Monday, July 28, 2014

Old postcard: Twilight in the Ozarks

The scan really doesn't do this postcard justice, possibly because of the glossy, reflective coating on the front. But I'm happy to be writing about it here so that the postcard — and the story of the family behind it — are not forgotten.

The caption states: "Twilight in the Ozarks as seen from Tower at Mt. Gayler, Ark."

Mt. Gayler is NOT well-known. In fact, there is some confusion on Google as to whether it's spelled GAYLER or GAYLOR. (Gayler is correct, as we will discover shortly.) It's located along U.S. Route 71 in northwestern Arkansas, a bit north of the unincorporated community of Artist Point. Human souls are few and far between in that area of Arkansas.

The undated postcard is a Genuine Curteich card with C.T. Photo-Cote. (That must be the glossy finish.) The photograph was taken by Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Bellis of Mt. Gayler.

As of 2010, a descendant of E.A. Bellis was still living in the stone family house, next to the observation tower, atop Mt. Gayler. This information comes from an absolute gem of an article written by Velda Brotherton for the Washington County Observer in October 2010.

You should go read the whole article and check out the pictures. Here's a significant excerpt, though, so that I can round out this blog post with the history behind the postcard:
"She sleeps in the room where she slept as a child. Her bed is under the window she once looked out of as a young girl. But today, Ruby Jo Bellis does not see what she saw then. Traffic no longer rumbles along Highway 71. Drivers no longer stop to buy gas and their families don’t tour the gift shop or eat in the restaurant at Mt. Gayler. She is the third generation of her family to live in the remains of this once popular tourist attraction. And she lives there alone since the tragic death of her son, Janathan Jodane Bellis a year ago this month.

"Ruby said she will remain there as long as she can pay the taxes and keep the weeds pulled. Then she smiled and told me a story about her son when he was young. He told his grandmother, Sue Bellis, that he was going to pull the same weeds his great-grandpa had pulled.

"Edward A. Bellis Sr., his wife Sue Steward and their son Ed Jr. came to the mountain from Ft. Worth after they lost everything in the crash of ‘29. Edward bought five acres from R.D. Gayler, who had homesteaded the mountaintop south of Winslow so many years earlier. The family lived in the back of a pickup truck and a tent while they built the rock buildings and opened businesses that would grace the mountain for more than 60 years. They named the establishment after the Gaylers, who had been there since the mid 1800s.

"According to Ruby, whose mother told her the story, the different spellings of the Gayler name came about with a family rift, and those who remained there on the mountain spelled the name with an e, while those who left spelled it with an o. No one knows which the original spelling was, but the mountain is named after the ones who homesteaded the land there so long ago, and thus Gayler is the correct spelling."
Go read Brotherton's full article and learn about the history of the Bellis family and the mountaintop tourist attraction. And learn how the decisions on where to put highways can make and ruin businesses.

1 comment:

  1. I found it fun to read your article and your thoughtful excerpt from my article about Ruby Jo Bellis. She has since sold the property and left her beloved home. Work appears to be underway to do something up on Mt. Gayler, and thanks for seeing the name was spelled correctly.