There's no better way to see your town than to show it to a visitor. You visit places you'd never made it to before. It's like a New Yorker who finally gets out to the Statue of Liberty because family's in town.
Well, the National Conference of Editorial Writers is like family; it's a small outfit as far as national organizations go (542 members last time I checked) and only 100 or so usually make it to the annual convention.
Next year our family reunion is scheduled for Little Rock. So the lady who'll be president of the group then-Vanessa Gallman of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader-flew in for a couple of days to check out the sights. Which meant I got to see them, too.
It was a revelation. What a compact, convenient, fascinating city in which to hold a convention for any group with an interest in politics and history. Within a square mile or two of our downtown convention hotel, we'll be able to take in the Historic Arkansas museum, the Old State House, the MacArthur Military Museum, et a lot of cetera.
Just a short drive away from downtown is the Central High Museum, which is located in a beautifully preserved old Mobil gas station. It feels like a time warp-as if some giant hand had set it down straight from the Furious Fifties.
Here is where the mob gathered in the historic Crisis of 1957 over school integration, and reporters phoned in their dispatches, and Š well, there's an awful lot of history packed into these few square feet.
There in the corner of the old gas station sits a 1950s RCA Victor television set replaying the highlights of the constitutional and moral Crisis of '57 in one continuous loop. Like a nightmare that never ends, which could be one definition of history.
By September of '08, when the nation's editorial writers are due to gather here in unsolemn assembly, the spacious new addition to the museum should be completed. It'll make a good place to assemble some of the historians who will have spent 2007, the 50th Anniversary of the crisis, rehashing it.
Another highlight of any tour of Little Rock is the still new Clinton presidential library. For me, the library's big attraction isn't the slick exhibits up front in glass cases, but a behind-the-scenes tour of the library's archives, with their 80,000,000 pages of documents and 630 tons of material.
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