Manila history comes to life

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
A live history presentation was made for Manila students starting at the Manila Depot Center, on to the museum and later to the cemetery. Pictured from left are: Iris Poteet portraying Hazel McKinnnon; Wendall Poteet as Harold "Trigger" Wall; Ty Presson as E.C. Fleeman; and Josh House as John Lasater. (Town Crier photos/Revis Blaylock)

Manila history came to life on Thursday, April 21, as four stories of Manila citizens from the past were revealed at the Manila Depot Center and the cemetery.

The Manila Business and Professional Women and members of the Manila Museum Committee gathered at the Depot Thursday morning welcoming students from the fifth grade.

Students were introduced to Hazel McKinnon (portrayed by Iris Poteet); Harold "Trigger" Wall (by Wendall Poteet); E.C. Fleeman (by Ty Presson); and John Lasater (by Josh House).

Iris Poteet portrayed the late Hazel McKinnon, founder of the Town Crier Newspaper.

Fifth grade students heard "first hand" when the four were born, came to Manila and what they did for their community.

Students viewed pictures, met family members and toured the Manila depot museum.

Ironically Thursday was not only Mrs. McKinnon's birthday, it was Mrs. Poteet's birthday. The students sang happy birthday to her.

Mrs. McKinnon came to Manila to teach school. She married Bob McKinnon and made her home in Manila. She later started the Town Crier newspaper for all of the towns on Buffalo Island.

Mr. Poteet talked to the young people about Harold "Trigger" Wall.

"He loved Manila, horse shows, and all kinds of sports," Poteet said. "He was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals but because of an injury he had to give up playing but became a scout for the Cardinals. When he came back to Manila he coached baseball, basketball, was an umpire and a referee. The kids respected him and he respected them."

Wendell Poteet tells the story of the late Trigger Wall.

E.C. Fleeman was introduced by his character Ty Presson.

"I served nine terms in the House of Representatives," Presson said. "We worked had to get Arkansas College into a university so our young people could get a good education close to home."

Mr. Fleeman was part of the area farming, had a gin, was the president of Merchants & Planters Bank, was a charter member of the Manila Lions Club and a member of the Methodist Church.

Ty Presson portrayed the late E.C. Fleeman, Manila business man and state representative.

He encouraged the children to look around and see what they can do for their town, state and nation.

John C. Lasater, a young soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, was portrayed by Josh House.

House told the young people that John C. Lasater came from a family of patriotic men and women with his serving in World War I, his brother and sister serving in World War II and his brothers Don and Douglas both serving.

He told of volunteering to serve during the Korean War at the age of 18.

"Korea is a long way from Manila," he said. "I wrote home when I could and I looked forward to getting letters from home. My mother saved all of my letters. The last one I wrote was July 14, 1950. My family received word on Aug. 13, 1950 I was missing in action. One of my buddies who was with me wrote to my family. We had promised each other if one of us did not make it we would contact the family. He told my family I had saved lives. I knew when I went to war I might have to make the ultimate sacrifice."

In the afternoon sixth grade students gathered at the cemetery where they met the four at the gravesites of each of the early pioneers to hear their stories.

Josh House talks to the young men about a local hero, John Lasater, who was killed in the Korean War.

Teacher Janet Matheny and local historian Donna Jackson coordinated the second annual Tales from the Cemetery event.

In addition to students, several family members and friends of the four were on hand for the day and answered questions from the students.

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  • Thanks, Revis! You did another outstanding job of telling our story. You and the Town Crier are carrying on the tradition that Hazel McKinnon began. She'd be proud.

    -- Posted by jacksond98 on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 4:54 PM
  • This is such a great program for our town and the school kids. I would like to add something to Mr. Gene Fleeman's bio: Mr. Fleeman owned the Ritz Theatre, which was razed last summer after sitting vacant for decades. It was across from the present bank up town. My dad worked for him and was the manager of the threatre. I grew up seeing all the movies! My dad also worked for Mr. Fleeman in his farming business. He worked for him many years, and they were friends, even though they maintained the relationship of boss and employee. Mr. and Mrs. Fleeman were always kind and good to my parents. We thought the world of them both. My mother would occasionally keep house for Mrs. Fleeman. He helped my dad begin his own farming operation in the early sixties, before he passed away in 1962 (I believe that was the year). Mr. Gene Fleeman will forever remain a kind and generous gentleman in my memories of him. Our family was blessed tremendously by this man. Debrah McWilliams Donner

    -- Posted by DNA85 on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 8:37 AM
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