Post 692 Romance, Arkansas
“The early English settlers were dull dogs and very few of the names they bestowed upon
the land showed any imagination.”
Not so those intrepid American pioneers who pushed westward in search of fame, fortune, freedom, and hopefully, some fun. Exhibit A: the town of Cuckoo in Virginia. Then there’s Recluse, Wyoming and Bromide, Oklahoma, not to mention Admire, Kansas and Bug Tussle, Texas. And you have to hand it to whatever creative souls came up with Nowthen, Minnesota and Peculiar, Missouri.
Some of the tales behind these exotic and imaginative names have been lost and some preserved. Take Romance, Arkansas. Legend has it that this moniker was bestowed by a teacher who was entranced by the romantic view from the bluffs overlooking the town.To fan the flames, the local post office issues a specially designed postmark when Valentine’s Day rolls around. Each year, some 7500 valentines and wedding invitations from around the world pass through the post office just so people can get that special postmark stamped on their envelopes. And some love-struck couples even make special trips to the town just so they can get married there. Isn’t that romantic?
On the other end of the name-game spectrum, there’s the town of Hell, Michigan, which is just five short hours from Paradise, Michigan — go figure! The origins of Hell seem to be lost in the mists of time. Residents aren’t sure whether the town got its name because settlers hated the swamps and mosquitoes, from a German traveler’s comment, “So schon hell!” (translation: “so beautifully bright”) — or whether it was inspired by a town father who, when asked what to call it, answered, “Name it Hell for all I care.”
Whatever the truth is, the town is no shrinking violet. Its annual car show includes hearses and an annual road race is called, “Run Through Hell.” You can grab a bite at “Hell’s Kitchen,” and buy an “I’ve been thru Hell and Back” T-shirt from the “Hell in a Hand Basket Country Store.” When the store manager was asked whether it was true that
some people visit the town just to get its “Hell Rural Station — Have a Hell of a Day” postmark on their taxes and divorce papers, her answer was, “Hell, yeah!”