A Life of Building: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

My Dad was a commercial construction job superintendent for most of his work life.

He oversaw the construction of many different buildings. Each one seemed almost part of the family by the time we had watched them “grow up.” Now, every time I pass by one of those buildings, it brings back fond memories.

While I do not remember much about some of the earlier builds–like the St. Joseph Rectory or the Peace Lutheran Church, I do remember the construction of the new Antioch Baptist Church sanctuary on South Boulevard.

That was the year I got to walk across the street from my elementary school and ride home with Dad instead of taking the school bus home.

I also remember the construction of the First Baptist Church Chapel on Ash Street. That project also included lots of Sunday School rooms. In the late 1970s, I was part of the large youth group that met there every Wednesday night.

When I was in junior high, Dad had to drive to Beebe every day because he was overseeing the construction of the Fine Arts Center at the ASU Beebe campus.

I remember going over there on a Sunday afternoon with him to check on something. That building was so large and unusually shaped that it had its own special character. It still does.

Dad oversaw the construction of the first elevators in UCA’s Old Main and Student Center during my first years of college. Elevators were being put into buildings at that time to make them handicapped accessible.

It was somehow comforting to see my Dad as I maneuvered my way around the college.

After I graduated and began teaching, Dad spent even more time at UCA. He oversaw the remodeling of Bernard Hall and Torreyson Library. He supervised the south addition to Herrin Hall.

He also supervised the construction of the new Irby Hall, Laney Hall and the Physical Therapy building. When I walk by Irby, I remember the summer that my husband and I helped with the final cleanup before the building was turned over to the college. I think my Dad spent more time at that college as I did!

The last major construction project he worked on before he retired was the First Security Bank building on the Old Morrilton Highway. Not only do I pass it almost every day but I frequently bank there. Veteran bank employees have often stopped to visit and reminisce about when Dad was overseeing the construction of that building.

In retirement, Dad still occasionally oversees construction projects. He facilitated the construction of a new Pleasant Valley Baptist Church building south of Wooster. More recently, he helped with the construction of a new activity center for this church he has attended almost all of his life.

But probably the building that brings back the most memories is the house we built in the summer of 1986.

I had just finished my first year of teaching and moved home so that I could help Dad build a new house. At the end of the summer, my parents moved out and I remained in the old house.

Every morning we began the day by turning on KSSN so we could hear the top country hits of the 1980s as we worked.

“Everything that glitters is not gold” played multiple times a day! I held elevation sticks and tape measures while he laid out the house. We hauled and shoveled sand and dirt for the foundation.

I helped him frame it up and kept the job site picked up and swept. We watched subcontractors lay brick, nail roofing, and hang and finish sheetrock.

He trimmed it out and I painted it. It had to be one of the best and most memorable summers of my life.

So since Father’s Day was yesterday, I hope you will indulge me a little as I look back at a few of the builds that Dad did and the imprint he made on Conway and my life too. Happy Father’s Day Dad!