Putting More Punch In The Park



It's not easy to admit it, but the cynics were right. About the history park, that is.

They're the ones who said, "You're going to build this thing and nobody will come." And the ones who called it "the world's smallest park." And the ones who would have called it a "boondoggle" if their vocabularies permitted.

The history park, you will recall, is officially known as Deming Pioneer Park. It stands 5,434-square-feet soaking wet, and you can try to find it at the northwest corner of Main Street and McLane -- on the site once occupied by J. W. Boardman's Mercantile Store.

The site actually has some pretty cool history behind it. Built in 1898, Boardman's was the first non-wood building in Payson and it was also the town's first bank and post office and was home to the town's official clock. The rock came from a quarry where the Tonto Apache Reservation is now located.

The Boardman building burned down in 1938 during August Doin's when a lady operating a barbecue stand caught it on fire. Rodeo event winners had to wait a week for their prize money, until the vault inside the store cooled down enough for officials to open it.

The park, which this month celebrated its first birthday, is framed by a facade re-creation of Boardman's store, on which 23 display cases are mounted. Other features include a cast iron clock donated by the town's two Rotary clubs and some benches and seating areas.

The problem is, unless you're into display cases filled with old photos and yellowed newspapers, or sitting around on a bench watching the official time pass, there's not much to do at the history park. And that means nobody goes there.

But nobody. In fact, in all the times I've driven past the park I must admit I have never seen anyone there.

But that's about to change, because "Around the Rim" has made it our civic duty to boost park attendance by coming up with some entertaining things we can place in or stage there. Here goes:

  • Show cartoons

Everybody loves cartoons, and a continuous running of some really old ones would be close enough to history for me.

  • Pete's Place dancers

This would work well for both the park and Pete's Place. We'd get some professional entertainment and they'd get some free exposure (pun intended). The history part might be a stretch, but I'm thinking we dress them up in period costumes and then let them do their things.

  • Anna Mae Live

One of the great traditions in the Rim country is Anna Mae's weather observations, which have been performed in her back yard for lo these many years. I say let's set up Anna Mae's weather station down at the history park and make a grand ritual out of her daily readings.

  • Prayer - O - Rama

If there's one thing we have a whole passle of here in the Rim country, it's churches. That has to make the competition intense, and that means we ought to consider the religious equivalent of the shootout at the OK Corral. Judging from the windbags who give the invocations at the council meetings (Rev. Charles Proudfoot of Community Presbyterian Church gratefully excepted), we would have no shortage of entrants in the great Payson Prayer - O - Rama, where one preacher duels against another in round robin competition until only one is left standing -- or kneeling.

  • Roundabout Games

This is a kiddy version of the real thing. Kids bring their toy cars down to the park to take their chances maneuvering through a miniature roundabout. Pretty harmless fun compared to the actual experience.

  • Historic Re-enactments

Of what, you ask. Why, there's plenty of history worth re-telling in this town. There's the historic showdown at the OxBow Saloon between the mayor and the fire marshal, the attack on schoolchildren who were going into the library for a Harry Potter reading, and, of course, the great decibel meter war out at the air park.

  • Baloney Express

If there's one thing this town has a lot of, it's naysayers. I say we capture all that negative energy and put it to good use in a monthly gripe-off. For that historic touch, we call it the Baloney Express. But instead of crowning a winner, we make the loser read all the information in those 23 display cases out loud while the rest of us retire to the OxBow.

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