September 28, 2022

We have a family tradition of doing something special for birthdays.  When my brother turned 60, he played 60 holes of golf in one day.  Another brother ran a marathon distance on the day he turned 60.  This has trickled down to the children and my son would climb one of the tallest mountains in the state on his birthday and a nephew ran another marathon distance when he turned 40.  He was joined by his father for the last five miles and his 6 year old daughter for the last mile.  As only a child can do, she sprinted to the finish and told him she had won.  This year Melissa turns 60 and I told her we would do something special for her birthday.  It turned out we were able to book a trip that includes several days in Paris, France.  While this is not on her birthday, I told Melissa I was taking her to Paris for her birthday.

When I looked online, I found the area that became Paris, Arkansas, began in 1820 as pioneers settled along the Old Military Road between Little Rock and Fort Smith, and 5 miles (8 km) south of the Arkansas River.  Paris was named after the French capital in 1874 and became the Logan County seat, being incorporated on February 18, 1879.  Paris was a bustling city of 800 in the 1890’s and boasted two newspapers, a bottling-works company, nine general stores, and the Paris Academy of Arts.  By 1917, coal mining had become the community’s main industry, but this had declined by the 1960’s.  The town decided to widen its economic base and today has manufacturing facilities making parts for the automotive and aerospace industries.  Farming and ranching remain among the largest industries in the county, and tourism got a boost with the construction and opening of a 60-room lodge and guest cabins on the top of Mount Magazine, which is 18 miles (29 km) south of Paris.  An estimated 400,000 people a year travel to Mount Magazine.  Melissa and I turned around at Paris.

As her real birthday approached Melissa let me know the trip to Paris did not mean we would not celebrate the actual date.  She took the day off with my promise of a magical evening.  I had planned to take a scenic trip through the Arkansas countryside with the top down in the Benz, but the 100F (37.7C) temperature waylaid that idea.  We instead made an hour long scenic drive with the windows up and the AC on, and Melissa wondering where we were going the whole way.  Just when she thought she had figured out where we were going, I unexpectedly stopped just on the outskirts of a small town and exclaimed, “I told you I would take you to Paris for your birthday!”  We were in Paris, Arkansas.  The look on her face was priceless.

THOUGHTS:  The name ‘’Paris’’ originated from the earliest inhabitants of the region (the Parisii tribe).  The city is also known as the ‘’La Ville Lumiere’’ meaning ‘’the City-of-Light’’ because it is the first big city in the continent to have gas street lighting, and it also played a major role in the era of Enlightenment.  The city’s streets and boulevards were illuminated by 56,000 gas lamps in 1857.  The name Paris can be found in 48 places across 17 countries, with 22 located in the US.  I grew up in Manhattan, Kansas.  Manhattan was founded by settlers from the New England Emigrant Aid Company (central New York State) as a Free-State town in the 1850’s, during the Bleeding Kansas era.  Manhattan is nicknamed the “Little Apple” in reference to the Manhattan borough of New York City.  Small towns are named to reflect their heritage, the origin of the founders, or with the hope they will flourish like their namesakes.  While few achieve these lofty goals, they hope the name provides lives on.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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