Beatles in the South – Arkansas/Texas: February 2018

Sumoflam with the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, AR

It is not every day that one takes a road trip and comes across not one, but two memorials to the famed Beatles.

The first of these is a fascinating little story about a small little town in Arkansas named Walnut Ridge (population abt 5000). It was in 1964 and the Beatles were in the midst of their first tour of the United States. On September 18 of that year they had just finished performing in Dallas, TX and were in for a well-deserved break. A rich rancher from Missouri named Reed Pigman had a nice little dude ranch in Alton, Missouri (see the Pigman story here). Pigman also had a charter plane and flew the Beatles into the closest airport that could handle their large airplane. It was the Walnut Ridge, Arkansas airport.

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Somehow, some teen fans heard about it and when the Beatles returned from their visit to the Pigman ranch and to the airport on September 20, there was quite a little crowd there to greet them and see them off as they flew onto New York for their final shows. There were a few photos taken and a few autographs signed before the Beatles headed east. It was apparently the only time the Beatles ever set foot in the state of Arkansas.

British Flag Fire Hydrant on Abbey Road in Walnut Ridge
Yellow Submarine on Abbey Road
This way to Beatles Park at the corner of US 67 and Abbey Rd. in Walnut Ridge, AR
Welcome to Walnut Ridge

This little event left such an impact on the town that a whole street and a little town square in Walnut Ride is dedicated to the Beatles. There is a beautiful sculpture in Beatles Park with the Beatles doing their walk across Abbey Road. Titled “The Beatles Abbey Road Sculpture,” this piece was created by local artist Danny West (who also owns the little yogurt shop and coffee shop on Abbey Road) and is about 10 feet by 200 feet. The street has permanently been named Abbey Road and the sculpture is at 110 Abbey Road. (See more here)

The Beatles Abbey Road Sculpture in Beatles Park. Artwork by Danny West
The Beatles sculpture from a different angle
Artist Danny West is also the owner of the Art and Culture Yogurt shop and The Dark Side Coffee shop, next door to the park

According to Beatles at the Ridge Website:

The entire street scene is featured, along with more than 30 hidden references to Beatles song titles and album names. There are also a few hidden surprises that were added in by the artist that are unique to our city, and tie the whole sculpture to our town.  As lighting changes throughout the day, the hidden details in the sculpture reveal themselves to the observer, and at night, under the powerful lighting, the scene takes on a surreal quality, and more secrets can be seen.

The Imagine Shop on US 67 and Abbey Road
Darkside Coffee artwork of Ringo
Some art made from musical instruments at the entrance of the Darkside Coffee house
Scene from Abbey Road, Walnut Ridge, AR
Imagine

There are also shops named after Beatles songs such as “Imagine.” And, in this one little section there are also wooden cutouts of the Beatles, a painting on a window of the Beatles album and a lot of little history and trivia regarding the Beatles.

The town even has a musical festival and other events as well as a different park commemorating other musicians on Route 67.

The Guitar Walk recognizes some famous musicians who had performed along US 67 (dubbed the Rock and Roll Highway)
Large Guitar sidewalk
Rock and Roll Highway, Route 67 in Walnut Ridge, AR
Hi there John!

I don’t think that the Beatles ever made their way back into Walnut Ridge either as a group or as individuals, But I am sure that they would be honored by the dedicatory art and imagination that the people of this small community have put together. For Beatles fans, it is just another drawing card and a unique place to stop, which I did!

The Beatles in Houston, statues by Houston artist David Adickes

A few days later, I was in Houston and intentionally went downtown so that I could see another Beatles dedication that I’ve always wanted to see for the last few years. It is a set of four large, nearly 36 foot tall statues of John, Paul, George and Ringo created by Houston artist David Adickes, whom I have referred to in previous posts on this blog (see my post on the Three Giants of Texas). These statues have been moved to a couple of locations and currently reside in the parking lot of local 8th Wonder Brewery. I was able to get up close and personal with the statues, get some nice selfies and get a few other angles.

The Beatles statues by David Adickes, currently on display outside Houston’s 8th Wonder Brewery
George Harrison
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Ringo Starr
Alternate View with the 8th Wonder Truck to give a better idea of the size
The Beatles from behind the fence (what you would see if the gate were locked)
Another view of John Lennon

When I departed for my trip to Texas in early February 2018, I had indeed hoped to visit the Beatles statues in Houston, but had no idea about the Walnut Ridge story. Thanks to my trusty RoadsideAmerica app, it made for a unique theme to this long and winding road trip from Kentucky through the back roads of Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

I loved this…ya, ya, ya!!

 

Get the Roadside America App!

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Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland – Calvert City, KY

Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden

Down in southwestern Kentucky, Calvert City (near Paducah) there’s a little back road (actually US Highway 68) that takes you to a place called Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland. It is not necessarily what you would think of as a “garden,” but it is certainly hillbilly fun. And the toyland is amazing!

I visited there in early February 2018 and had a real good time with the proprietor Keith Holt who, ironically, looks like a hillbilly!

Hanging with the fascinating Keith Holt
Signs at Hillbilly Garden

I will tell you upfront, this place is not for everyone. Some people may look at it is a big junkyard. Others, like myself, look at it as a large folk art gallery. And, along with that is a fabulous toy collection and some smaller collections of things such as soda cans and beer cans, among other things.

When I arrived, I was met by Keith. In his late 50s or early 60s, Keith has shoulder length hair and a penchant for puns! Right down my alley!

