Monday, May 30, 2005


If you're wondering why silence for a couple of days, take a glance at today's entry at . That'll explain it all.

Have a nice Memorial Day. Remember what it's for.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Tom Pry

Boy, does that phrase bring back memories for anyone but me? Who'll be the first to admit they know from whence it came?

My reason for this extra note is to send you over to a competitor. His name is Neville Martin and he's got a blog over at our old location. Just go to . He seems to be of an age with us, and he's a rather lyrical writer who reminds me a bit of Ernie Simpson. Sample some of his stuff: you might enjoy it.


I owe a deep apology to Don and Paula Anne. They sent this to me quite some few weeks ago and, in the setting up of the new sites and other stresses of day-to-day life, there it’s languished. Please accept our apologies. –tlp-

Don Thompson

I remember the Service Flag hanging in our window of the house on North Main across from the First Methodist Church. I lived with my grand parents and the flag represented their son, Alvin Graham. Then there was the terrible day a telegram arrived announcing that Alvin was missing in action. I can still hear my grandmother, Sadie Graham, breaking down and crying uncontrollably. We kept up hope that he would be found alive but eventually we learned he had died on the battlefield in France. Alvin had married just a short time before while on leave before heading to Europe. His bride would never see him again. There were so many similar stories at that terrible time.This is a memory I don't like to think about too much.

As a youngster of 7, I didn't understand about war but there was a certain excitement hearing about planes and tanks. There were the radio broadcasts, newspapers and movie news reels keeping us informed of the progress of the war effort. One memorable event really made a big impression on me. There was a demonstration of weaponry at the armory on East Race St. I remember going with some friends and watching the soldiers put on a show of machine guns and rifles in action. The smell of gunpowder permeated the air and the sound of rapid firing of weapons was deafening. My friends and I hung around after the show and searched for spent cartridges. I don't remember anyone telling us to leave and we found several shell casing. I even found one live M1 shell which I eagerly put into my pocket.

Years later at age 13, I decided to make something from those cartridges. I decided to fabricate a mechanical pencil from the complete shell. I carefully removed the bullet, emptied out the gunpowder, and drilled a hole in the cap end and cut off a piece of the bullet and drilled a hole through it so I could attach the lead end of a Scripto pencil. The cap of a radio vacuum tube served as the other end of the pencil. The natural color of the brass casing didn't appeal to me. I had just been reading about electroplating and decided to plate the pencil.

I had some Nickel Sulfate from a chemistry set and used another M1 cartridge to make an electrode by putting a piece of battery carbon in the bullet end. A ball of cotton soaked with nickel sulfate solution on the carbon end was used to "paint" on the nickel using batteries scrounged from the telephone company trash cans for electric current.

My son now has the pencil and you'll find a rather artistic photo of it at .

I did some research on the shells using the wonderful resources of the Internet. The cap end of the .30-06 M1 casing had an "F", "A", and 27 stamped around the rim. If my reasoning is correct, the FA means the shells were manufactured at the Frankfort Arsenal in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1927. I guess they were using some old ammunition for the demo.

Paula Anne Windsor Thompson

World War II has several memories for me. I did know there was a war going on, but early on I had very few connections with it. We were living close to Harding and Dad was manager of the Safeway store in Searcy. I remember coming home one afternoon and found my Dad at home early. My Mother told me that he was being drafted and he would be leaving soon. I was so surprised because he was 34 at that time and had previously been deferred because of his flat feet. I remember going down to the bus station to see him off along with a group of other draftees headed to Little Rock. I am not sure how he made it into the Navy, but he did and was off to San Diego for boot camp. My mother and I stayed in Searcy until I finished the fourth grade and then we moved to Little Rock to stay with my grandparents.

Once Dad finished boot camp and knew were he would be stationed, which turned out to be Oakland-Alameda Navy Base in California. My mother and he went there, leaving me with my grandmother. Mother did not think it would be a good place for me. My grandmother and aunt, who was still at home, looked after me and got me started to school in the fifth grade in Little Rock. After supper we would sit around and listen to the news. Do you remember Walter Winchell and "all the ships at sea"? My grandparents were always listening because my uncle, their son, was a bomber pilot and, of course, they’d listen to see what was happening.. My uncle was a squadron leader and was in the second group that flew over Berlin when the bombings began there. He was lucky to make it through the war. My dad never went to sea and that was fortunate for many reasons. One was he got motion sickness taking the ferry boat to the base on the island.

