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Road Trip To Texas 2017 Part 5 by Francesc Lopez


On July 8th, we decided to visit some nearby Arkansas cities where Elvis performed. The goal for the day was to visit El Dorado, Camden and Hope, which were roughly a 200 miles day trip. We took US Route 82 East, and before we arrived at El Dorado, we stopped in Waldo, AR. The question is inevitable: Where's Waldo? Waldo is 48 miles East of Texarkana.

Before arriving at El Dorado, we went by a town called Magnolia. Its downtown is known for its murals and in one of them, we spotted Elvis depicted as Vince Everett in Jailhouse Rock. This mural is dedicated to Hollywood of the 1950s, and also has Charleston Heston, who personally signed the mural.

El Dorado, AR.

El Dorado is a modern city located 120 miles south of Little Rock. The downtown area has been revitalized and is the central point of entertainment of this city, which was nicknamed Arkansas's Original Boomtown decades ago. While cruising the streets of El Dorado, we noticed some painted guitars on the street corners. According to Jeanni Brosius,1 in her article "Excursion: Booming El Dorado - Past, Present and Future", these sculpted guitars are Les Paul guitars replicas which were created by different artists (2015).

On March 30, 1955, Elvis performed at the High School Auditorium sponsored by Mike Michel, a DJ from radio station KDMS. Other artists were featured in this event, such as T. Tommy, Betty Amos and Onie Wheeler. According to the Scotty Moore website, the school Auditorium at Summit Avenue and W. Block Street is now long gone.2

On October 17, 1955, Elvis came back to El Dorado to be featured in a free hillbilly amateur show at the Memorial Stadium. The free entertainment was presented for the conclusion of the Annual Oil Progress Week in El Dorado and vicinity. According to the El Dorado Daily News newspaper ad, the audience was supposed to sit in the west side of the stadium.

Fortunately, The Memorial Stadium, built in 1948, is still standing and being used by the El Dorado Wildcats as well as for other sporting events such as the Boomtown Classic. This well-preserved stadium went under renovations in 2010 with synthetic turf, a video scoreboard and band shell with aluminum bleachers at the southeast side of the stadium. These renovations made the stadium ineligible for inclusion in the National Register in early 2016. Officials with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program reconsidered the nomination after the property was presented again in August 2017 by surveyor-historian contractor Sandra Taylor Smith.3

Our next stop was to be Camden, but upon checking for the destination, we learned that the Municipal Auditorium was lost in a fire in the mid 1960's. At that point, we changed our plans and crossed the border into Louisiana to visit Bastrop instead.

Bastrop, LA.

We arrived at Bastrop in less than two hours, and quickly found the South Side Elementary School. Our first impression was that the school was small and somehow abandoned. The school marquee sadly indicated that the school had closed down and was now for sale. According Ashley May Mott from the Bastrop Daily Enterprise, the School District Board decided to close the school at the end of the 2013-14 school year.4

Elvis performed two shows on February 24, 1955. The local station KTRY sponsored the show; the complete bill in addition to Elvis included comedian Duke of Paducah, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Charley Stewart and Jack Hammonds, and the extra special Jimi Rodgers Snow.

With the visit to Bastrop coming to an end, we needed to go back to Texarkana. But we thought, West Monroe could not be that far away, right?

    





1 According to Excursion: Booming El Dorado - Past, Present and Future by Jeanni Brosius
2 According to El Dorado High School Auditorium & Memorial Stadium
3 According to Memorial Stadium nominated for placement on National Register
4 According to Southside Elementary School faces last day