Downtown Texarkana set aside holiday celebrations recently to celebrate two of the cities' identifying historical ingredients: railroads and Scott Joplin's ragtime music.
Dozens of city, county, chamber and commercial officials packed into the Flying Crow passenger rail lounge car to celebrate Joplin's birthday, the Texarkana Gazette reported.
"I want to thank everyone for being here because it was the passenger rails that help spread ragtime music to fans all across the country," said Carol Collins-Miles, with the Scott Joplin Support Group.
David Peavy, local businessman and investor, who is presently trying lease the lounge car to interested local restaurants, also thanked the floods of well-wishers at the event.
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"From now on we plan to make Texarkana a place that people move to — not move from," he said.
Texarkana, Arkansas, Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell said people are now coming to Texarkana not just out of curiosity regarding passenger railroad history and Joplin's music, but also because Texarkana could potentially be a good general tourist venue someday.
"I'm pleased to say that this rail car could help in making Texarkana this type of future tourist establishment," she said.
Texarkana, Texas, Mayor Bob Bruggeman expressed joy in seeing the Flying Crow being used to draw attention to both Joplin and the city's rail history.
"When I'm not in a hurry to get somewhere, I sometimes get a chance to talk to people from out of town that visit Photographers' Island on State Line," he said. "It's at that time that I get to tell people about the uniqueness of Texarkana being placed on a state line and that's when I also start to mention great people like Scott Joplin, Ross Perot and Mike Huckabee. One time, I met a father and daughter who came visiting here all the way from Ireland. I want to thank everyone here and thank you David Peavy for your investment in downtown Texarkana."
For his part, Peavy said the fact that Joplin's dad, Giles Joplin, worked for the railroad, shows what a deep connection that both cities have to the rail lines.
"Most everybody who grew up in Texarkana has had either a friend or a relative connected to working for the railways here," Peavy said. "We have railroads running through our veins."
Vicki Carr, executive director of Texarkana's Regional Music Heritage Center, added the fact that Giles Joplin did work for the railroad shows the city has a double stake in promoting both its musical and rail history.
The Texarkana Museum Systems recently conducted three bus tours of both commercial and residential locations near downtown connected to Joplin's life here in the Twin-Cities.
The tour started at the Museum of Regional History, at 219 North State Line Avenue, and headed south to both East and West Broad Streets where Joplin, who could also play the banjo as well as the piano, and his brothers performed as a quartet in places like saloons and dance halls. They also played at church socials.
Museum Curator Jamie Simmons said Joplin who, according research, may have been born on Nov. 24, 1868, was known by many as perhaps being the "King of Ragtime" music as well as the "Father of Ragtime." He eventually won posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his musical compositions so key to the founding of ragtime as a form of music.
"Back when Scott was growing up, there was no such thing as day care, so his mom had to take him with her to her work sites — at different homes — where she was employed as a cleaning lady," Simmons said. "It was at these homes where Scott got permission to play the homeowners' pianos when he was just four or five years old. That's where his love of music all started."
Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Texarkana Gazette.