Bio, Bi-ooh; it sounds like Burl Keller singing the chorus of a doo-wop tune. I shall attempt a chronology of my life with a few amusing anecdotes along the way. For the faint-hearted and straights you might want to click on somebody else at this time.
Jan. 24, 1940 was when it started. I was born into a situation where cows, horses, dogs, ducks, and chickens were abundant and had a very sickly childhood. I was diagnosed with every disease known to man and I discovered, 30 years later, I was allergic to farm animals. I got better after starting grade school. My years at Peabody was spent in the sixth row, sixth seat. On good days I spent my time in the cloakroom. In Junior High I maintained the same degree of academic excellence. I went through the Cap and Gown line in 1958 and was handed a piece of paper that said "Needs One Credit". Amusing Anecdote #1. As most of you know, my house burnt to the ground a month before graduation. I was taking Dramatics from Mrs. Holt and a scrapbook was required at the end of the semester, I figured I had the perfect excuse and lied and told Mrs. Holt it burnt up. You got it - she flunked me. I spent the summer of '58 living at the Goldman Hotel, working as a lifeguard at Creekmore and taking a writing class from Mrs. Tweet. But, what a great lady she was. For the first time I understood what education was for. It was kind of like my right thumb, education could get my ass out of town. I spent the next two years at Westark trying my damnest to figure out what to do. Many were the days at Paddock's Pond with a fishing pole, no bait, and a six-pack. After graduation from Fort Smith Junior College, my mother informed me that little birds and children fly away.
Dallas - Big D, little 'a', double 'l', 'a' - 's'. Gaston Avenue. Parties 24/7/52. I worked as a shill for Anita Jeanne's husband who could produce a jack of diamonds anytime from any deck of cards. I learned the difference between shaved and loaded dice. Honestly, that lifestyle got to be too much for me; I have been shot at three times and hit once. It was time for a change. I married a very nice lady at the time and got a real damn J-O-B. Due to my medical history, 4-F, I learned that the state of Arkansas would pay for further education.
Fayetteville, AR, 1961 I enrolled in the University of Arkansas. 1965, I received a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture. I went back to Fort City, served my apprenticeship under Kenneth Cockram and became a licensed Architect in 1969. Shocking, huh? Nobody was more shocked than the sixth row, sixth seat graduate from Northside with a 1.56 GPA.
The high did not last too long; I got fired from my job and divorced three days later. I was really sick of wearing suits everyday and relative to the nice lady, we had irreconcilable differences.
Foot loose and fancy free that was me. I started a business at 701 North Greenwood that was commonly referred to as a head shop, the Anthem. I was the first person in a five-state area to silk screen peace symbols on T-shirts. I manufactured wire metal jewelry (roach clips), made bamboo and ceramic bongs, did all sorts of custom leather work, and wholesaled and retailed all of the above along with sand candles and smoking paraphernalia. The Anthem was successful enough that I decided to do it again in Fayetteville, 40 Acres. I hired this little hippie chick from Tulsa who just flunked out her freshman year with a white afro bigger than Angela Davis' to run the joint. Today this 'Hippie Chick' is my wife with a master's degree, an instructor at UAFS, and an editor for Delmar Publishing and working on a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology.
Amusing Anecdote #2. As you might remember, Fort Smith in the late 60's, early 70's was somewhat conservative, a place where the peace symbol was viewed as the footprint of the American Chicken. At the Anthem I got a phone call from an emissary of Slim Henderson. I was required to be at a meeting where I was told "We bought a list of a federal strike force thinking that they were after us, by they are not after us, they are after you." For those that don't know, the 'we' in the above sentence is the so-called Dixie Mafia. I think I wet my pants. It was many years later that I figured what this was all about. As I understand things, Nixon spent a ton of money trying to infiltrate the anti-war movement. It was at this point that I became as paranoid as Nixon. At this meeting I was shown a list of names, five, and sure enuf, one at a time they all showed up at the Anthem. All of them pretending to be free spirits, reformed clerics, and anti-war-ists. They were all so phony I would like to think that I would have knocked them off without knowledge of the list. It was a given that anybody doing what I was doing would draw heat. I was used to the girlfriend of some guy busted for 1/2 oz. of pot trying to suck me into something illegal, but to have five feds after me made me nervous. This all culminated one Sunday morning when a friend of mine who had connections downtown told me that the cops were going to give me three pounds of pot. Three hours later I was out of Fort Smith, walked off and left considerable assets and have never regretted it. It was an outrageous 3 years and freedom is just another word when there is nothing left to lose. Did I mention the not-so-undercover female cop that represented herself as a porn film star from Oklahoma City? I will tell you about that lovely experience at Goodson's.
