We all have something – or somewhere – that ignites serotonin just by holding it or seeing it: the woods where you grew up playing hide and seek, a Barbie doll collection dating back to the 1950s, a closet full of your mom’s old cookie cutters, the room in your house that makes you feel most peaceful. “My Favorite Things” invites Northwest Arkansans to share the special things or places that bring them joy.
Larry Foley is a documentary filmmaker, professor and chair of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas. He just returned from spending the fall semester in Italy, where he taught at the UA’s Rome Center and served as a research fellow for the School of International Education. Foley is the winner of eight Mid-America Emmys and is in the Fayetteville Schools Hall of Honor, the Lemke Journalism Hall of Honor and is a member of the Mid-America Emmy Silver Circle for lifetime achievement. His documentaries include “Indians, Outlaws, Marshals and the Hangin’ Judge,” https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/ “The First Boys of Spring” and “If This Walk Could Talk,” and he is now in production on “Cries From the Cotton Field,” the story of Italian immigrants who came to southeast Arkansas in the late 1800s to work on the Sunnyside cotton plantation — and later founded the community of Tontitown with Father Pietro Bandini, a former Jesuit priest.
“It’s a moving story of faith, adversity, forgiveness and resilience,” says Foley. “I need to raise money to finish, so let’s talk!”
Asked about his collections for “My Favorite Things,” Foley says he doesn’t collect anything now, though he was an avid baseball card collector as a boy. What he values ”is a complete set (24) of the Chip Hilton sports books, written for young readers by legendary basketball coach Clair Bee in the 1950s and ’60s.”
“When the books went out of print, I was still missing a few,” he says. “In time, my sister Dana, now of Carrolton, Texas, took it upon herself to search eBay for new Chip Hiltons. For several years, on my birthday or Christmas, she would give me a book I was missing. She had watched me devour enthusiastically the books as a child and knew I had given up on completing the set.”
Here Foley talks about his collection:
How/When/Why Collecting Began: I got my first book, “Freshman Quarterback,” at Bercher Mart in Fort Smith on November 27, 1964. I know because I typed the date on the inside cover. My next book, “Championship Ball,” was given to me by my grandmother on January 16, 1965. She entered the date and signed it, “Mo Mo Spillers.”
What appeals to you about these things? Those books shaped my life. I fell in love with reading and sports. Unconsciously, they taught me how to structure and tell stories, and that the best stories are driven by interesting characters. And go on, I became a writer, sometimes writing stories and producing films about sports.
What is the most expensive item in the collection? I have been wondering if my collection is worth anything. No matter, I’m not giving them up. I could never get my children or grandchildren interested in reading them, so I hope they will find a good home when I’m gone.
Is your collection complete or ongoing? It is finished.
Is there a beluga you are looking for? I also have several coaching books written by Clair Bee, and his biography by Dennis Gildea (2013), published by the University of Arkansas Press, “Hoop Crazy: The Lives of Clair Bee and Chip Hilton.”
What are people saying about your collection? I have several friends who read Chip Hilton growing up, including Rick Stockdell, David Grace, and Craig Swanson, all from Fayetteville. Stockdell is still collecting and is close to completing his set. He tells me he still reads the books. I do not.
What else do you collect? Scripts from my documentaries. One day I hope to pass them down to my family.
Do you collect something fun or do you have a room in your home that makes you the happiest? Email Becca Martin-Brown, Features Editor, at [email protected]waonline.com.