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Relationship builder in music and words: Dr. Francis McBeth


I met Dr. Francis McBeth when I was a senior in high school. I made a phone call and set up a time to meet with him in his studio on a college visit day at Ouachita Baptist University. He gave me advice and spoke to me in a way that made me feel comfortable, eliminating the fear I should have felt in the presence of a world-famous composer and musician.

I ended up at Henderson State University, across the street, but continued to watch Dr. McBeth for years, enjoying the privilege of playing some of his compositions in manuscript as he listened and consulted with Wendell O. Evanson, Director of Bands at Henderson. Watching these great musicians’ friendship and professional respect for each other was a lesson in itself.

Well into his 80s, my wife and I saw Dr. McBeth and his wife at a restaurant in Arkadelphia. I introduced myself and Becca and then we enjoyed the same relaxed and friendly conversation I’d had with him years before.

He was not only a world famous musician, composer, and conductor. He was a great teacher! The following story from Dr. McBeth illustrates his influence and how he valued relationships with students.

W. Francis McBeth in 1997:
Some years ago in Knoxville, Tennessee I stepped into the hotel coffee shop following a concert and saw Wynton Marsalis sitting with his high school band director, Peter Dombourian. Because I knew Pete well, I thought it a great opportunity to meet this trumpet virtuoso.

Wynton MarsalisAs I approached the table Wynton Marsalis got up, walked toward me, and called me by name. I was so surprised and asked him if we had met before. He replied that he was in the Louisiana All State Band in Shreveport when I was the guest conductor.

Marsalis proceeded to list the entire program that we had played, piece by piece, and during our visit quoted many things that I had said. It was after this visit that I began to reflect on the seriousness of every comment in front of an ensemble. Here was a world-class performer who remembered what I had said when he was in high school. It brought home to me that anything I say in front of an honor band had better be correct, especially the criticism, because those students will never forget it. That’s a heavy responsibility.

That responsibility to use words carefully with others was something Dr. McBeth took seriously, whether he met you in an honor band or at an Arby’s Restaurant. When I praise a child for good work or give corrective comments, I often think of Dr. McBeth in hopes that my words will honor his legacy as a teacher who spoke with care, knowing that some of our words might influence children’s lives for years to come.

Burdick Rollins Clark Evanson McBeth

Dr. McBeth is pictured here with some of his musician/conductor friends and peers:  L to R: Dr. Jim Buckner, David Rollins, Dr. Bill Clark, Wendell Evanson, Dr. Francis McBeth

Here’s a musical sample: Masque by Dr. Francis McBeth

Wartime Communication: Then and Now

The following article was written by my mother, Elsie Warnock, and published in the El Dorado News Times on Veterans Day, 2013.

Wartime weapons may change but some things about war never change:  death, destruction, loneliness, prayers for loved ones, killing of the innocent, grieving. Parents will always suffer anguish when their sons and daughters face battle and danger. Wives and husbands will always count the days days of separation. Children will always miss valuable time with an absent parent.

One thing hasn’t changed and will never change:  the need to communicate between family and friends and the absent soldiers.

Lt. Jim Warnock, 1952

Lt. Jim Warnock, 1952

Jim Warnock, my husband, graduated from Ouachita College (now University) in May of 1950 as a new ROTC 2nd Lieutenant.   The Korean War – or “Conflict” or “Police Action” or whatever neat word the Powers-That-Be can create to substitute for the accurate word WAR – broke out the next month so his immediate future was a given.  During Jim’s service, our form of communication was letters, letters and more letters; a very rare phone call or two and one telegram to report his arrival time back in Arkansas.

The letters were sent airmail which was wonderful unless he was on a troop ship to Japan.  Or unless the troops were changing locations.   Or unless some person dropped the ball and didn’t move the mail in a timely manner.

Jim wrote in various letters, “Mail and the lack of it was a constant frustration.  As much as I moved around on various field problems, I could go days without a letter.  I remember one particular mailman.  I don’t ordinarily shoot mail men but we had one in K Company that I was gunning for.  One night he brought out the mail and said, ‘Oh, Lt. Warnock, I didn’t know you were going to be here.  I have some mail for you back in the kitchen truck.’  If he hadn’t brought it that night, I planned an execution at dawn.           

Receiving mail became a problem after Christmas because of the buildup of Christmas packages.  The packages were delivered but the letters were held back until the packages could be delivered.  So between the delay after we left Hokkaido and the Christmas rush of packages but no letters, mail was a longed for thing.

Writing letters to Elsie from Korea

Writing letters to Elsie from Korea

Letter writing was a frequent pastime at night but lights out could come at any time.  The lights were run off a little electric generator that would just quit whenever it took a notion.  As I sat down to write one letter, (my roommate) Davis said, ‘Looks like we’ll have to make up a war story to write today ‘cause nothing happened here that sounds like war.’  I told him Elsie assured me that was the way she liked it.