I went to Lake Frances Park, outside of Siloam Springs. Bought a cabin in the woods, read a book called "Soul Murder" and discovered who I was. Watergate hearings were on TV and so I decided that I would go back to school, become a lawyer, and cure all the ills in the world. Slick Willy was teaching constitutional law at that time. I never made it to Law School. My afroed friend and I rode a chopper to Fayetteville. We stopped by the Fine Arts Dept. to check it out on our way and I met the chairman of the Art Dept. Tom Turpin and he offered me a double assistantship if I would enroll in the MFA program and teach art to non-art majors. I mean who wants to be a damn lawyer anyway; they are right up there with used car salesmen in public opinion. I never did meet Slick Willy but I have occasionally wondered what might have happened if I had.
Bronze casting, forging and welding steel, firing ceramics, teaching art to non-art majors, being a pal to Ruben Reif, 75 years old, and hanging out in the hallways with Ruben watching all of the bra-less chicks go by. No heat, best time of my life. I would still be there but affirmative action ended my job. I was the lowest person on the faculty totem pole and the first to go. I told them that I had Indian blood but no role number. Adios, good-bye.
I tried to get a job in Siloam Springs as a car mechanic or whatever, to no avail. I sneaked back into Fort Smith working as a handyman for my father, low profile stuff, roofing houses, repairing plumbing, etc. Leonard Bogoslavsky called me one day and asked if I would work for the City. I told him anything that did not require wearing orange pajamas. It seemed the situation was that the City was the recipient of $400,000.00 by the way of Block Grants to fix up poor people's houses. I interviewed with Steve Lease and others and was asked if I could spend $400,000.00 in nine months at $6,000.00 a pop. I was always really good at spending money. No problem, I was hired but Steve told me I needed a haircut. That pissed me off because I had just cut off about 10 inches the night before, however, that night some more went.
About a year later an affluent General Contractor walked into my office, offered to double my salary if I would work for him as his in-house architect. I would be the architect of all the buildings he built. Great. Working for respectable people producing respectable work. This all worked really well until the aforementioned G.C. told me he was going to buy me errors and omissions insurance. After all that I had been through I could smell a set-up a mile away. I quit and started my own practice. 10-15-83 I got my first architectural commission in my own name.
Since then I became a small town architect with clients all over the USA, South American and Europe. Mostly nuts and bolts stuff in the health care industry. I really hope that my karma is OK because I would hate to wind up (or down) in one of those places, Nursing Homes, Assisted Living, etc. It is an issue nobody wants to confront but there are days that a massive heart attack looks really good.
My family, Mom & Dad are dead. My siblings are a bunch of ass-holes except for my sister. I have four children that bear my name. I forgot to mention that during my hippie days there was wife #2. It was kind of a rebound thing, doomed to failure from the start. She was a Jesus freak of all things. Irreconcilable differences to say the least.
Kids. My only daughter, Gretchen has a Masters Degree in Finance and does well except her husband has terminal cancer. That's really rough on her and everybody else. My oldest son, Bumpas, joined the Army as a private, went through Desert Storm in a helicopter, returned as a Captain and now lives next door. He is a double 'E' major at UAFS. Starr, my 25-year-old son is working as a Chemist at the University of Tulsa and getting married soon. Sam, my youngest is 15 years old, a junior at Northside and going to UAFS in the afternoon, pre-architecture.
That is about it, but I must mention something that I am really proud of. Fifteen years ago I founded a 501(c3), Music Fort Smith, Inc. The purpose of this charity is to aid young musicians and other performing artists. I now have hundreds of kids. During the recent NYC Blackout I got a long distance call and was told that there was a Block party in Harlem being held in my name. How about that, warm and fuzzy. I should also mention the Malco Theatre, a real vaudeville theater. MFS first tried to buy it from John Yantis, a great guy. He started off wanting 125 grand for it. We negotiated the price and cut it down, he died. His son, Marshall sold it to MFS for 10 gees. The New Theatre will cost about 4 mil to restore it to its 1911 appearance. MFS has spent 2 or 3 hundred thousand by way of grants and fundraising and the labor of a whole bunch of people to get it in shape for restoration. Now, I read in the paper, the City of Fort Smith will use its power of eminent domain and take it from us. If this happens and they restore it to its 1911 appearance it will be the greatest thing for the city and downtown. People will come from all over the country to see this jewel. Anybody that will support this effort, I will be in their debt.
I wish everybody peace, love, truth, and beauty, except a few that I hope I live long enough to piss on their graves.
John Horne - 2003