I looked forward to letters from my parents and occasionally I would get a 45 r.p.m. talk record made at the U.S.O. I still have those records.

I did survive that year in Little Rock, and was so glad when it was over and my parents returned. School was still in session, but for some reason I got sick that day and had to stay home from school. We moved back to Searcy and dad returned to Safeway.

Sailors Paul and Paula Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 26, 2005


(Originally run 11/26/03 on the old site)

Mary Kay James, SHS class of 1956

Hey Anita,

I also worked at Birdseye the summer after my Freshman year at ASTC, 1957, poking okra in holes to cut the tops off! Camelia Chambless and Kay Young and I worked the graveyard shift. We had to listen to the radio, KWCB, at 5:00 each afternoon to see if we were to work that night! We took a sack lunch and ate at midnight.

One night during our "lunch" time, the fire whistle blew and since we were practically downtown, we jumped into my 54 Chevy and headed to the fire. It was a building on Market Street, behind Anthony's. To this day, it is an empty open lot where people park their cars.
Occasionally we would work until 5:00 a.m. and go to the truck stop on the by-pass for breakfast. On one occasion, I wanted to do something else, so my mother worked for me that night. She loved visiting with the women.

Can you believe that? Those days were practically harmless. I have lots of fun memories .

Mary Kathryn Van Patten James (1956) Posted by Hello
Marian Daniel Ingram

I, too, worked at the Birdseye Processing Plant with Anita and Judy, and we were processing okra. I sat before a "wheel" that went round and round, and was supposed to make sure I stuck the end of the okra in each hole that went by so the ends would be cut off and the okra would fall on the conveyor belt. I still don't care too much for okra.

I remember our "lunch hour" would be spent at Peck's and a footlong hot dog. I kept working after Anita left and had clothes money for college. Bought a mouton coat with part of it. By the way, Anita should have stayed, 'cause I got promoted to Quality Control before I left for school. Am enjoying the memories.

Mary Kathryn adds:

Check out my brother and sister-in-law’s site. They have posted photos of a reunion their class had last summer. It’s

From Anita Hart Fuller, in reference to reunion photos posted earlier

I hate to tell you Tom, but that's ME with the red vest, white shirt, jeans. AND the cigarette is a candy cigarette I brought, along with some of our old candy we used to buy at The Little Store across from the high school: those paraffin bottles with juice in them, red paraffin lips, Kits (in flavors of banana, chocolate, strawberry). That's Bob (Bobby Scott) next to me with the cig.

From my co-webmaster, Ernest Simpson:

I loved both these stories, from Anita (good gracious, what a trooper), and your mom. (Now I know where you got your moxie). I know a little about both those places: after dad died, mom got on at Birdseye. Long hours, hard work.

I was proud of her.

The shoe factory? My dad worked there up until about 1958; he had a hard job too, but made the best of it. Larry Maness got a summer job there in '56 or '57. Larry and my dad became friends.

They agreed on the personalities of some of the women there, namely one dad coined the title of "that old heifer." Larry was amused at this country phrase my dad used, (I explained that was a stubborn old cow) but kept the name of that lady, "that old heifer", as long as he worked there, too. Larry and I discussed later when we were teaching about how my dad defined personalities at work, and Larry marveled that he was right on.

Both those men were heroes to me. I will write about them, soon.

Now, a voice who has not before graced this site, Roland King:

I remember a couple of years ago you said you might write a book about Searcy. Well, my friend, I think you've done even better. Everyone loves to read and remember the good times and hear from old friends from and in Searcy.

I remember your Grandmother's strawberry shortcake. I had not, and have not, seen one that was that large: it was delicious!

I remember the old Plaza theater. I went to several movies there.

That was nice of Anita asking about old football stories. I'll try to send some later along with track and FFA.

Please do, Roland and, meanwhile, dear readers, what’s YOUR story?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


(Originally run 11/24/03 on the old site)

Anita Hart Fuller

I have a little Birdseye story: Judy Rice and I applied to work there, and NOT being 18 just yet, lied about our age on our application. But we were hired, and spent graduation night -- while everyone else was out partying, etc. -- working the graveyard shift at Birdseye. I absolutely HATED it, and would get soooo sleepy before all the spinach or whatever it was we were "putting up" would finally run out. (It was Kale, but close enough. –tlp-) I was on the weighing line, and I was at the end of the line. For the most part, I never got a box to weigh because all the other women would get them before me ... but when they would stack up: you guessed it, they would ALL come back to where I was. We would weigh the box and either put in or take out....

