It has been one year since the official opening of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home and the Dyess Colony. Executive Director of Arkansas State University’s Heritage Sites program Dr. Ruth Hawkins says this past year has been very busy.
“We really just considered this phase one of the project. We are working right now on re-building the Dyess Theatre. This will serve as a visitors’ center eventually,” said Hawkins. “We are currently looking at renovating all of the farmstead buildings at the Cash home, the smokehouse, the barn, the outhouse, and the chicken coop. There are a lot of plans in the works.”
She says the site has hosted thousands of visitors over the past year.
“We have had visitors from all over the world and from all over the country. I think we have seen visitors from 30 different countries and maybe 40 to 45 states. People are really thrilled with what he have here and they are coming away saying that they now really understand where Johnny’s music came from.”
Hawkins says the Dyess Colony and the New Deal era served as a major inspiration for Cash’s music.
“This is a chance for people to not only learn about Johnny Cash, but also to learn about a very important part of our history with the New Deal era; the fact that this was an agricultural resettlement colony. So many people come here and they have no idea that we have so many great exhibits in the Administration Building. They come here to see the Boyhood Home, of course, but we have exhibits that tell the story of life in the Dyess Colony, as well as how the Colony developed, and how growing up in the Colony impacted his music,” she said.
Hawkins says work continues in the next phase of restorations as work is currently being done at the Dyess Theatre.
“We are about to put the roof on the Theatre. The framing has gone up and things are really moving along. The contractors expect to have the building finished probably before Thanksgiving. We expect to be moving in probably in the spring. This will house our admissions area, our gift shop, and it will house a multi-purpose room where people can see orientation films and more,” she said.
Hawkins says the Cash family played an integral role in bringing the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home to where it was in the past. As work continues at the site, she says the family still provides items that can be placed in the home for the public to see when they take tours. Cash lived in Dyess from 1935 to his high school graduation in 1950.