Kids who grow up in small towns have to more or less invent entertainment for themselves. Not that I grew up totally isolated or anything, but the nearest town where we could really “do” anything (go out to eat, go shopping, go to the movies, go CD shopping) was a 30-minute drive away. So in small towns you find yourself a little niche, private places to hang out, away from adults or supervision. It seems like this is actually much easier to do in small towns than in cities.
When I was in high school, my friends and I used to love to hang out at the old Monte Ne resort. Before Beaver Lake existed (a huge, man-made lake in Northwest Arkansas where everyone goes now, but didn’t exist before 1966), there was a fancy spa-resort called Monte Ne. The developer and owner was a very eccentric man:
Harvey did some deep research into the history of the Ozark Mountains. He claimed that they were some of the oldest mountains in the world and definitely the oldest in the United States. They had been untouched by volcanoes and earthquakes. He believed that the mountains around Monte Ne would eventually crumble and fill the valley with silt and sediment. Figuring that the mountains were approximately 240 ft (73 m) high, Harvey planned to construct a massive concrete obelisk and its capstone would remain above the debris. Archaeologist in the distant future would be able to dig down and find the monument He called the project “The Pyramid” and dedicated the rest of his life to its construction.
There is so much more to the story; if you like eccentric characters with tragic ends you should take a few minutes to read his Wikipedia entry. (FYI, my great-grandfather, once the mayor of Rogers, was a good friend of the developer and helped finance his presidential run. It was some weird, probably right-wing, made-up party that never went anywhere, but does offer the distinction of hosting a presidential convention in Arkansas – the only one ever.)
We liked to hang out there, I think, largely because it was so isolated, and largely because we felt the creepy, decrepit structure gave our lives some poetic sensibility. Walking up on that hulking structure in the midst of a pitch-black night, with no light shining but the stars, is one of the more intimidating experiences of my life, probably. But we went there frequently, sometimes even parking our cars in a small lot in some trees nearby and sleeping in them overnight. We would occasionally start fires on the concrete floors, or go skinny-dipping in the moonlight. Or we might go there with someone special to make out or smoke and share our angsty poetry by flashlight.
It is the place I will probably associate most with being a teenager in Rogers. I went back this weekend to see my family and decided to drive down there and take some pictures of it. A thing like that never changes, except that some of the underground hotel rooms we used to hang out in were submerged because the water is so high right now. I got a little nostalgic, I won’t lie.
The place has always captured my imagination. Several years ago I wrote a full-length screenplay centered around it, called, originally, Monte Ne, which I am now half-heartedly adapting into a novel.
I took several more pictures which you can look at here, (in full-size, too) along with my pictures of my July 4th weekend with the fam!