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On a sunbaked Sunday noon in midtown Little Rock, a generational, political and cultural story unfolds.

It happens on the playing field of War Memorial Stadium and in the fairways and on the greens of the War Memorial Golf Course abutting the stadium.

It's a story contrasting the young and the not-so-young, the future and the past, all intersecting on a date to live in Little Rock transformation, though some would say infamy--July 7, 2019.

Inside the stadium, on the steamy synthetic playing surface, a couple of hundred umbrella-shielded people--young and black and white--sit in lounge chairs for the showing on the big screen of the women's World Cup soccer final between the United States and the Netherlands.

Soccer goals are set up at the ends of the field and a few bigger kids kick soccer balls into them. A greater number of smaller kids frolic inside a miniature soccer arena along the sideline.

The mayor of the city, Frank Scott, walking about proudly, says, "Oh, come on, now" when I jokingly compliment him on the turnout of "30 or 40."

This, you see, is his administration's idea. It's a small opening example of his vision of greater and more diverse use of War Memorial Park.

I ask the mayor to join me as I walk outside and cross Fair Park Boulevard to behold some of the final-round action in the apparently last Fourth of July golf tournament on the quirky and hilly par-64 War Memorial course.

It's the course the mayor and city are closing at the end of the tournament. It's because the city is broke, the course loses money, and the mayor has his vision for greater and more diverse use of the lovely green expanse in the center of town.

"Oh, I gotta go to communion," the preacher mayor says for an excuse.

That's a lot of communion if it lasts until after the championship flight's leading contenders have made the course's historic last strokes around 4 or 5 p.m.

The mayor is--to understate--not popular among the older group of mostly white men accustomed to playing in this tradition-rich tournament.

It may be as simple as that his soccer fields will replace their golf holes.

Ten-time tournament winner Chris Jenkins, a health insurance agent and Little Rock native who grew up playing the course, is not politically enraged as others are, but is nonetheless dressed in black for mourning.

"You should have seen him yesterday on 18," a man tells me, referring to Jenkins and a deft pitch he made Saturday from behind a shed to the green.

The 18th is the fairway running parallel to Markham Street, across which, as a teenager nearly a half-century ago untrained in golf but eager, I once so severely sliced a tee shot--or shanked dead right--that the ball bounded off the Markham sidewalk and careened between passing cars before coming to rest against the white-brick exterior of an obstetrics-gynecology clinic.

Jenkins does not fare as well Sunday. He finishes tied for sixth. A young man named Beau Glover, three times a runner-up, goes home with War Memorial's last trophy.

Jenkins' mother-in-law tells me the column Thursday about his and the golf course's heritage made her nearly cry.

But time marches on. The older lose what they knew and loved. The younger build something in its place. And it will all be repeated, maybe even reversed, in another lifetime.

An 82-year-old competitor, Sam McAllister, finishes his round in his 55th consecutive playing of the War Memorial tournament. He says the mayor, when making his budget cut, didn't even know about the existence of this historic 4th of July tournament.

That, I suspect, is entirely possible. An African American child of southwest Little Rock might not have had golf on his mind.

McAllister says he'll work to beat Scott when he runs for re-election.

McAllister lives in Bryant.

There are two ways to look at that. One is that Little Rock's parks and issues are for Little Rock's people to enjoy and decide. The other is that one of the best and most important things about Little Rock is that people come from out of town to its regional attractions and events.

A man who treasures a Little Rock event is entitled to express himself politically no matter where he lives.

As a Little Rockian, I wouldn't hesitate to state an opinion about Bryant's mayor, especially if that mayor deep-sixed some traditional Bryant event I'd long enjoyed, which he didn't, and I haven't.

So, as I walk back from the pro shop to my car at the stadium, I see a man fishing, children splashing in water, a group gathering in a pavilion, a stocky older man in red shorts missing a short putt, and families leaving the stadium after a women's soccer victory for the U.S.A.

Monday will be quieter and the dawning of ... something different.

------------v------------

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 07/09/2019

Print Headline: Time marches on

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Comments

  • JIMBOB47
    July 9, 2019 at 6:31 a.m.

