Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part One

via email from Betty AnoninTX:

The PRT (Poor Retired Teacher as opposed to RDD) and I decided it was time to hit the road again for another national parks trip.  We had debated whether to go west or east, and this time, the eastern United States won.  We packed up our new Land Rover, cleverly disguised as an old Chevy Trailblazer, and hit the road.  The PRT put his medium-sized, Reebok-shod foot on the accelerator, and we shot off down the road to Arkansas.  We made it all the way to Post, Texas, a whopping 40 miles, before it became glaringly obvious that the air conditioner was not working very well.  We found a great place in Dallas that fixed the problem, but it added at least two and a half hours to the travel time in what was already a long driving day.  Not the most auspicious beginning!

 The next day our first (quick) stop was Hot Springs National Park.  Joining us at the Hot, Hot Springs were Becky and the Hot, Hot Baron Tiele (The Promise of Happiness).  We toured the Fordyce Bathhouse, which opened in 1915 and which serves as the visitor center.  We were able to tour all the floors and both the men’s facilities and the women’s facilities.  The women’s are much, much smaller and not near as fancy! Each has a cooling room, pack room, steam room, hydrotherapy room, and bath hall. There is a beautiful, huge, stained glass skylight in the men’s bath hall, and underneath it is the DeSoto fountain where Becky and Tiele posed.  The tubs were so deep, and some of the showers had 17 showerheads. The top floor has a gym on one end, but the best part is the music room with its stained glass windows.  Unfortunately most of the exhibits in the building were empty because the Park Service was preparing to renovate the Fordyce.  We wandered up and down Bathhouse Row where several bathhouses are still open and looked at the springs out back.  We drank a cup of the hot water straight out of the ground.  There was no time to hike any of the trails, but it was so hot and humid we didn’t care.  Then we hit the road again in our (thankfully) nice, cool Land Rover Chevrolet.

More to come…


  1. WHY were the women's baths less fancy than the men's? Did fewer women need 'the cure'? And what did the Fordyce springs purport to cure? And how did the water taste? And when the renovation is finished, will we be able to bathe in the Fordyce waters?

    Thanks for this, BAiT! Please warn me before the poison ivy photos come up, as I will need to brace myself.

  2. The Fordyce was opened in 1915, so I'm guessing it was still that time period of men rule the world, I guess. I really don't know. Most of the exhibits were down, so we didn't get to do a lot of reading. Here's what Wikipedia says: It was believed the waters benefited diseases of the skin and blood, nervous affections, rheumatism and kindred diseases, and the "various diseases of women". There was one treatment that shocked me. There was a mercury massage! Can you imagine that, knowing what we know now? People exercised, soaked and showered, sunbathed... If you look up Fordyce Bathhouse on Wikipedia, there is a photo of the Hubbard tub that had a lift for patrons who could not physically get in and out of the tubs. It is much deeper than it shows. I told the PRT it looked like a a swimming pool.

    The water was a little flat tasting to me, but lots of people fill up jugs at the fountains to take home.

    The Fordyce will still serve as the visitor center. There are still two bathhouses open if anyone wants to take the treatment. They are really spas. I didn't write down the names, but they are right there on Bathhouse Row. Other buildings are open but are businesses, etc. It's still neat to look at the exteriors.

    Betty AnoninTX

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty AnoninTx--yay! more National Parks!! I love your posts.
    Mijnheer van der Tarheelin and I enjoyed our tour of Hot Springs national Park several years ago. I'm trying to remember what all was in the Fordyce House displays and I'm coming up blank. Yes, the disparity between the men's rooms and the womens' was quite noticeable. As BettyAnoninTX pointed out, the bathhouses date from the era when Men got all the goodies and the poor Ladies got second best. I call "Foul!".
    The Springs were well known and the park is one of the oldest of our national Parks. The exhibits on the town's history are fascinating. Hot Springs was a major tourist destination during the Victorian era; and was a hot spot during the twenties and thirties for horse racing, gambling, drinking and generalized 'carrying on'.
    Modern Hot Springs is not so dashing. There's the park and a slot of retirement villages!
    Betty Barbara's grandparents (father's side) lived in Texarkana,AR, so I grew up on stories about the 'goings on' in Hot Springs during the early to mid 20th century. Wish I could remember more!

  4. Yea, another walk in the park! I keep saying, "This blog is highly educational." Is that one of the deep, deep tubs? 17 showerheads - wow. The Promise of Happiness looks great on that fountain.

  5. The PRT was griping about my tub photo. "Nobody wants to look at an old bathtub." It doesn't look that deep in the photo, but it is compared to my bathtub! If I remember correctly, not all the showers had 17 showerheads, but some did. There was a big one overhead, then the rest were all around, up and down.

    I guess the guests soaked during the day, which rejuvenated them enough to get soaked at night!

    Betty AnoninTX