Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Arkansas State Archives receives donation of movie memorabilia

For 112 years, the Arkansas State Archives, a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, has maintained and preserved artifacts and archival materials pertaining to the state’s rich and unique history.  Much of what the State Archives holds, though, comes through generous donations from the general public. From county records and newspapers to gubernatorial papers and Arkansas artifacts, the State Archives has received countless donations of historic Arkansas material over the years.

In July, the State Archives received a large donation of movie memorabilia.  Mary Jean Hall, a frequent State Archives patron, donated a large collection of material from the western movie, “Terror at Black Falls,” which was filmed in Scotland, Ark., in 1959. The western starred House Peters, Peter Mamakos, and Gary Gray.

 “We’re really excited to have this unique donation. Our state has long been a location for filmmaking, but not many people know about this particular movie. It’s a great addition to our special collections,” shared Arkansas State Archives Director Dr. Lisa Speer.

Mary Jean began collecting memorabilia from the movie nearly four decades ago. “I don’t really know exactly how many years I’ve spent collecting everything. In 1980, I started researching my genealogy and the history of Scotland by reading microfilm of the Van Buren County Democrat in Clinton.” Through her research, she discovered that Scotland had been the location for filming the movie. “I started asking around about pictures of the making of the movie,” she recounted.

Mary Jean received her first piece of “Terror at Black Falls” memorabilia in the 1980s.  Over the years, the collection grew to include the original film reel of the movie, a signed script, lobby cards, posters, publicity photos, and letters. 

In 1989, Mary Jean contacted the Arkansas Gazette to see if they would be interested in writing an article about the movie and Scotland. The newspaper was very interested. “When the article came out, Ray Nelson, emcee of the Old Time Picture Show on AETN sent a copy to House Peters, who played the sheriff in the movie.” 

Peters eventually contacted Mary Jean and they began corresponding. In June 1993, Mary Jean and the town of Scotland welcomed Peters and his wife, Lucy, for a visit. A potluck was held at the Scotland Community Center in honor of the actor.  “We had a cake with “Terror at Blacks Falls,” cowboy boots and horses on it.  People who had had cowboy parts riding their horses [as extras] came to visit and have lunch, too.  It was a lot of fun!  House and Lucy really enjoyed the visit.”  During the visit, Mr. Peters presented Mary Jean with an autographed script.

House and Mary Jean corresponded until his death in 2008, after which Mary Jean was sent a canister containing the original film.

 The collection will be processed by State Archives staff before being made available to patrons in the research room.

“This donation of memorabilia is an excellent illustration of the treasures that the Arkansas State Archives preserves,” said Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  “We are so thankful to Ms. Hall for this gift to the Archives.”

The Arkansas State Archives is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and is responsible for collecting and maintaining the largest collection of historical materials on Arkansas in the world.  The State Archives has two branch locations: the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives is located in Powhatan and the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is located in Washington.

Other agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage include the Arkansas Arts Council, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, and the Historic Arkansas Museum.