I always thought it funny that the most "prestigious" job was "sorting" -- which meant picking out the rocks, frogs, snake pieces (YES), sticks -- whatever - given to the ladies with seniority - which mean the older ladies whose eyesight and reflexes to grab that stuff out was not the best. One night, I got sent over there and, I can tell you, we picked out lots of whatever, but we also let lots pass by. For years I wouldn't eat any Birdseye "greens," and I told all my friends not to do so, either.

I didn't last very long: I needed my rest, but Judy Rice kept on long after I quit and made "lots" of money, for those days.

Dear Old Mom a.k.a. Marcella Pry

For what it's worth … in the 50’s …

The people in the stores made 50 cents an hour. They didn't make that to start out. At J.C. Penny, the manager of the dress department, who’d been there 20 years, only made 50 cents an hour. Do you remember that little restaurant that Cookie (my late sister, Roberta) worked at on the Courthouse square? She finally got up to $15.00 a week before she went out to Merritt's truck stop, where she could get extra hours.

Out at the Fairgrounds (at Birdseye), we started out at 50 cents an hour, and the men 75 cents an hour.

A gal sued Clary over "they didn't keep their promise" to start paying more. (They had mentioned in letters they sent out to people that they would pay more). Eventually, they got rid of her … but we started making a dollar an hour, and the men $1.25. (The men made more because they had a family to support, as if the women were working to pass the time, or to get a new set of slip covers for their couch).

Originally, I went to the Shoe Factory and put in for a job. They sent me home for my pay stub from Chicago. I made a special trip home for it. After the woman saw it, she told me I wouldn't be happy there. (And I wouldn't have been). That's why we borrowed money from the Searcy Bank to buy supplies for the Red River Eat Shop. (Located at the site of the present Searcy VFW, which was directly across the river, at that time). Later, we upgraded to the Oasis. By the time White County went dry, I had already taken the test for Clary. The Employment Office gave the test at the Legion Hut. They said I made the highest score of anyone.

I was young then.

Clary opening up here is why I always said the best thing that Orval Faubus did as Governor was to make Win Rockefeller head of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005



(Originally run 11/25/03 on the old site)

Ernest Simpson

Anita's comment about the High School Annuals from Marvin Sowell will lead me in time to the Searcy Library, for sure. And yes, Anita, I will read what you wrote to him in the yearbook! No secret's safe in the library! I'm a believer: You'll never find greater sentiment, poured out with truer passion, than that written in a high school annual, forty-five plus years ago. May it ever be thus.

Anita Hart Fuller

Did I get to Gabalee? Bob says he did, but I can't dredge up any memories. Bob says he probably saw his first live "theater" there: The U. did "Good News" in the open air Greek Theater....remember that?

Now that you mention it, I do remember Sally Rand at Dallas! I've written and received an email from Judy Deener, and she has a great comment on her being a majorette: She couldn't twirl worth a flip, and never cared to, but “ .. in Mr. Laas' band, about all the majorettes had to do was walk in front of the band with their batons under their arm." For some reason, they had to wear long pants, but Dorothy Caldwell -- when she was drum major -- wore shorts. After that, I'm thinking all the drum majors were guys (boys).

Also, great memory of the women at the Mayfair Hotel: I could only think of Phyllis Smith.

To Tom: you've found a treasure trove of memories in Mildred AND Jim Wilbourn, whose first knowledge of Searcy came when he married Mildred, but I'd put him up against anybody when it comes to remembering people and events after about l959! - maybe before.

Everybody "keep on keeping on," as my mother is "wont" to say. (NOTE from 5/24/05: Mrs. Hart took a bad fall last week, but is expected to go back home this Thursday. Corinne may be closing in on her mid-90's, but it sure hasn't slowed her down much. -tlp-)

Two comments/observations: Home Ec. I personally HATED that class and, fortunately, I didn't need the credit to graduate because I didn't get credit for it, as I never did finish my dress (we had to make a dress or make something, and I guess I chose a dress. I was supposed to go back up there in the summer to sew on the machines and finish it, but I never did).

"Cheating" in class: I think it was our 9th grade English Literature class taught by Mrs. Hicks. Anyway, we read "Silas Marner" and would have a true-false test each week over what we had read. We "conned" Calvin Skaggs, the smartest in the class, into placing his pencil eraser up for True, eraser down for False....

