Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TOP STORY >> City’s 65th anniversary

Leader staff writer

Nearly 150 people squeezed into seats and along the walls of the Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center on Monday for the first Sherwood Heritage Day to celebrate the city’s 65th birthday.

A Sherwood flag was flying proudly over the nation’s Capitol in Washington to commemorate the celebration, said Jason McGehee, a representative from Rep. Tim Griffin’s (R-Little Rock) office.

The crowd reacted to his announcement with awe.

The speakers — founding mother Amy Sanders and founding father Bernard Olds — stole the show next. Although he didn’t speak, Ron Duran, another founder, also attended the event.

Darrell Brown, chairman of the Sherwood History and Heritage Commission and the driving force behind Monday’s event, said, “The Duran name is synonymous with Sherwood (and) 95 percent of the memorabilia we have on display is from Ron Duran.”

As Sanders approached the microphone, the audience rose to its feet and clapped boisterously.

She said, “This was definitely a good place to grow up.”

Sanders told everyone in the room who was born before 1947 to raise their hands. Then she asked them if they remembered what they were doing on May 1 of that year.

Sanders was living in a small apartment with her young daughter. There was a housing shortage at the time and World War II had just ended.

Sanders said people always want to do better when they have children. That is one reason she started looking for a house.

The home she found was one of just a few built in the Sylvan Hills community.

Sanders said her family was so excited about living there that they moved in two weeks before the house had electricity and water.

They paid $100 up front and $4,500 total.

Each neighbor had two, three or four kids, Sanders said.

Her children were active in extracurricular activities at the high school, but they didn’t have cell phones back then.

The used a pay phone at a business close to the school to call and let Sanders know when they needed to be picked up.

“We never had to worry about their safety and that was a good thing,” she said.

Olds told the audience that he was a rural mailman.

“I got roped into a lot of things because I knew everybody,” he joked.

Olds said one of those things was circulating the petition to incorporate Sherwood as a city.

Mayor Virginia Hillman and the commission chairman surprised Sanders, Olds and Duran with keys to the city.

Sanders said she recalled that the first key to the city was made of wood.

The three city founders then blew out the candles on one of Sherwood’s two birthday cakes.

Brown began the festivities by reading a proclamation signed by Gov. Mike Beebe and Secretary of State Mark Martin.

The governor declared Monday to be Sherwood Heritage Day statewide.

The proclamation said families began settling in the area now known as Sherwood in the early 1900s and briefly described the city’s history.

The small farming community got running water from the three springs on the Koehler property in 1923. Electricity was available to households in 1925.

When Sherwood was incorporated on April 22, 1948, its population was 714.

The city was 2,754 strong the next year.

That population tripled to more than 10,000 residents between 1970 and 1980.

The latest count, according to the 2011 census, is almost 30,000.

Sherwood has 17 parks, a 10-acre sports complex, two recreational facilities, an active senior citizens center and year-round programs for youth of all ages, the proclamation reads.

It also said reaching this 65-year milestone is “a testament to its appeal as a place to raise families and develop the strong bonds that define community.”

Brown also introduced Tim Riley, a representative from Sen. John Boozman’s (R-Ark.) office.

Riley read a letter from the senator. It said, “Sherwood has come a long way. You have created a community to be proud of.”

Boozman is a “history buff,” Riley noted. His letter also mentioned how the city’s first speed limit was 25 mph, which everyone in the room laughed about.

Brown even joked about that still being the speed limit because he’s always getting pulled over for breaking it.

Riley said the senator encourages residents to take the time to get the stories told by the city’s founders in writing or on video so they can be shared at Sherwood’s 100th birthday celebration.