April 27, 2011 Edition

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Beatles memories recorded

Mike Bowman of Jonesboro (left) records Robyn and Mike Doyle of Jonesboro, formerly of Sedgwick, as they share stories about The Beatles' visit to Walnut Ridge in 1964.
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge Airport was again the place to be on Saturday for Beatle fans and those who saw The Beatles change planes there in September 1964.

The terminal was extremely busy as people who recall the day The Beatles landed in Walnut Ridge gathered to share their memories, photographs and Beatle memorabilia.

Mike Bowman of Jonesboro was the videographer, and Charles and Jackie Snapp and Brett Cooper, members of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee registered and photographed memorabilia and those to be interviewed and assisted Bowman in taping the interviews.

"The terminal building was the perfect place to film the memories of The Beatles' visit," said Charles Snapp. "We had room for everyone to visit as they waited their turn to be interviewed, and the airport location seemed to bring the memories a little closer in time."

Those waiting their turn visited and shared the memorabilia they brought with others, and talked about the excitement of being at the airport and seeing The Beatles during their only visit to Arkansas so many years ago.

"I feel like I'm 12 years old again," one interviewee said.

Paragould attorney Harry Truman Moore, who was 17 at the time and worked part-time for The Times Dispatch, covered the story for the local paper and was one of those interviewed on Saturday.

"The Beatles were expected to land during the same time church services were being held," Moore said. "My dad and I agreed that I would attend Sunday school and then go to the airport because covering the story was my job. Missing church wasn't taken lightly."

Moore said he was not a huge Beatle fan at the time and didn't bother to take a camera with him to the airport.

"If I had known then what I know now, I would have covered the story a lot differently," Moore said during his interview. And he would have taken a camera.

Kathy Stewart Hall of Franklin, Tenn., drove to Walnut Ridge on Saturday especially to get her story on video and brought a Beatles' album signed by the Fab Four at the airport on that sunny September day 46 years ago.

Her interview includes how she and her friend convinced her dad, Buddy Stewart, who was mayor of Walnut Ridge at the time, to take them to the airport and how they were able to get the autographs.

Ed Wiles of Hardy was also among those remembering The Beatles' visit to Walnut Ridge. He was 17 at the time. After learning from KAIT TV that The Beatles had landed in Walnut Ridge on Friday and had gone to the Reed Pigman Ranch near Alton, Mo., for the weekend, he and several friends set out to see The Beatles in person at the ranch. He shares his adventure on the video and talks about his personal encounter with three of the Beatles and his conversation about music with one of the members of the world-famous band.

"I can still remember what he was wearing that day," Wiles said. "He had on a white linen shirt with ruffles on it, very English looking."

Approximately 15 people were interviewed and videographed as they relived the experience, each with their own story to tell.

Many of the fans were too young to drive in 1964, and memories of that day included how people learned The Beatles had landed at the airport and were coming back on Sunday. There were no cell phones, no computers with E-mail and no Twitter, but word spread like wildfire. Youngsters had to convince their parents to allow them to skip church and take them to the airport or allow them to go with older friends.

The videos in their entirety and lots of Beatle memorabilia will be on display for the public at the Sept. 18 unveiling of the 8-foot-tall and 20-foot-wide sculpture that will be placed at the airport to commemorate The Beatles' landing here twice in one weekend. The sculpture is an artistic rendering of the iconic Abbey Road album cover, and will be placed in a grassy area between the airport terminal and the Wings of Honor Museum.

"We are still trying to get all the memories of that special weekend in September of 1964 logged down," said Charles Snapp. "We're asking people to submit their stories in writing, along with a photo of themselves taken that year, and photos of memorabilia they have."

People may send photos, memorabilia and/or written stories of their memories of that day to Jackie Snapp at P.O. Box 134, Walnut Ridge, AR 72476 or E-mail to jsnapp2441@sbcglobal.net. Those submitting stories will be sent a release form to sign, giving the committee the right to use their story and photos.

Jackie Snapp said the committee is hoping to one day put all the stories and photographs of the memorabilia from that weekend into book form.

"The proceeds from the souvenir Beatles Weekend in Walnut Ridge book will go to the Chamber's tourism committee and Downtown Walnut Ridge Inc.," she said. "Money raised from the sale of the book will be used for upkeep, and possible future expansion and additions, of the Beatles sculpture and the Guitar Plaza honoring rock and roll performers who once traveled and performed at venues along Highway 67."

The Snapps, Cooper and the Tourism Committee said they are very grateful to Airport Manager Mitch Whitmire, Michelle Anthony and other airport staff members for making the weekend a huge success.

"It's support and cooperation like they provided that's going to make these two tourist attractions successful," said Charles Snapp. "The Tourism Committee wants to go on record thanking the entire Walnut Ridge Airport Commission. They have been helpful and supportive of us from the beginning when we approached them with our thoughts and plans."

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