And now one more memory about being in Mrs. Hick's class: someone would begin to hum, then another, and another,etc. As humming can be done without any facial expression, we all looked as if it were business as usual, and it nearly drove her nuts to try and find out who the hummers were.

I remember a sweet red-haired lady who got stuck with Study Hall one year. As you’ll recall, on the first day of school, a pad would be circulated through study hall, and everyone would write down their name. Then the teacher would read the list out loud, and we’d answer “Here” or words to that effect. This particular class period, the lady read off a name to which no one responded. She repeated it again. A snicker from the crowd. She repeated the name about 3 more times before the rising chorus of snickers let her know she’d been had. Blushing, she went on to the next name. The name, shouted loudly? I. P. Wellwater.

I don’t really understand how some teachers put up with us. –tlp-

Anita contines:

Anyone remember Mrs. Hick's beautiful granddaughter who used to visit in the summer and, one year, attended school with us: all the boys hung around her doorstep all summer long, just like a scene in a movie. Her name: Margaret McClean. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin - she was indeed beautiful, and had impeccable manners. We didn't. P.S. I have a picture of her.


Margaret McClean Posted by Hello

NOTE TO DON THOMPSON: I take it on both faith and evidence that the Plaza Theatre existed, but it is totally missing from my memory. 'Long about Chapter 3 or 4 of my SEARCY '46-'56 epic, I tell about how Saturday was our day to go to the movies. It was ALWAYS the Rialto. Got any idea when the Plaza closed? And his reply:

See the 1936 Searcy Boy's Band pic for a view of the Plaza. Don't know when it closed, but it was a fun theater.

I was about 6 when we moved to Searcy from Rosebud. We rented a house that was across the street from the First Methodist Church and behind the service station. The Acme cleaners bordered the side yard. Anyway, I would walk to the Rialto by myself at night for the movies. It was just up one block to the Security Bank, then one block up Spring St. Life was good.

Today, kids are inundated with TV programs, video tapes and DVDs, as well as the movies. When we were growing up in 1940s Searcy, we had the Rialto and Plaza theaters. Saturday was a special time for picture shows, because we could go to the matinee at the Plaza and then see the latest western at theRialto at night. Some, like Paula, tended to do the reverse.

I have the fondest memories of the Plaza. On the way to the theater, I would stop at Sterling’s and get a bag of hot spanish peanuts to fortify me during the double feature action films. I can't say which I enjoyed most, the main features or the serials. One of the most memorable serials was "The Purple Monster from Mars". The idea of invaders from space was ever-present in the pulp SciFi magazines, but to see one on the silver screen was outstanding. I always carried my nickel-plated cap pistol to the theater in case the heroes needed my help. The rats had better beware. Fortunately, there were no metal detectors at the door to uncover that shiny beauty.

There seemed to be an endless supply of thrillers for our enjoyment. My favorites were the Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf, and Mummy series that kept me on the edge of my seat. Then there was the kind old gentleman Charlie Chan, who could outwit the smartest thugs -- and always did. Those movies were not just a moment's entertainment. They provided the inspiration for countless hours of adventure role-playing with the neighborhood kids. I remember my best ever halloween costume was a cape and mask my grandmother, Sadie Graham, made from the lining of a black velour coat. When I donned that ensemble, I was Zorro. I made my mark on plenty of walls and those memories have made their marks on me.

Monday, May 23, 2005


(Originally run 11/22/03 on the old site)

Ernest Simpson

There’s tribute we should pay to those who watched out for us during high school days and, many times, we didn’t realize they were looking out for us. Now, thankfully, we are old enough, or at least mature enough, to look back and realize what was going on. I believe in Angels, and there have been many in my life. Sometimes they are difficult to recognize, however, and when we don’t know, we should do all we can to try to acknowledge and be aware of their presence. Two of those in my life have reminded me to try to remember the importance of the following scripture:

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,
For thereby some have
Entertained Angels unawares.
(Hebrews 13:2)

In high school days, I had some slight talent for music, and had an appreciation for art and drama, but was no match for the analytical skills, namely mathematics. I really struggled with all math courses and, after Plane Geometry and Algebra I, came the task of trying for Algebra II. That was a real mistake. My little brain was on overload from day one, and Mrs. Forrest, although bright, couldn’t penetrate the wall to my brain with the understanding of this technical subject.

