Longtime residents gather
One mystery was solved at the Bella Vista History Museum on Sunday. Long-time resident Bobbie French revealed how the Hiwasse Hilton got it’s nickname.
Back when Cooper Communities was employing multiple sales people to sell building lots to potential new residents, the salesmen were required to wear suits every day and drive either a Cadillac or a Lincoln. In the 1960s and ’70s there weren’t many places to eat in the area, so the salesmen gathered at the convenience store in Hiwasse at meal time, parking their fancy cars in front, making the convenience store look like a much different type of establishment.
French was one of about 20 residents who met at the museum to reminisce about the early days of Bella Vista.
Bill Reece moved to the area in 1968. As the resident living in Bella Vista the longest, museum staff awarded him a Bella Vista hat and a giant coffee mug.
“The best thing about Bella Vista is the people,” Reece said. He remembers throwing rocks out of the garden which his black lab retrieved until the day he came back with a snake bite on one paw.
Constance Waddell — the author of “Sally and Me,” a book about growing up in Bella Vista when it was still a summer resort — remembered hearing the snakes drop down from the path into the creek as she climbed the hill to her favorite rock.
“I don’t know what my mother was thinking letting me walk up there,” she said.
Waddell was born in Bella Vista, but did not live in town as an adult, so she missed out on the award for living in Bella Vista the longest. Jackie Carter, who moved to Bella Vista in 1970, was the woman who has lived continuously in Bella Vista for the longest time.
Terry Maienschein moved with his wife, Linda, to Bella Vista in 1969. They were much younger than the other newcomers to the retirement community. Maienschein took a job at Cooper Communities as a salesman. He remembers one day in the “sales pit,” the room where visitors were taken to close a sale on a lot. He looked away from his own customers to see the salesman at the next table kneeling on the floor with his customers.
Later, the other salesman explained that the customers were thinking about buying but wanted to pray on it first. Rather than let them leave the sales pit, the salesman insisted they pray right then and there.
When someone asked about snakes, Maienschein said the salesmen told customers that they were solving the snake problem by importing mongooses. The mongooses were actually native ground hogs.
Josephine Keith, the daughterin-law of E.L. Keith – the resort owner who sold old Bella Vista to John Cooper – remembered helping her father-in-law as a newlywed. She and her husband ran the skating rink some evenings. If it wasn’t busy, they spent the time listening to music.
Like Waddell, Keith moved away and then returned to Bella Vista. She lives in the house her fatherin-law built.
Wayne Calhoun Jr. hasn’t lived in Bella Vista very long, but he visited his father, Wayne Calhoun Sr., for many years before moving here. He said he moved here to help his parents, but they didn’t need him until much later.
He wanted to organize the meeting of long-time residents for his father, but in March Wayne Calhoun Sr. died at 101 years old. He had helped develop the Recycling Center and the ambulance service, his son said.
Xyta Lucas, the president of the Bella Vista Historical Society, said one reason for the event was to encourage residents to visit the museum and that was very successful. Once word got out about the event, there was so much interest, the organizers had to turn some residents away. There just wasn’t space for everyone, she said.
Most of the participants stayed to talk long after the camera was turned off, Lucas said.
Residents who moved to Bella Vista in the ’60s and ’70s were invited to a reception at the museum on Sunday, Sept. 16.