A look back at my 501 LIFE

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

Let me tell you about my 501 LIFE Magazine past. If we only address the “501” part of the title, it would not have had that distinction before 1947. Area code 501 was initiated as one of the original 86 North American Numbering Plan areas assigned on Jan. 1, 1947, as recommended by the telephone industry. Natives recall it only being used for long-distance calls by dialing or operator assistance. All of Arkansas used the 501 area code (AC) until 1997, when AC 870 was split from AC 501. In 2002, AC 479 was created for the northwestern corridor, and AC 870 remained from the north clockwise to the southeast.

Our town was still rather quiet at that time, but it would not remain so for much longer. The population hovered around 29,000 and clusters of large or exclusive subdivisions were few. Most businesses were located downtown. The first two “big box” stores would eventually reveal who were the admired, stubborn survivors.

Local people owned and operated the local newspaper, and residents planned their daily habits around reading it. The old post office remained in place, but the train depot was gone. Massey Hardware was still the place to buy guns, knives and kitchen supplies. Garden seeds were sold by the small scoop and cost a few cents. Since Massey’s existed all of my life, I assumed it would continue. Silly me.

In 1996, our former Old Conway Preservation Society was planning a Christmas tour. For this, I volunteered to write a pamphlet listing and describing historic homes to be shown. Someone suggested it might be helpful publicity in the paper, so I took one of the articles to Publisher Mike Hengel. He said to come back in two hours and we would talk. I went back and he simply asked how many more I could write and how often. I didn’t even know I could do that one! But I said, “Perhaps a few,” because at the time I was still teaching.

This soon-biweekly venture ended after six years, during which I enjoyed writing 103 full-page articles with photographs. The paper was not yet online in 1996. I wasn’t either! I typed and printed my columns and took them to the office myself. In 1997, “online” became reality. In recent years, all of these were deleted from the newspaper’s online archives.

I missed writing during a seven-year hiatus. One evening, I attended a fire department meeting to which I had been invited. While waiting for it to start, Sonja Keith, a former co-owner and the editor of 501 LIFE Magazine, approached me for a chat. We spoke of my former columns, and she asked if I would be interested in writing for the magazine. I certainly would be — with an exclamation point!

My first column was published in May 2012. During my writing years, I have learned a few things. (1) Always proof multiple times and consider suggestions by innocent bystanders. (2) It is painful to delete a paragraph that is dear to me to satisfy a word count. (3) Writing a column for a flowery April issue while a February snow is expected invades the brain’s personal time zone. (4) Some words don’t have usable synonyms. (5) Never type and simultaneously reach for your coffee without noticing it is yesterday’s cold, nasty brew containing an insect fatality.

Most of my columns are nostalgic or historical. Readers ask how I remember things from so long ago. First of all, I am “vintage” myself, but it helps that my parents were born in 1900. Their memories contained stories from their parents born in the 1870s. I also cherish written family stories, which people rarely record anymore regardless of not having to write by hand.

If all five Lawson siblings were living today, our ages would range from 80 to 96. How could I possibly miss gaining knowledge from several generations? Thankfully, I also paid attention! Presently, not many are interested in keeping the links in the chain of ancestry. When all of those who are gone who could plug in answers to questions, that’s when family origins, traits and health histories will become valuable but unavailable.

Now under the co-ownership of Editor Stefanie Brazile and Publisher/Art Director Jeremy Higginbotham, 501 LIFE Magazine gives its readers a broad reach of subjects. They include chances to learn about those who have achieved despite struggles, utilized God-given talents, bravely followed opportunities, successfully gambled on a business idea, or determined an honorable career. Contributors have an outlet for expression, knowledge and experience to share, and best of all, enjoyment of connecting with readers through emails, phone calls or chats in the grocery aisles amongst the potatoes.

In discussions while standing amid the reds and the russets, a reader will sometimes mention how an article reminded them of someone with a talent for water-witching, genealogy, or raising chickens. It could be coverage of ordinary people with surprising backgrounds, accomplishments or experiences. We’re still in the Ozark foothills, you know!

Yes, I could say more, but I am nearing that excessive word count that might require me to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” That ancient phrase from the 1500s refers to those earlier-mentioned discarded paragraphs that may be dear to me, but must become dearly departed.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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