Beginning my senior year was the telling place, and Algebra was going to be my undoing. Sure enough, through struggle and trial, it was to no avail and the academic half-unit I needed to add up to graduation credits was going down the tube. I went to Lee Yarbrough, and posed the dreadful question, ‘Mr. Yarbrough, what the heck am I going to do?’ He said to give him some time and he’d try to come up with an idea. There was only one solution to this dilemma, and Mr. Yarbrough found it.

Mr. Luther Hardin, a legend at Searcy High, taught the agriculture courses. The counterpart to this course was Home Economics I and II for the girls, taught by another legend, Mrs. Morgan. The boys and girls were segregated in these two courses. Boys did not take Home Economics, and girls didn’t take Agri. Despite this, unbeknownst to me, Lee Yarbrough had talked to Mrs. Morgan, and posed a hypothetical question. Then he called me into conference with her, him and me, and asked Mrs. Morgan about the possibility of me taking one of her Home Ec. Classes. I stammered, but said sure, it would be fine with me. He dismissed me, and continued to talk with her a few minutes in private. Soon after, I found myself enrolled in Home Ec. I. I was the only boy, a senior at that, among twenty freshmen girls.

The news of this spread like wildfire throughout the high school and, by the next day, at least a half-dozen boys were at Mr. Yarbrough’s office attempting to enroll in Home Ec. The invisible macho barrier had been broken, and there was a senior boy enrolled in Home Ec. I did not fit what some might have profiled as a guy who would want to be in a this particular class, and the ramifications of that created some small problems for Mr. Yarbrough, since the others who wanted in the class did not fit that profile, either. He held his ground, and I stayed what I would call a “unique” student in the class.

All the freshmen girls in the class looked at me like a big brother, and Mrs. Morgan, being creative, outlined classes that would make the most of having a boy in the class. We talked about dating, manners in dating; opening the car door for the girl, walking her to the door after a date, the unforgivable: never honking when picking up a girl for a date, and many other things which helped both the girls and me.

We had classes on cooking, table setting, running a proper household, cleaning, and decorating. We did design and prepare two meals, and the class participated in the meals, which were a lot of fun for the whole class.

The class was great from the standpoint of my having a lot of attention, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I was mindful of being respectful to the girls in the class. Of course, I appreciated Mrs. Morgan and how she handled the class to obtain the best educational experience for each student in the room.

So for me here, in the spring of the year 1957, were a couple of Angels: Mrs. Cecil Morgan and Mr. Lee Yarbrough. They would not have considered themselves as such and, until now, I would have agreed. However, at the end of the day, they were angels, and had to be for looking out for me and the many other kids that passed under their guidance during those years. I truly believe there are many more who, upon reflection, would agree.

(P. S. Elois Bleidt confirmed my esteem for and opinion of Mrs. Morgan, with a note and a couple of great stories about her own personal obstacles and pitfalls in the class.)

Sunday, May 22, 2005


(Originally run 11/17/03 on the old site)

Don Thompson:

We finally figured it was the 1952 All-State Band pic. Searcy reps are Paula on oboe, Pat Young on bass sax, Tom Killough on clarinet, and Elbert Eubanks on trombone. Anita thinks the string bass player might be Gloria Mason, who lives in Georgia. Anita will pass it by her. Maybe it is a pic from our parallel universe, where Anita made it.

Paula was All State in 51, 52, and 53 on the oboe. Me, I was a bump on a log.

All-State Concert Band Posted by Hello

As a bonus, Don sent along a link to photos of Paula’s 50th Class Reunion, held earlier in 2003.

Just go to

Wallace Evans

I will work on one historical shot of my grandparent’s store that was located on South Spring St. in Searcy during and after World War II. I stacked canned goods and also got a few goodies for my work. Many of their customers were blacks (the store was just north of the current Carmichael Center and the black part of Searcy at that time was across the railroad tracks to the south) that I later became very good friends with some of them as I was growing up in Searcy. Some of those friends still live in Searcy.

Ernest Simpson

This was so great! I loved the pix of Punky and Frank...I don't know if Punky is still living; last I heard years ago he was playing in a club band. Good at it, he was! But I'm like you, I didn't know anyone in the photo.

Help me with this, who were the old lady sisters who ran the Mayfair in the 50's? I can't think of their names. I worked a stint there, waiting tables, if you can believe that! So I do have a couple of stories about that, Mr. Troy Haile's station on the Corner of Race and Main, and the Roseann Motel. Now that was a challenge...more about that later...

