- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

MALVERN, Ark. (AP) - The self-styled Brick Capital of the World would seem an unlikely spot to encounter The Creature From the Black Lagoon.

But a colorful poster for that 1954 cult classic gets prominent display at the Hot Spring County Museum. It’s here because one of the 3-D movie’s stars, Julia Adams, had lived in Malvern while staying with an aunt and uncle during her high school years. She changed her professional name to Julie Adams in 1955.

As the exhibit relates, Adams returned to the Hot Spring county seat in September at age 88 for a signing of her memoir, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From the Black Lagoon. She then sent the museum the poster, which she jauntily autographed: “Stay out of dark water. Best wishes.”

Near the end of the movie, Adams’ character is abducted by the scaly monster and taken to his murky cavern lair before being rescued by two companions who finally riddle the creature with bullets.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1NnFhuN ) reports that Adams, who later played a recurring role as a flirtatious real estate agent in television’s Murder, She Wrote, is probably the second best-known actor with ties to Malvern. Outranking her these days is Billy Bob Thornton, a graduate of Malvern High School.

This city of 10,000 has been known since the 1890s as a prime manufacturer of bricks, thanks to abundant clay deposits in the county. So it may be surprising that so little attention is given to that venerable local industry in the abundantly stocked museum, housed in a handsome two-story frame home dating to 1891.

The only exhibit focused on the product that led officials to proclaim Malvern as Brick Capital of the World several decades ago is relegated to a far corner of one room on the second floor. And hardly a mention is made of the Malvern Brickfest, a big local event to be celebrated for the 36th year on the last weekend in June and featuring a Brick Toss competition.

There’s a heartwarming aspect to one of the museum’s most novel exhibits, explained in a posting headed “A World War II Love Story.”

It seems that George Weaver was a veteran from Hot Spring County who served in the Air Force in the Pacific Theater. Back home for Christmas 1945, he was among returning servicemen hosted by Malvern women at a holiday party. There he met Hannah Sue Duffie.

Before George and Hannah married in 1948, he gave her a Japanese silk parachute that he’d brought back from the war. A friend of Hannah made the gossamer material into a negligee. The floor-length nightgown, still silken to the touch, is a demure treasure.

Glass-front cabinets showcase a stylish collection of one-of-a-kind dolls portraying all U.S. presidents’ wives from Martha Washington to Rosalyn Carter in their inaugural gowns. Befitting Arkansas’ Civil War legacy, there’s also a doll dressed as Confederate first lady Varina Banks Howell Davis.

The museum’s objects are as varied as Caddo Indian pottery, an antique pump organ and a 1930s refrigerator with its motor perched on top. One oddity is a so-called “company chair,” deliberately designed to be uncomfortable enough that visitors wouldn’t want to overstay their welcome.

Enriching the museum experience is genial commentary by the staff, who may relate that one object no longer occupies an alcove devoted to armed service veterans of Hot Spring County. An 88 mm artillery shell of World War II vintage, it was taken away on the advice of a military expert to make sure it would no longer detonate.

After arrival at a demolition site, the shell was lowered into a hole for testing. It did explode. Nobody was hurt.

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Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.nwaonline.com

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