With all my shifts in assignments I went thirteen days without mail and was going a little crazy. I told my sad story to the colonel.  He was so impressed that he said he’d give me his jeep to get mail in but he didn’t furnish a driver so I drove a rough sixty miles to the front but I made it.  The mail must go through!  I picked up mail for several of the 45th personnel and headed back.  It took my whole Sunday but the (getting thirteen letters ) reward was worth it.”

One home while in Korea

One home while in Korea

Long distance dealing with finances was an ongoing problem. Jim described one banking experience. “February of 1952 got me thinking about a first wedding anniversary that was coming on March 10.  I wrote Martha Moreland, Elsie’s roommate at Ouachita, and asked her to arrange to send her (Elsie) some flowers since they were rather scarce on those Korean hills.  I felt confident that she would have no trouble cashing the $10.00 check I sent her. After all, I had written it on a piece of paper I tore off a paper sack.  She took it to the bank and it created no problem – some amusement – but no problem and Elsie got her surprise bouquet and even dinner at a restaurant with friends.”

On June 11, 1952, after fourteen months of living, breathing, and writing letters he was able to write this line: “I’m coming HOME.”

Now, fast forward to the current day.  If we could have foreseen the changes that would occur in communication over the years, we would have thought we were watching one of those Buck Rogers space episodes from Saturdays at the movies.

Imagine!   Someone can sit down in front of a screen, type a message, tap a few keys and your soldier is reading it. That adorable thing your young child just spoke (or did) can be sent immediately before you forgot that magic moment. During those Saturday matinees, we would have been wide-eyed if we had seen Buck Rogers pick up an object smaller than a deck of cards, press a few keys and instantly talk to someone near or far, for as long as needed.  Family members today do it all the time without a second thought.  That same small object can take a picture or video and send it around the world instantly.

If that isn’t remarkable enough, imagine sitting in front of your computer with a tiny camera attached and actually talking face to face with the person.  Think of how many fathers and mothers get to see their young children when they take their first steps, or hear some of their first words. Fathers no longer must wait months or even years to see how their children have grown.  They can be there on Christmas morning, or for that very special birthday party, or there to see the teenagers dressed up for the Prom.

In the 1950s, we could take a picture, get the roll of film developed and airmail the picture.  Now, families can take a photograph and in a moment download it to a computer, even edit it to improve it, and send it by email within minutes.

Husbands and wives can now each keep up with finances with instant access to records.  (I wonder if they ever argue over money long distance.)  Gifts can be ordered online and shipped to the right address.

Whatever happened to the Telegraph?  Jim sent one fateful telegram home after landing in Seattle on that August day in 1952 to report that he and his traveling buddy were catching a military flight going to Little Rock. There was just one problem: the telegram was delivered to Elsie’s college address in Arkadelphia.  When the telegraph operator read the message to Elsie who was in Hot Springs, her remark was, “Oh, this is terrible.”  When both of them calmed down, he from his dismay at the negative reaction from a war wife and she from her dismay to discover that her husband was headed to the wrong town, the operator explained that he had checked on the flight and that it would land in Little Rock and gave the time.  The story had a complicated happy ending about 3:00 a.m. the next morning in Hot Springs after she and relatives drove to Little Rock to watch every passenger disembark except for two lieutenants who had been bumped from the flight at Fort Smith and would arrive later that day.

We never found out what that telegraph operator must have gone through to discover a Ouachita coed’s home phone number in Hot Springs – on a Sunday with the college offices closed, but he deserved a bonus big time for going that extra mile.  What a marvel a cell phone would have been but who knew such a thing would ever exist.

Yes, indeed.  War is hell.  But modern technology can help loved ones stay connected in spite of separations that are such a challenging part of military service during war and peacetime as well.

Jimmy and Elsie Warnock

Jimmy and Elsie Warnock

All this for just half a nickel

The following article about my parents is a testament to the power of love and commitment and how two people can influence so many.  It’s also a good story.

 ‘All this for just half a nickel’

Valentine’s vase commemorates 63 years of love

By: Joan Hershberger – El Dorado News-Times (Posted here with permission)

Mother and Daddy 1

The heart vase still in use today.

One date and Jim Warnock wanted to do something special for Elsie. With Valentine’s Day nearing, the red heart-shaped planter with a live plant caught his eye. 

He bought the planter and took it the next time he went to date Elsie.

As students at Ouachita Baptist University, Jim, a senior, and Elsie, a freshman, had first noticed each other in the fall of 1949.  They smiled and greeted each other, but nothing happened until early February 1950. “My roommate and I wanted to double date with her. It cost a nickel to make a phone call, so we called up and made two dates to church with that one nickel,” Jim Warnock said.

