that slopes away in all directions. That's good in a flood, but piss poor other than for sledding during snow and ice, especially when you only have access to a two-wheel drive car.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The job

    The Observer and Mr. Photographer were headed across town on our way to another press conference the other day when we got to talking about The Job. Newspaperin'.
    • Mar 15, 2018

Latest in The Observer

  • Phoenix

    If you're reading a paper copy of this esteemed publication right now, you're holding something special in your hands: the last weekly print edition of the Arkansas Times, the end of an unbroken chain that goes back and back, week by week, every week, to May 1992, when the Times became what the hep cats call an "alternative newsweekly."
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • Ramblin' Jack

    The Observer, like a lot of folks, is drawn to the real places: barbecue joints and honky-tonks, seedy truck stops and greasy little diners where the waitresses and clerks still call you "Hun," used bookstores that have been there since Faulkner was still drinking mint juleps, bait shops hung with dusty-eyed bass pulled up from the deep when Eisenhower was in the White House.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • Phillips

    After many years of faithful service, it seems as if the transmission in Black Phillip — our trusty 2006 Honda CRV — is in the process of giving up the ghost.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Kathy Webb wants to talk about the ‘good things’ happening in Little Rock

    As Kathy Webb enters her fifth year as Ward 3 city director her priorities include improving public safety; working to reduce poverty, hunger and homelessness; and making Little Rock a more sustainable city. One of Webb’s greatest concerns is the way in which the public image of the Little Rock School District impacts its students and teachers.

Most Recent Comments


© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation