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A lot has changed in Fayetteville over the last 40 years. Then again, a lot of things are seemingly the same as they have always been.
All photos by Art Meripol
The Fayetteville Farmers Market, for example, still sets up on the square every Saturday the way it did back in the 1970s. Locals show up to mingle and shop today like they did back then, though there are more of them, and they dress a little differently.
In addition to the farmers peddling their wares, you’ll still find musicians picking guitars, and singing next to open guitar cases, surrounded by bright-eyed music lovers tapping their toes. Some of the songs played these days may even be the same ones that were popular back then.
The names of the businesses have changed, but the storefronts lining the square are still filled with local shops, and community banks.
There are still politicians shaking hands and making promises.
We know this because of artists like photographer Art Meripol, who recently unearthed a set of nearly 40 photos he took one fall morning in October 1974 while he was a student at the University of Arkansas.
At the time, Meripol was a student of longtime Fayetteville photographer Andrew Kilgore, and though he was relatively new to the world of photography, his talent was evident even back then. He has since gone on to a successful career in photography, taking pictures for Southern Living and other national publications for over 25 years.
Recently, Meripol posted the set of photos he recently converted to digital to his Facebook page, and they’ve gone semi-viral locally since then.
We got in touch with him to see what else he remembered about them, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
Tell us a bit about your time in Fayetteville. You grew up here, correct?
I grew up in several cities and states as my family moved around some. In my junior year of high school, my parents made career changes and moved to Fayetteville from Dallas. After a year they decided to move back. I stayed.
Fayetteville High School was my eighth school in 12 years. I didn’t want to change again. And after all the places we’d lived Fayetteville was the first that felt like home, felt completely comfortable to me. It really was love at first sight.
Registering at FHS, I signed up for the Yearbook class. As it turned out, it was a fateful thing. The Yearbook advisor, Ferrell Ervin, was a remarkable teacher who put a camera in my hand saying “you’re the photographer.” It was just what I’d wanted and I haven’t stopped since.
The photos you recently unearthed of a Saturday at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market have already gone semi-viral in Fayetteville. How did you come across them?
After years of storing old negatives and slides in boxes and bins and moving them from town to town I decided to de-clutter a bit and digitize everything. The film was not in what one would call archival storage. In addition to the few negatives I have from my early shooting days in Fayetteville, I have bins and bins of slides from my nearly 25 years as Senior Travel Photographer at Southern Living Magazine. I bought a Nikon Coolscan film scanner and started scanning everything to an external hard drive. Unfortunately my old negatives needed a lot of work. They were scratched and dusty. Fortunately, good photo software has really made it easier. The Farmers’ Market photos are the oldest ones I had. I was surprised to find I’d dragged those around for so long and even more surprised to see that it wasn’t terrible work for a new 20-year-old photographer. I scanned and posted them in 2013 but just recently someone found and shared them, and word spread.
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