How a cookbook built a gym for Evening Shade, Arkansas


Edna Bell-Pearson


          There was nothing wrong with the old rock gym.  Built in 1939, by the National Youth Administration, it had served the school well for more than 50 years.  But the young folks thought it would be nice to have a regulation size gym so they could host basketball tournaments and invite other schools for district and regional games.

They figured it would cost about $350,000.

          All schools—especially small ones—have trouble raising funds,” said Supt. Billy Paul Boyle, who oversees 314 students in grades K-12.

          Everyone was trying to come up with ideas on how to raise money to build a new gym.

          In the fall of 1990, Mrs. Lita King suggested that her home economic class might compile a cookbook to sell to raise money for various projects.  It would make a good chapter project for the Future Homemakers of America.  So the class went to work, collected recipes from local residents, assembled the cookbook and ordered 350 copies.

          No one expected them to sell as rapidly as they did.  But a new television situation comedy—“Evening Shade”—had just premiered on CBS, and the cookbook became a “hot” item.  An additional 200 copies were ordered quickly.

          Mrs. King’s husband, Kevin, who is an attorney at Hardy, suggested that the book be tied into the television show.  He encouraged the students to incorporate recipes from the stars of the show—and to apply the proceeds toward a new gym.

          Everybody laughed!  You have to sell a lot of cookbooks to make $350,000!

          But King, not to be daunted, spoke to a friend and fellow attorney, Hilary Clinton.  (They were working on the same case at the time.)  She, in turn, contacted friends in California—the producers of the TV show.

          Before long, recipes and photos of the stars began to arrive.  Burt Reynolds, the show’s major star, wrote a dedication for the book.

          After that, things began to move fast.  A drama as exciting as an episode of the show itself began to unfold.

          Shalynn Arnold wrote a letter to Burt Reynolds, inviting him to speak at her class’s graduation exercises.  He came.  So did Hilary Clinton and Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, producers of the TV show.

          Later that summer, Reynolds invited Shalynn to visit Hollywood at his expense.  While there she appeared in a scene on the TV show.  

          Lita King said that after the cookbook edition with the stars’ recipes was published, 110,000 sold in just about a year, making it the second fastest selling cookbook in the country.

          Soon the Evening Shade Cookbook Foundation was formed.  The group retained an architect and discussed integrating an auditorium into the plans for a gym.

          Orders for the cookbook poured in from all over the country, and that fall Mrs. King set up a vocational entrepreneur class through the State Department of Education.  For two years, students gained valuable experience, as well as credit, packaging, addressing and mailing out the cookbook.  The community joined in, and volunteers met each Thursday night, working long hours to fill the orders.

          “Although the gymnasium is important to the school, and it has brought a lot of attention to the town, what is more important is it brought the town together.  We were all working for a common cause—our young people,” said Donna Ables who spent innumerable hours working on the mailing project.

          In July of 1992, Charlie Dell—Nub in the sitcom—served as grand master in the annual Evening Shade Summerfest Parade.  He returned again the following year and was married in the Methodist Church to actress Jennifer Williams.

          Burton Gilliam, who plays Virgil, has also played an important role, as has Jay. R. Ferguson (Taylor), Jacob Parker (Will), and Bonnie Franklin.

          Due to nationwide publicity, tourists began to arrive from throughout the United States, Canada and several foreign countries.

          Construction of the gym began in October, 1992.  Delk Construction Co. of Bald Knob submitted the low bid of $604,000, almost twice the original estimate.  Not to worry; $300,000 worth of cookbooks already had been sold.

          When the gym was completed in August of 1993—at a final cost of $750,000—the foundation reported cookbook sales of more than $625,000.  Evening Shade T-shirt sales—totaling $25,000—purchased the sound system, a lighted school sign, drapes for the stage and other incidentals.

          The building was named the “Burt Reynolds Gymnasium and the Linda Bloodworth Thomason /Harry Thomason  Auditorium” and bears the TV show’s “Evening Shade” symbol.  A cover protects the floor when plays, band concerts and the like are presented.  An additional 600 chairs bring the auditorium seating capacity to 1,500.

          In the spring of 1993, the school received 70 blue and gold (school colors) warm-up suits as a gift from Burt Reynolds.  With them was a note: “I Love You, Burt.”

          Thirty teams from North Central Arkansas came for the first event—a basketball classic held in October of 1993.  School secretary, Anna Lee Little, was pleased the day she moved her files from a portable building that had served as an office into the new administrative offices in the old rock gym.  Physical education classes are held there as well.

          Over 200.000 Evening Shade cookbooks were sold, bringing in a total of approximately $1 million dollars.  It wasn’t all profit, of course, and some of it went to pay off some school debts, buy an adjacent lot, purchase mailing equipment and the like.

Sales slowed down after the show went into syndication, but no one complained.  There were enough good memories to last for years to come and everybody was enjoying the new gymnasium.

The Jonesboro Sun—


When we think of Homeland Security, most of us think of it as a Washington, DC organization involving the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, etc.  Few of us stop to consider the precautions being taken in smaller communities throughout the United States to keep us safe from terrorism.

Although the following was written a few years back, security measures are still being taken, in ways we may not even be aware of, not only in Southwest Kansas, but in other communities nationwide as well.


