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—May 6, 1995




            Kismet residents can’t remember when there wasn’t a “Little World’s Fair.”

            In fact, the small town in Seward County (2010 population 459) was only 28 years old when the first “Labor Day Picnic” was celebrated in 1915.

            Early activities included, in addition to the picnic, a Chautauqua and foot and horse races.  Local businesses, proclaiming it to also be “Merchant’s Day,” passed out gifts and prizes.

            After a four-year hiatus during World War II, the event was resumed—in 1946—and re-named to honor servicemen returning from the war.  This year Kismet will celebrate its 92nd Labor Day gala, its 66th known as “The Little World’s Fair.”

            Each year, the celebration attracts increasing numbers of people from all over the world and from throughout the United States.

            It is a popular weekend for both family and alumni reunions.  Many former Kismet residents choose the weekend of the fair to come home to visit.  The fair also draws others who have heard about it from friends, as well as people driving through the area.

            The Lions club has organized fair activities since 1966 when the Quarterback Club, the sponsoring organization at the time, disbanded.  The Town Criers, a Kismet Woman’s club and other organizations and individuals, work closely with the Lion’s Club members to ensure its success.

            The number of Little World’s Fair activities have increased over the years, but they still reflect the simple “down home” type of fun of earlier celebrations.  The events, which might include tractor pulls, stick horse races for toddlers and Grandma and Grandpa slow bicycle races, are planned for the participation and amusement of all ages.

Church services on Sunday initiate fair activities.  Events are planned for throughout the day.  Evening activities include bingo, followed by an ever-popular street dance.

 Labor Day morning, a frenzy of activity begins with registration for events at 6:30 a.m.

The mid-morning Labor Day parade features participants from many area towns.  In the past, two miles of floats, bands, vehicles, bicycles, tricycles, and horsemen have paraded down Kismet’s Main Street.

People begin gathering long before noon for the free noon meal of ham and beans.  They chat as they watch Lion Club members, standing over huge vats, stir the steaming, bubbling beans with canoe paddles and other workers laying out paper plates, plastic forks, bread and relish on long tables.

Two huge vats, containing 200 gallons of ham and beans, are prepared for the crowd.  Entertainment is provided.

In celebration of the town’s centennial year (1987), the Lion’s Club financed and, assisted by others in the community, constructed a 400 square-foot building to replace the canvas tent which had previously served as “Little World’s Fair” headquarters.

Everyone pitches in to help; everything about the fair is done by Kismet residents, area farmers and ranchers. 

The carnival is the only entertainment brought in from the outside.

Food, crafts and other items are sold by area organizations and individuals from booths set up at strategic points on and near Main Street.

Each year, recognition is given to the oldest man and woman, the couple married longest, the person who has lived longest in the Kismet area and those who traveled the longest distance to attend.  Prizes are awarded to various contest winners, parade entries and costumes.

Late Monday afternoon, one might hear a number of audible sighs as the last car disappears down Main Street.  The Little World’s Fair is over for another year.  Kismet becomes, again, a quiet prairie town.



Ungerer Flying Service, of Marysville, Kansas, had been in business only a few months when we acquired the dealership for Cessna Aircraft and became the proud owners of one of Cessna’s first post war airplanes. The Cessna 120 rolled off the production line in 1946, following the end of World War II. Shortly after, the 120 was followed by Cessna’s 140, 170, 172, 190, and 195 which we also acquired as they rolled off the line.

The Cessna Story
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                How Mary Spurgeon dealt with "Black Sunday"

Mary Spurgeon, the artist who sculpted the Wyatt Earp statue on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, in Dodge City, Kansas, grew up in a family of five girls and no boys near Ensign, Kansas a small farming community fifteen miles southwest of Dodge City.
On Sunday, April 14, 1935, she was herding cattle four miles from home.  It was a fine day with sunshine and a gentle south wind.  Shortly after three o'clock, the wind swung to the northeast and a black cloud rolled across the plains, engulfing everything in darkness.

Seventeen year old Mary Johnson used her coat to protect herself from the stinging, blowing sand.  For three hours, the storm raged, alternating between total blackness when "you couldn't see your hand a foot from your face" and brief periods of dim light.  Finally, she was able to walk home, leading her horse, wiping the dust from his teary eyes and runny nose.

"It wasn't an easy life, but we had freedom--time to think and time to dream," said Spurgeon whose award-winning western sculpture and paintings reflect her pioneer heritage.  Sitting her horse day after day, watching the cattle graze, Spurgeon had dreams that sometime seemed far-fetched.




(Excerpt from article in May/June issue of Grit Magazine)

 In 1949 my husband, Carl, and I decided to move to Arkansas, take life easy and “live off the land.”  We had been operating a flying service in Marysville, Kansas since the end of the war and before that Carl had flown B-24’s and B-29’s for the Air Corp.  I was a photographer. About as close as either of us had ever come to farming was Carl hoeing weeds in his Dad’s annual spring garden when he was a boy.  He figured, however, that anyone intelligence enough to fly bombers and operate airports surely had enough sense to learn how to farm.

To read the entire article, go to:



"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 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 --