Thanks for your understanding about my 'little setback' comment. Yes, I would never be dismissive. It’s just that Bobby Scott was the perfect example of 'great success, in spite of....' and his great success may have come from the facing of this adversity. That's the true measure his character and what he accomplished. Somebody once said, "It's not what you'd do with the million dollars if you had it, it's what you're doing with the dollar and a quarter you've got." Bobby Scott Fuller parlayed his dollar and a quarter into more than a million, yea, more than ten million. Good work, good piece, my friend.

(You know I think the one light whack with the Sam Browne belt did a lot of good for the character of those four boys, it certainly gave them a clear understanding of tough love by Bill Laas.)

Anita Fuller

If you would just like to look at those annuals - not "lift" them: Marvin Lee Sowell, baritone player from your band days, gave his yearbooks to the Searcy Public Library and the last time I saw them they were in the historical room. I enjoyed reading what people wrote him, me included. Naturally, I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles I DID NOT write that, but there it is, in my handwriting.

(Marvin Sowell had a ham radio station: W5WUH, which he’d always identify as “W5WUH, World’s Ugliest Ham.” He still operates it, from Tampa Bay.

(At a dance one night at the old Country Club, he and I dipped deeply into a bottle of Seagram’s Golden Gin that he’d stashed behind my bass drum. Ultimately, I took over the string bass he was playing, and he took over the drums.

(Until that time, I had never played string bass in my life; Marvin, on the other hand, had played drums. It was musically interesting, but not musically acceptable. We thought we were terrific).

I LOVED today's entry. Please tell Ernie, too. I, too, slept in a cold room on a feather bed, early on. We had gas stoves in every room, but didn't light them all. My Dad would come in my bedroom early in the morning and light the it was warm when I got up! We only lighted the stove in the living room on Sundays. I loved Sundays....and oh yes, we'd spring for lighting the stove when we put up the Christmas tree in the living room. I repeat, I loved today's entry and think it was wonderful for y'all to take in those guys. Wish I'd had the opportunity to do that. But we did, sort of, take in Johnny you remember him?

(Johnny Argo was a floating DJ who worked at KWCB for something a little less than a year, one of the countless numbers of “floaters” who work a place for awhile, then move on to, if not to greener pastures, at least different ones.

(Johnny went from here to Little Rock, then to Hartford, CT, before he went to Kansas City, KS. When he left there, he followed his then-colleague, Morton Downey, Jr. wherever he went. We lost track at that point, but are reliably informed that he is deceased).

I'm so glad you found Frank Thompson, right under your nose so to speak. That sort of reminds me that, several years ago, I ran into D.D. Young at a great cafe in Kensett. When I asked him how long he'd been back in Searcy, his reply was something like "25 years". Now wouldn't you think that during all those years I'd (or we'd - Bob and I ) would have run into him SOMEWHERE? So, even though you and Frank, high school buddies, are currently living in the same town is NO reason you would ever have accidentally bumped into him. Glad I could help. Now who else do you want to find?

(As those of you who’ve looked at some recent photos of old classmates can attest, frequently the problem is that you just don’t recognize them anymore. Some are easy, most are hard. Frequently, the change is so complete that you could walk by someone you used to date and never tell. See the photo of me today as opposed to the yearbook at the link on the left marked “Searcy Memories”).

That was a beautiful tribute to Bob Ernie wrote - and you, too. I will have to AMEN everything he said about Bob Fuller NEVER ever complaining nor felt sorry for himself - the “why me?” syndrome. He has been such an inspiration to so many kids, I really feel those kids in Jonesboro and Oak Park, Ill. would have killed for him, if called upon to do so.

Now he's still active and gardening like fury here in GREERS FERRY - NOT Heber Springs, Tom. (but that's o.k. many people make the same mistake) using a little boy toy called a Gator, made by John Deere. AND he's also the proud owner of a new John Deere riding lawn mower and he's now mowing a yard for the first time since l952. Needless to say I'm almost as thrilled as he is.

And, finally, from Harold Sullivan:

Thanks for the corrections in my writing, I sure need help. However, you missed one, it should have been aisle instead of isle. It is funny how mistakes really stand out after you have sent it to others. Spelling was never my strong suit, but if you want to solve a differential equations or an integral, that I can do.

