Plans are underway to develop a Pine Street Community Museum in Conway. The museum will focus on the history of the Pine Street School, families, churches and businesses in the traditionally African-American community.
Museum organizers met in September and have scheduled another meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Faulkner County Library, 1900 Tyler St. The public is invited.
Anthony Wayne Hoskins is chairman of the executive board of volunteers, assisted by Charles Finkenbinder, Louis Ambers and Sandra Green.
Hoskins said the purpose of the museum is to “encourage future generations; document the history and existence of this community; honor the legacy of those who were educated, lived, worked and worshipped in the Pine Street community; and be a part of documented American and Arkansas history.”
Hoskins was born in Conway, a son of Sylvester and Gladys Hoskins, but moved with his family to Detroit when he was about 3. Sylvester and Gladys Hoskins both attended Pine Street School, and he was a member of the Polar Bear football team (the Polar Bear was the school’s mascot).
“I spent the summers in the 1960s here in Conway with my relatives,” Hoskins said, adding that is when he became familiar with the Pine Street neighborhood. Hoskins retired from General Motors and returned to Conway in 2008.
“I joined the Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church,” he said. The church is in the heart of the Pine Street neighborhood and has a lot of history with the area, Hoskins said.
“About two years ago, God put it on my heart to [become involved in organizing the museum],” Hoskins said. “I proposed the idea to the church, and they told me they would find a place for the museum on-site at the church.”
Hoskins, who is a bus driver and substitute teacher for the Conway School District, said he began reaching out to the community and to the city, looking for people who would be interested in helping start the museum by donating or loaning personal mementos from their days at the Pine Street School.
“Pine Street High School closed in 1967 when the Conway schools were integrated,” Hoskins said, noting that the school was founded April 11, 1910, on Spruce Street. “The elementary school stayed open until 1969 or 1970. The old gymnasium and the elementary school building are still on the grounds of Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church and are still used.
“Pine Street School has a reunion every two years, so establishing a museum seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.
“I envision a museum like no other,” Hoskins said.
“So many kids … young people … think life has always been the way it is now,” he said. “I want them to be able to come in and see how things were done yesterday by people who did not have much. I want us to look back, see how things are right now and look to the future.
“We want to do oral interviews, oral videos, with people who lived in the community. The folks at Hendrix College are willing to help us with this project.
“We want to learn from the past and build for the future.”
Finkenbinder, who is a chief deputy city attorney, moved to Conway in 1992 from Buffalo, New York.
“I saw an ad about the first meeting in September and decided to get involved with this project,” Finkenbinder said. “Conway has changed and is different, but Pine Street has remained constant. This is something I want to be a part of. We want to see that this history is preserved for everybody.”
Ambers is a 1966 graduate of Pine Street High School and played on its last football team. He has been a TV and radio sportscaster for 38 years.
“It’s like a village here … family and kids,” Ambers said. “We want to carry on this neighborhood’s rich tradition. We want to show where we come from. We loved it here. Everybody went to school together, went to church together. Everybody got along and lived together.
“I see this museum as a way to teach kids life lessons.”
Hoskins has contacted Kenneth Barnes, a history professor at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and a member of the Faulkner County Historical Society, who is helping develop guidelines for conducting the interviews.
Hoskins has also met with Lynita Langley-Ware, director of the Faulkner County Museum.
“I’ve talked with Mr. Hoskins and really am excited to have him passionately working on this project,” Langley-Ware said. “We brainstormed lots of options, and I offered to help him in any way I could, from helping craft a mission statement to caring for the collections to helping with grant writing.
“The Pine Street community is such a vital part of Conway and Faulkner County’s history; it is very important to interpret that history,” she said. “We’d love to do more at the Faulkner County Museum, but we have very little material. Perhaps a museum more centrally located to the Pine Street community, created by the community and providing access to the community will be more successful.
“I envision a collaborative relationship with the new museum in which we help each other preserve and protect the rich and unique history of our county, our towns and our community,” she said.
For more information on plans for developing the Pine Street Community Museum, email Hoskins at email@example.com, or call or text (501) 548-4978.