"Sixty-eight percent of the world's beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge," Stice said.  "This includes range cattle, feed lots, and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants -- National Beef, Excel and IBP -- which process process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day."

We Kansans have always felt relatively safe what with a wide-open prairie surrounding us and a half continent between us and terrorists and threats of like nature.  However, we may not be as safe as we’d like to think.

“Everyone is under the impression that if anything happens, it will happen in New York, not here,” said Mike Cox, Meade County Sheriff.  “That’s not necessarily so.  We, here in western Kansas, are vulnerable in a number of ways.  It’s possible for anything to happen at any time, and we all need to stay aware—and alert.”

This is also the message of Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, Marvin Stice, who heads up a recently formed committee made up of law enforcement personnel, businesses and individuals whose goal is to address all areas of terrorist vulnerability in the county.

“Our office receives upgraded Emergency Sensitive Notices from the FBI Intelligence Office periodically—especially when a terrorist alert is changed,” Cox said.  “With the 2nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaching, we are prepared to take any precautionary measures necessary—whatever the threat might be.

“For example, when the two previous red alerts occurred—in October, 2001 and February 17 to May 29 of this year—we were notified to beef up security at various Meade County facilities,” he continued.  “We had deputies on high alert on an hourly basis; then after the level of the alert went to amber, we continued monitoring the facilities with periodic drive-bys.

“Immediately after the terrorist attack, we were notified to keep our eyes on airports—especially spray planes which might be confiscated and used to spray toxic chemicals over towns,” he added.  “Since this is still considered a threat, we check the airport on an ongoing basis.”

“We work closely with county law enforcement officials as well as the KBI,” said Craig Stratton, who operates a crop dusting service out of the Meade airport. “Agents of the KBI checked all crop dusters in the state early on to make sure that we each have all the planes we are supposed to have—and only the planes we’re supposed to have.  They want to know where all crop dusters are at all times.”

With the threat to food security high on the list of possible terrorist activity, the Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, as well as area farmers and ranchers, are keeping a watchful eye on cattle, crops and grain elevators.

*“Bioterrorism has been a big issue ever since 9/11 and our beef industry is considered a very vulnerable target,” Stice said.  “Sixty-eight percent of the world’s beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge.  This includes range cattle, feed lots and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants—National Beef, Excel and IBP—which process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day.

“One of the objectives of our team,” he continued, “is to take every precaution possible to safeguard these facilities, including any attempt to spread foreign animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease, anthrax, etc.”

“If we receive a warning that dangerous chemicals or toxins might be passing through the area, we are prepared to shut down our main highways (54, 160 and 23) immediately and begin inspecting carriers” Cox said.

“Although we’ve had no serious incidents of any kind in the county and, thus far, reports have proved to be false alarms, we intend to be on the ready in case there is an actual emergency,” Stice said.

“The entire Southwest Kansas Medical Community has been on the alert since the initial terrorist attacks,” said Mickey Thomas, Director of Meade District Hospital.  “We watch for any indication of unusual viruses, poisons, small pox, etc., and are carrying a heavier inventory of antibiotics and supplies.  We also have a task force of aids standing by if an emergency should occur.”

Although the date has not yet been confirmed, a consortium of 17 Southwest Kansas hospitals are making plans to conduct a bioterrorism mock disaster drill in October, he said.

With new diseases cropping up worldwide, we are always on the alert,” said Michele Correll, Director of the Meade County Health Department.  “As a bioterrorism measure, we are working with a six-county regional group, studying ways to identify and contain these diseases should they appear.”

Courthouses, government offices, schools, utility companies, etc. are notified during heightened alert.

“Everything changed on 9/11,” said Mark Goldsberry, Director of Lake Meade State Park.  “Although Lake Meade is less vulnerable than the larger state lakes, we are always on the alert for unusual or unexplained fish kills, bird die-offs, etc., as well as persons or activity of a suspicious nature.”

Goldsberry is a member of the Southwest Kansas Regional Foreign Animal Disease Committee (FAD) as well as the Meade County Emergency Planning Committee.

“The success of Homeland Security depends on the involvement of the common people,” he said.  “The cowboy riding the pens, the waitress in a restaurant, the gas station attendant—any of us—may see or hear something important to our security.  The bottom line is that we all remain aware and alert at all times.”

In addition to supporting local antiterrorism planning groups, Darrell Yarnall, Senior Resident Agent for the Garden City FBI office, suggests that citizens be aware of who their neighbors are and report any suspicious persons and/or activity to the FBI or to their local law enforcement officials.

“We are concerned most about people, fitting the terrorist profile, who might move into the area and assume a new identity, using this as a base to carry on terrorist activity,” he said.                                                                                         

Dodge City Daily Globe 8/29/03

*All statistics apply to 2003

Although this article was published in 1903, Marvin Stice, former Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, has since informed us that agencies continue to remain alert for possible terrorist’s threats.  Certain information in the article might also apply to other counties, states, etc.  (Marvin Stice resigned as Coordinator in 2010).



"We have a great museum," Bert said.  "You'd be hard pressed to find an aviation museum with the diversity of airplanes we have anywhere else in the world."



Mystery surrounds the Meade, Kanas hideout used by the infamous Dalton Gang --