I do have one disagreement with you. It might be interesting to take a vote of the readers since we all have different memories and each is sure we are correct. Searcy Bank was cattycornered from Federated Store, on the southwest corner of the square. Security Bank was cattycornered from Robinson’s Drug Store on the southeast corner of the square, next to White County Motor Company, the Ford dealer, before it moved out on East Race. On the subject of remembering where things use to be, Dub Cook, Mary Beth’s dad, use to have a grocery store next to Garrison’s Jewelry on the west side of the square.

Keep up the good work, I really enjoy it.

You’re right about The Searcy Bank location. But, hey, no editor’s purfeckt – they just THINK they are.

More as it arrives. What are YOUR memories, and where are YOUR photos?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

MAKIN’ $$$$$$$$$$$$

(Originally run 11/16/03 on the old site)

Teenagers never have enough money. That’s a given, whether they’re an Ernie Simpson taking tickets at the Rialto and checking to see that no one’s sneaking in the side door of the theatre, to (well, I was going to say the Menendez brothers, but that’s a little extreme – you get the idea).

But how to make that money? Clerking in stores was pretty popular:

Paula Anne Windsor Peacock Thompson

One never really understands the human population until they are exposed to the masses. At the very early age of 16, I went to work at the Sterling Five and Dime, on Spring Street. This was truly a 5 and 10 cent store. Oh they did have things that cost more, but not on the notion counter that I was given to serve the customers.

This was in the days when you actually had a person seeing you, and asking if they could help, and then taking your money right then and giving you your change and a package.
Well, when you have not been exposed to the things that people purchase or wear it is truly an experience, as I was to discover.

I started to work in the summer, and it was very hot. A lady came to the counter and I noticed her thin cotton dress with large, lacy, arm holes. Then I noticed she wasn't wearing a bra, but I think she felt she was properly dressed because her nipples were covered with band-aids. I was both amazed and amused at that sight.

Gee, who says women first took off their bras in the 70's. In Searcy, we were really into the modern era much earlier. I thought it was a wonderful idea, but decided not to try it, as I did not like the adhesive on the bandages!!!

Another learning experience was to see what folks bought for Christmas gifts. During the Christmas rush, I had people buy 10 comb sets at a time for gifts. I just could not imagine giving a 3 piece comb set as a gift!

So, you can see that working in a public place is always to be considered one of life's great experiences. Take advantage and learn all you can....

From Harold Sullivan:

Paula, your story about working at Sterling Five and Dime reminded me of my days working during high school. Don followed me in the job after I quit the summer I graduated from high school and went to work for Wayne Dale, but that is another story.

During high school, I had one of the better kid’s jobs in town: I even made 40 cents an hour. I was the stock boy and general flunky at Federated Store, also known as the Burr Store part of the time, and probably another name or two that I have forgotten.

I worked there for several years. It was just southeast of the courthouse on Arch Street, next door to Pope’s Piano Store and across the street from Smith-Vaughn and cattycorner from the Searcy Bank (First Security, now). Most, if not all, the time I worked there, the manager was a Mr. Bauer. He was from Chicago and “talked funny”. I really didn’t like him at first because he was very demanding, but I grew to really like and appreciate him. The assistant manager was Doyle Bradley from Georgetown.

My job was to do whatever Mr. Bauer or Mr. Bradley told me to do. I worked for a couple of hours after school, until they closed at 5 or 6 PM. Also, I worked all day Saturday. They waxed the floors once a month, and then we would work until midnight or after. During the week, I would restock things, organize the lay-a-ways, and such. On Saturday, I would fill in as a clerk, waiting on people. Anytime I showed up for work, the first thing I did was to wash the front plate glass windows, no matter what the weather. Mr. Bauer was a real fanatic about their being clean.

One Saturday while I was clerking, this old gentleman (at least he seemed old to me at the time) came up and wanted to buy a sock. I told him they came in pairs. Well, he sat right down in the floor and pulled off one shoe and showed me the hole in his sock, and then pulled off the other one and showed me that it didn’t have a hole in it. All this to prove that he only needed one sock. I asked Mr. Bradley what to do and he said to tell the potential customer we are having a 2-for-1 sale. So I did, and the old gentleman thought that was great, and left with the other new sock in his pocket, happy that he had gotten a bargain.

