Hope came to mind the other day. And not the kind that floats.
Hope, Arkansas, came to mind. It of Hempstead County, of Bill Clinton fame. Of Mike/Sarah Huckabee fame. Of watermelons and hunting clubs and train tracks and Atwoods on the corner.
Hope is where the Lower Arkansas timberlands begin to consider that slow transition to sloshy east Texas piney woods. Where rolling meadows ferry tides of yellow wildflowers to a soft break at the horizon. And where a visionary started a company in 1946 that became synonymous with hi-fi, from St. Petersburg to Patagonia. That company is Klipsch.
Though Paul W. Klipsch sold his company to an Indiana cousin in 1989, they still make those renowned Klipsch speakers in Hope. Among its other notables--presidents, governors, watermelons--Hope remains a Klipsch town. And a trip to Hempstead County for the Klipsch tour--be sure and grab lunch at Tailgaters--represents one of those hidden Arkansas treasures.
Earlier this year, the Klipsch Heritage Museum Association opened the Paul W. Klipsch Visitors Center next door to its Clinton counterpart downtown. It serves as a starting point for visitors and especially audiophiles. They come from across borders and oceans to learn more about PWK. The "madman from Hope," whose legacy is a screenplay waiting to be written, was known by his initials and for his kind-hearted eccentricity.
Perhaps most enticingly, the center allows for a true sampling of Klipsch speakers' purity. Plus, the center's location affords it the chance to snatch a few touring Friends of Bill and expand that legacy in the process.
North of town, at the U.S. Army's old Southwest Proving Grounds--the vehicle that delivered Paul Klipsch to the Land of Opportunity for World War II--the factory and its 62 workers still produce roughly 1,500 speakers a month, including the iconic Klipschorn corner speaker.
Across the street, inside the Army's old telephone exchange (the company's first "factory"), sits the Klipsch Museum of Audio History. That Paul Klipsch built his first speaker at age 15, a year before the first public radio broadcast, should tell true audiophiles all they need to know about what they'll find inside. For them, the Klipsch museum is bucket-list worthy. As is the entire Klipsch tour in Hope.
The Klipsch Education Center housing the impressive PWK engineering library is located at the Hope airport on the old proving grounds, and the Paul W. Klipsch Auditorium atop Hope's beautiful City Hall is an enchanting trip back through time. Built in 1926, it maintains its vintage seating, lighting and in spades, its ambience.
When the museum association opened the visitors center earlier this year, a few necessary minor restorations were planned to get the auditorium back in concert-hosting shape.
We can't wait. Not all treasures need to remain hidden.