“I was infatuated and needed to do something. ‘It’s Valentine’s Day,’ I said. I needed to get her a Valentine. That vase caught my eye. It was red.” Jim said he bought the vase and presented it to Elsie with a live, growing plant inside.  “The plant probably did not last to the next week – well maybe into the summer,” Elsie laughed.

But she did take the vase home from college and left it at her mother’s house.  The red paint quickly began to come off. They tried painting it before they realized the red could be scrubbed off to show white glaze underneath.

Elsie and Jim had talked about marriage, then the Korean War began and Jim, who had been in the ROTC at OBU, was called to serve.  “We were going to wait to marry, but then on Tuesday night we decided to marry and on Saturday we were married. I had a lot of friends who helped us put it on. They went to the ravine and got greenery for the arch and, I hope, asked the neighbors for their daffodils. It was a very pretty church wedding,” Elsie recalled.

“We had our honeymoon at Camp Polk in the bachelor’s quarters. It sounds elegant, but it wasn’t,” Elsie said. “He shipped out two weeks later. I stayed, went on to school and finished college. While he was gone, there was one professor who kept saying that the life expectancy of a second lieutenant was 28 seconds,” she recalled.

“We tell folks that we are the only couple we know that never had an argument their first two years of marriage,” Jim said. 
They couldn’t argue – he was serving in Korea.  Instead they wrote letters back and forth to each other. Because of the inconsistencies of the mail, sometimes Jim’s letters from Elsie would pile up at the post office. “I would get upset because she was not writing to me and then a bunch would come,” he recalled with a rueful grin.  “I saved all his letters and wrote a book about his time in Korea,” Elsie said. 
“I can’t believe I didn’t save any of your letters,” Jim shook his head. 
“You were in the infantry and moving around,” she shrugged it off.

Jim returned from Korea and Elsie graduated. The two found jobs as teachers in south Texas where they made their first home.  Jim taught and was the school’s assistant coach.  Elsie, who had trained to teach high school, taught in the elementary school.

Elsie brought the vase to their first home. And in February, Jim took it out each year to fill for Valentine’s Day.  
“Some years it had daffodils, other years arrangements or yard flowers. It was not a big deal that we had to have it. It just was always there and it had lasted another year. Jimmy has surprised me at times by getting it and doing a new arrangement. It is always on display through the month of February. But, we do not have to have a new decoration every year,” Elsie said.

“The kids knew about it. After a while we wrote the year on the bottom and that it was the first gift Jim gave me as my first Valentine from him. We displayed it at our 50th wedding anniversary celebration,” she said.  “I may have taken it to a Valentine Banquet once,” she said. “But it was too risky. It is not so much that it is valuable as it is of sentimental value to us.”

 This low-key couple agreed that they do not make a big event out of Valentine’s Day. Sometimes they go out to eat on Valentine’s Day, but, “We do not HAVE to do something,” Elsie said.

Although the vase remains special to them, they have not made a big production about it other than to pull it out every Valentine’s Day for the past six decades to fill again with flowers. 

Last year she posted a picture of the vase on Facebook as a way to wish her Facebook friends a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Someone has commented that they never seem to be angry. “What good does it do? I really did get angry once, but he did not notice,” Elsie said. 
“When things are going especially well one of us will say, ‘All this for only a nickel,’ and the other will say, ‘for just half a nickel,’ Elsie laughed. “And when things are bad, we will turn and say, ‘All this for only a nickel’ and the other will say, ‘for just half a nickel.’”

In more recent years, Elsie wrote a book for family members about their life together. They started to write it together, but when Elsie asked him to write about his experiences, he would give her an inadequate half a page. She took his letters from Korea and re-wrote them for the book.  “We have to go back and check on the book every so often to remember things,” she said.

After a couple years of teaching in Texas, Jim, originally from the Smackover-Norphlet area, began using his scientific training at American Oil. Over the years he also worked at Lion Oil, Tosco and El Dorado Chemical as an environmental control analyst.

Elsie stayed home when their son and daughter were young and then began teaching at the El Dorado High School (now the old EHS building). She also taught at Barton Junior High and Rogers Junior High and was one of the first three employees at the developmental center where she served as the coordinator for 11 years under Rita Taunton.

Jim Warnock has served on the board of the South Arkansas Developmental Center for Children and Families for many years.

Their son, Jim Warnock, is a principal at Alma, and their daughter, Martha Kyzer, is the office manager with BuyRite Foods in Benton.

The couple has lived in El Dorado in four different houses. They moved to one house to accommodate Jim’s side job of working with ornamental iron. 

Now in their 80s, the couple have few health issues and continue to be active in the community.


Mother and Daddy 3

Jimmy & Elsie

Jimmy & Elsie, my father and mother.




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