Greene County, Arkansas

Dickson Memorial
A piece of history falls

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If her walls could have talked the Dickson Memorial might first have told of some of the joys of life — like those found in the cry of -a newborn baby and the parents’ ear-to -ear grin — as many of Paragould’s current residents were born there during the hospital’s heydeys.

The building, which survived for several years after closing as a hospital and then as city hall, was razed this week by C&D Envioromental Services.

“I can’t believe they’re tearing it down,” said Gracelin Morrow, of Paragould, earlier in the week. Morrow was born there June 13, 1950, and her sister, Arvalla Gordon was born there Aug. 7, 1949. Her comments were echoed by Pam Staires, library volunteer, also born there in 1948. “I think it’s terrible that its coming down,” she said. “I hate to see it go, but I am thrilled that we were able to save what we have, such as the old courthouse,” said Betty Busby, coordinator of the Lipscomb Room at the county library, who also served on the Dickson Memorial Preservation Society who had a goal to save the building for posterity and to house a museum. Busby says she still holds on to that dream of a local museum to house area artifacts of Greene County’s history.

Busby, working on an article for the Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society newsletter where she serves as vice president, displayed an early brochure about the hospital. Featured are photos of the Methodist Room, the private reading room, private bed room, surgical dressing room, gentlemen’s ward, Mr. M.E. Dickson’s room, dining room, clerk’s room, Macabee’s room, Baptist room, ladies ward, the pharmacy, the M.F. Collier room, and a bath room. Busby, herself a patient at the hospital as a sophomore in high school, recalls the rooms looking much like the photos in the brochure. She remembers the nurse wearing their “starched white caps” and looking “very professional.” She also recalls several family members being hospitalized there.

Julia Jackson, 98, of Paragould, recalls a few memories from the 1920’s. Her sister, Tansy McKelvey served as nurse there, and Julia, who worked for area doctors often found herself helping out there. “I never was signed in to work there, but there was a job that I could help with I would go up there and help.”

On one of those occasions she helped “deliver a baby at the back door — in a car,” she said. She worked for Dr. Haley. The hospital had a lot of “wonderful doctors,” she said. Some of the those doctors include “Dr. Hopkins, Dr. Lamb, Dr. Dillman, Dr. Baker, and Dr. Grizzard.”

Tom Marler, of Paragould, recalls the hospital in the 1940’s when as a child he was a patient there. He remembers being taken on an elevator to the second floor. The elevator operated with ropes. Charles Partlow, who served as mayor from 1979 until 1997, recalls that the top two floors had been removed by the time he was in office. The roof in that old building leaked, said Partlow, and on one occasion, he commented to the janitor who was having trouble fixing the roof, because of the suspended ceiling. I said ‘why don't you just drill a hole where that is leaking and put a funnel under it and run it out the window.’ I was kidding and he did. It worked pretty good.” While he was in office the police department was moved from the top floor to the basement and the building was made handicapped accessible.

The building also housed the city inspector’s office. On the top floor was located the municipal court room.

Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill says the building was approved for demolition by the city council in October. After that they had to go through the state Department of Environmental Quality to get their approval.

Transcribed from an article from the NE Arkansas Tribune by Sandy Hardin

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