Garrison Avenue Is a Living Legacy – Jim & Mary Jane, Thisun’s Fer You…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Garrison Avenue this week, from my sick bed.

Every day I drive down Garrison. My office window overlooks a side street and the Avenue back toward Immaculate Conception. Some days I can almost hear wagons rattling and horses clomping down the wide avenue; gunfire and harsh words errupting from the street below — sounds from more than a hundred years ago.

I like that I can go to Flickr and use the integrated map to find photos along Garrison Avenue — posted by photographers from somewhere other than Arkansas. They were just passin’ through and were entertained by the eclectic old downtown.

Garrison Avenue is much more than remnants of rough and tumble days gone by. Check the newspaper. Arvest has announced plans to build on Garrison. See today’s Times Record.

My friend Tom Wing sent me this yesterday: 

For the historically evolved urban fabric offers a critically important life-support system to everyone who is sheltered there –whether temporarily as the tourist or permanently as the resident. This support is complex and multi-form. It is first of all supremely physical–indeed physiological. But it goes beyond that to offer psychic shelter as well. The city has been correctly defined as the theater of memory: that is, as the cumulative scene of past actions.
James Marston Fitch, Historic Preservation: Curatorial Management of the Built World (1990), p. xi. 

Psychic shelter. Theater of memory. Cumulative scene of past actions. Garrison Avenue tends to be that iconic representation of Fort Smith’s collective past.

People have a history on the Avenue, and they are keenly aware that there’s an even older history involving people who came before them. Perhaps that’s why I hear 100 year old gunfire from my office. Or maybe I’m just going a little nuts.

My friend Joe, Historian for the Common Man, says, “You could whiz out any window in Fort Smith and you’d hit history.” Shoot, Joe! You could whiz out any window on the Avenue and history would shoot backatcha!

Whether it’s Judge Parker strolling from the courthouse on up toward his house every day, or knowing the shops emptied out every time they heard the ferry was comin’ across the river — everybody wanted to see if it was Bass Reeves or some other deputy bringing back a load of prisoners — there’s a history on that Avenue.

A friend told me — and I know I’m gonna mess up the facts if I get too detailed — that she was in a bar on Garrison one night. I’m guessing in the 70s or 80s. So was this guy. The two stepped out to get some air and talked as they strolled down the Avenue. From that moment, they’ve shared the same journey, in life, in business, and in love.

I’ll never forget those two looking at me like I was crazy in about April 2006. The two of them, along with 2 or 3 of our friends from 5 Star Productions, were standing on Garrison Avenue, just outside the main flow of traffic.

I told em we were gonna shoot some cool stuff Memorial Day weekend for the rodeo parade. We’d have signs and stickers and stuff. And we’d put it all to music with a video.

My two friends who began their journey along the Avenue all those years ago really thought I’d lost my mind. I didn’t know what song we’d use. I didn’t know which block we should concentrate on. “Ya’ll figger out the details,” I said without concern.

Just as long as the finished product provoke expleteves under the breaths of some very important people in Washington, D.C. in a few weeks, everything’ll be jjjjjust fine.

Jim and Mary Jane and all my 5 Star buddies worked their tails off the day of the rodeo parade. It was hot. We had signs and stickers and stuff. My friends Claude and Jayne saved my bacon — they were handing out signs, grabbing em back, and then giving em to the next round of folks. They had a plan for making sure 100 signs looked like a bizillion posters.

Heck, a Bass Reeves look-a-like was even in the parade. On a horse! Go figger!

Anyway, a couple of weeks later we picked a song. Bon Jovi’s, “This Is The Story Of My Life.” We put all that video and all those photos to music. And, sure enough, when we got into the room at U.S. Marshals Service Headquarters, we silenced the museum site selection committee. Like we’d taken a stun gun to the lot of em. And airplanes whizzin by the window at Reagan National. It was one of the two coolest moments of my whole professional life.

The committee members were stunned by the passion that video exhibited. When they arrived last November, they realized we hadn’t used any sneaky editing tricks, either.

There’s something special about Garrison Avenue. She makes history every day. When Spc. Dustin Fisher died in Iraq, his funeral procession came down Garrison on the way to the National Cemetery. Hundreds of people spilled out of offices, silently holding small American flags. In tribute to Dustin and his family — and to every other American in harm’s way.

My friend, the genius with photographs, is Jim Holland. The graphics design artist genius is his wife, Mary Jane. They have a knack for capturing life on Garrison Avenue, in old buildings downtown, on the faces of the young and old.

Jim and Mary Jane began their journey together on Garrison Avenue, and last summer the two made a lasting contribution to the future of the Avenue and to downtown Fort Smith. They helped bring home the U.S. Marshals Service National Museum.

In 10 years, while historical interpretation professionals are providing guided tours in downtown Fort Smith, I’ll be less interested in the Judge Parker era than our visitors. I’ll stroll along the Avenue, aware of more recent significant mments.

I’ll be in awe of being in the place where Jim and Mary Jane made their commitment to each other, which led to raising a family, and making a lasting impact on the people in the town they love so very much.

I’ll be hearing Bon Jovi’s This Is The Story of My Life in my head:

Yesterday’s a memory
Another page of history
Sell yourself for hopes and dreams
That leave you feeling sideways
Trippin over my own feet
Tryin to walk to my own beat
Another car out on the street
Tryin to find the highway
Are you goin my way

This is the story of my life
And I write it every day
I know it isn’t black and white
Or anything but grey
I know to know I’m not alright
But I’ll be okay
Cause anything can,
Everything can happen
That’s the story of my life.

I’m gonna write the melody
That’s gonna make history
And when I paint my masterpiece
I swear I’ll show you first.
There just ain’t a way to see
Who and why or what will be
Til now is then
It’s a mystery
A blessing and a curse
Or something worse

This is the story of my life
And I write it every day
I know it isn’t black and white
Or anything but grey
I know to know I’m not alright
But I’ll be okay

Cause anything can,
Everything can happen
I’ve been thinking
Maybe you can help me
Write the story of my life
Whaddya say

This is the story of my life
And I hope you’re by my side
When I’m writing the last page…

If you’ve seen the video, Mary Jane is in the library, looking at a book. Bon Jovi’s whispering, as he should in a library.

Thank you, Jim and Mary Jane. I love you both. It is an honor to work with such incredibly, talented, people who are passionate about Fort Smith.

3 thoughts on “Garrison Avenue Is a Living Legacy – Jim & Mary Jane, Thisun’s Fer You…

  1. Hunt’s, Kress, McCrory’s, Yutterman’s, all with Mama ER, in the late ’60s and ’70s.

    Olde Town Grain & Feed, Angelo’s and Arley Mucks, most debinately withOUT mama ER, in the ’80s and early ’90s.

    Had my dadgum 20-year high school reunion on the top floor of Varsity in ought-ought-2!

    New lid at Tip Top Western Wear just last spring!

    ER *knows* Garrison Ave.

    “Thanks for the memories …”

  2. ER, that other address you have for me? Send me your snail mail and I’ll make sure you get a copy of the video we let loose at USMS Headquarters in DC last summer. It’s also got the 17 minute docu-pitch that got us in the game 4 years ago.

    Bein’ a writer an all, you’ll appreciate Jim’s ability to tell a story with just a snap of his trigger finger. We’re still laughin’ about bringing Bon Jovi to a serious business presentation in Washington, D.C.

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