    Scott won't let up until he turns Little Rock into Memphis.

  • RBear
    July 9, 2019 at 6:31 a.m.

    I wouldn't call this a great column, John. But it's your space so you can write what you want. I'm not sure exactly what point you're trying to make through the word soup, but I think it's that Little Rock's resources are for the region, not just the city.
    ...
    That point I took away was based on this, "There are two ways to look at that. One is that Little Rock's parks and issues are for Little Rock's people to enjoy and decide. The other is that one of the best and most important things about Little Rock is that people come from out of town to its regional attractions and events."
    ...
    Quite honestly, I think you missed Mayor Scott's point on the transitions of War Memorial and derive your point based on the comment of one single Bryant resident. In reality, both position are one in the same. One golf tournament doesn't make or break a golf course (unless maybe it's The Masters at Augusta). However, that venue could include a golf component such as a driving range and putting course which many golfers like to help hone their skills for the links.
    ...
    But the venue could be so much more for visitors from all parts of the region. While War Memorial can't be everything that Burns Park has to offer, it and Hindman can offer some of the components that would appeal to people in west and southwest Little Rock as well as Saline County. Think also of the student population at UA-Little Rock who could enjoy both venues.
    ...
    Scott has already stated in his luncheon speech for Political Animals that he envisions Little Rock as core to the region, not just for the citizens of the city. His model exists up in the NW corner of the state where all the cities work together to form the NWA growth corridor. Such should be the case of Little Rock and Central Arkansas where the attitude has been more about competition rather than cooperation. I think Scott is trying to change that mindset and yes, the World Cup watch party was one example.

  • Jfish
    July 9, 2019 at 7:52 a.m.

    Until the Mayor gets rid of his ridiculous security detail, I will likely side with McCallister.

  • GeneralMac
    July 9, 2019 at 10:10 a.m.

    How many people actually were there?

    (4th paragraph)......." a couple hundred "

    (5th paragraph )......."jokingly 30 or 40 "

    ( yesterday's Arkansas Democrat Gazette )........"dozens"

    Seems like "usual suspects" downplay the number of people at Trump events but like to inflate numbers if it is an event THEY agree with.

  • RBear
    July 9, 2019 at 11:21 a.m.

    Doug does it really matter to you, holed up in a small house in Sharp County? Most people have productive lives that get them out of the house. You spend all day holed up in that house, sniping at things that don't even remotely concern you. I guess you're REALLY BORED with no one wanting to even be around you.

  • GeneralMac
    July 9, 2019 at 11:26 a.m.

    RBear......I have been to Little Rock.

    I do go there ocassionally.

  • Morebeer
    July 9, 2019 at 11:30 a.m.

    There is and has been cooperation in central Arkansas. Look at Verizon Arena and the Broadway Bridge as examples. And there has been competition in NW Arkansas, such as the recent kerfluffle over arts centers. I expect the city to roll out a sales tax / bond issue to fund repurposing of WM and Hindman, and add 9 holes at First Tee to salve the angry golfers. Without that revenue, nothing is going to happen. City can’t mow its parks now. Butler Park is in violation of city ordinances and parts of it haven’t been mowed since early May.

  • RBear
    July 9, 2019 at 12:38 p.m.

    Morebeer I don't know the specifics on Verizon as it was built after I left. I thought the Broadway Bridge was a state-funded project (an additional $20 million from the county later) with input from both. It might qualify as cooperation since commuters use it daily to get between the two cities and to Dickey-Stephens Park. But I think Scott is targeting greater regional cooperative efforts. We'll see what that might mean going forward.
    ...
    I asked Scott about a tax increase at Political Animals and he said that before he brings one to the voters, he wants to make sure it is a solid proposal and compelling enough to win support. Right now, they are a long way from that point.

  • GeneralMac
    July 9, 2019 at 12:51 p.m.

    RBear.....will YOU be voting YES ?

    SARC

  • GeneralMac
    July 9, 2019 at 1:56 p.m.

    Bigger crowds than "dozens" can be seen at dope houses in Little Rock.

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