A bottle tree (he has a better name — I forgot…)

But Keith is also a folk artist. He has taken all those bottles, old tires, old furniture in computer monitors and wires and cords and any other items it some people might consider trash and then turn those into a fun “garden.“ And he is built it at one level more for creativity by making sure that each story about each piece is some sort of a pun or play on words.

Keith has created at least 40 or 50 different “pieces“ that are stretched over what is probably a good acre of land. He is more than willing to take you on the grand tour and walk you around and tell you the stories behind each of the pieces of art did he is created.

Thronehenge in the Hillbilly Garden
He has a “Bumper Crop” in the garden
Love the “Sorry, We’re Open” sign!!
Flamingos are really tired.
Keith Holt giving his PUNishiing tour of the garden

I got my biggest chuckle out of a large circle of old toilets which I adoringly called “thronehenge. (see above photo)” He has another place with a couple of old mattresses and box springs and, of course, calls them his hillbilly springs or something like that. He has a Christmas tree that has a number of cans hanging from it. The tree is adorned with “Bud lights.“ How Christmas trees have to have lights, right?

I also got a kick out of a display right near the front that had four or five computer monitors including one on a snowboard. This display was called “surfing the web.“ Ha ha Ha ha ha!

Folk Art at Hillbilly Garden
Lawnmower Ranch (an homage to Cadillac Ranch in Texas)
Peace love and Jesus made out of bottles and things
These parishioners are pinned to their seats and bowled over by the preacher apparently
Ooh la la

Keith was throwing out stories to me left and right and puns front and backward. But, as a good blogger and a promoter of sites like this, I don’t want to ruin everything for you, the possible visitor, so you can make your own  visit and enjoy the PUNishment directly from Keith’s mouth! That is definitely the best way to go!

Back Side of Grandpa Oral Wallace’s original building

Keith’s Grandpa Oral Wallace bought an apple orchard and a two room house on 6 acres in November 6, 1928. According to Keith’s website:

“He started making apple cider and selling it at his new produce stand called “Shady Nock”. Then he built an under-ground still hidden in the barn and open up an auto camp with small zoo. He was a musician, so he performed for the guest. In 1931 after hearing HWY 68 was going to be paved the house was added onto so there would be a room to rent. The wood that was left over from the house was used to build a small country store (14’x14′) called Apple Valley. In this small space they had a small barbers chair where Oral would cut hair and a four seat diner where they served chicken dinners.  March 24, 1939 Gulf gas was added. Store/gas station closed down when Oral died February 28, 1964. Grandma Myrtle Wallace went back to selling stuff on the produce stand until 1988. Then in 2005, a change blew in !”

Inside the small original building
Grandpa Wallace’s original geetars and fiddle
Vintage Sign
Kitschy knick knacks and stuff
Old newspaper articles about the place
Fun stuff – even a Frog-a-lope
More knick knacks
Some of the can collections

That particular room is now filled with a lot of memorabilia about the early beginnings of Apple Valley. There is the old violin and guitar that belonged to Grandpa Oral.

There are hundreds of old soda and beer cans throughout the little building.  As a collector (when I was in junior high school), I was thrilled to see the old things, many of which are not around any more.

Can Collection
Old collector editions of RC Cans with baseball players
Old collector Falstaff Beer cans and a few others
And here is an oldie!
One of Keith’s many hand made puppets

Before moving from California to Kentucky, Keith was a puppeteer, actor and artist. He made and performed with puppets. Many of his puppets are also on display in this little building.

But, it’s a good proprietor and guide, Keith with sharp enough to leave the best for last. He walked me back to the yard and into a larger building in the backyard area and I was overwhelmed by the thousands of small toys and characters that he is a mast and put on display in this little place.

Keith with one of his creations
Puppets and other kitsch
Keith Holt is proud of his over 3000 piece Toyland, housed in a separate building on the property
A wide view of the Toyland room

In the Toyland there’s everything from Star Wars to the old little green soldiers that I used to collect as a young child. And anything in between that you can think of. Cars, trains and thousands of participants in the form of little creatures.

This is one of those places where you would need a few hours to actually see and identify all of the pieces.  So much!

A Panorama of the Toyland
Bobble heads galore (yes, that’s Ozzie!)

 

What can you see?
Hi Donald
A gathering of lost toy souls
There are hundreds of “action figures” protecting the Toyland

Keith told me that the collection in that room was only a portion of what he had and that he still has many others in boxes in a big semi truck to the side because he has no place to put them at this particular point.

The toy collection was not only amazing but lots of fun. Many of the toys I had seen do some part of my life and most thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing back about them. There were others that I had not seen. He made a point to show me numerous places where he had taken certain characters, dogs are action figures and put them together in scenarios, some of which you can see in the photos below. I honestly could not keep up with everything because my eyes were so full of eye candy.

Following are a few more scenes:

Hillbilly Garden Car
Who knows?
Whoa!
Scary (the one on the left of course)
Even found an old Roadside America book (no longer in print!!)

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SPOILER!: Cover Art for Book 2 – Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions

Big Cabin, OK

My second book – Less Beaten Paths of America: Offbeat and Quirky Roadside Attractions is currently being worked on.  My hope is to have it published by June 30. Like the first book, this will also be available for Kindle.  Unlike the first book, Volume Two will be chock full of COLOR photos from all over the U.S. and Canada and will include my fun stories about the dozens of quirky attractions I feature in the book.  It will definitely be a fun read!!

GET BOOK ONE HERE IF YOU DON’T HAVE IT

 

The cover for the new book has just been completed.  Once again, this was nicely done by my good friend Antsy McClain.  The original photography is mine with some cute edits by my pal Doug Kirby, one of the founders of RoadsideAmerica.com, and a talented photo manipulator!!

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