Another time while I was clerking, this lady was standing near my register, which was just across the isle from the “ladies things”. She was a lady in her mid-20s that I barely knew. She had something in her hand, so I thought I could ring it up for her. When I ask her if I could help, she said sure … and started asking me about shadow-proof panel slips. I had never heard of such a thing and, besides, I was terribly embarrassed to even talk about such. Then she got to asking me about different bras and their relative merits. By this time I was red all over and could hardly talk. Now this was in the days that boys like me barely knew girls wore such and certainly didn’t talk about them. Then the laughter broke out behind me. Several of the other clerks had put her up to it just to embarrass me, and it really worked.

Finally, from Don Thompson:

I have attached a 1946-47 pic of Punky Caldwell and Frank Vestel. Paula lived next door to them when she was in the 6th grade and in the starter band playing a tonette (Paula still has it).

You never know what we will come up with next ;-) .

Punky Caldwell and Frank Vestal Posted by Hello

Yeah, that’s one of things that makes this editing gig kind of fun. As for myself, my senior year … I drove a school bus, did work for the radio station, wrote for the newspaper .. and served as the Artificial Insemination Technician for the White County Dairy Cattle Breeding Association. Want to try to top that?

Finally, Don Thompson passed on to us a link to the photos he took at April’s Class of ’54 “mini-reunion.” You’ll find them at

Unfortunately, in high school, a two-year gap is like 20 years after you become an adult and, other than Paula Windsor, I don’t recognize a single soul. Do you?

Friday, May 20, 2005


(Originally run 11/15/03 on the old site)

Harold Gene Sullivan has joined our little cyberparty, and contributes these thoughts:

I had a little more contact with "colored" than you. A special memory and a great and important lesson was from D.D. Young's mother. D.D. lived at the corner of College and West Pleasure, which was on the edge of the colored part of town. (Editor’s note: this is one block north of where Ollie Mae’s last surviving daughter, Jenny, lives). Anyway, there was an open lot next to their house which we used to play baseball in. Some of the colored kids would see us playing and would come over to watch. Mrs. Young made us always let them play ball with us. That was unusual and that's why it has always stuck with me. This was my first real experience with colored kids on an equal basis, and I learned they were just people.

I had lots of other contacts, too, since my dad sold Pepsi to colored stores but, then, the interaction wasn't on an equal basis. I do believe that race relations were starting to change even before the federal government got involved. I know that the older generation believed in strict segregation, but our generation was starting to question it. You were right, it was hard to get good answers. I went to Hendrix College in 1953-6, and there was a lot of discussion about the morality of having a Christian (Methodist) segregated college. I'm sure that changes would have happened without federal involvement, just much, much slower.

Your small town bus story reminded me of this: I married a girl from McRae, Julia Carolyn Cranford, a cousin of Gloria Cranford (now, sadly, deceased). For many years, she took off Friday afternoon from school and caught the bus to Searcy from McRae. She took music from Mrs. Ward on Center Street. Then Julia would catch the bus back to McRae.

It is hard to imagine that today one would go to that much trouble, not to mention letting a little girl make those trips by herself. But that really was a different time.

I love your old band stories. The trips were some of the greatest times. Hot Springs was the highlight of the year.

One year, we went up to a band festival at the University of Arkansas. The boys, at least some of us, stayed in a long room filled with bunk beds. The room had a dogleg in the middle.

Near the back of the room, where you couldn’t be seen from the door, we got into a big pillow fight and had feathers spread 6 inches deep all over the floor. About then, Bill Laas came by for the nightly bed check. We turned out the lights in that back area and he stopped, and talked to some of the guys in the front part. Anyway, for some reason, instead of coming back where we were, he just called roll from the front of the room. Lucky we were all there and answered. We just knew we were in a lot of trouble.

If the University ever contacted him about the broken pillows, we never heard about it.

Another memorable trip was to the Texas State Fair in Dallas. Our routine was “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. Mr. Laas had made all the props.

I got my name written on a grain of rice. I kept that in my wallet for many, many years.

I remember the crossing gate where the old Hwy 67 crossed the tracks on what is now S. Elm. The gate was unusual because it rose out of the street with lighted words on it (I don't remember the words). One day, my dad in his Pepsi truck was just crossing and it and the sign came up and Dad couldn't stop. It was a real bump when he went over it, made lots of noise, but no damage.

My source material was not horribly specific about that first automatic crossing gate in the southwestern U.S. Putting it at what is now S. Elm and what is now Beebe-Capps makes more sense than present-day Main Street. It also explains the curved road from the south end of Elm onto Booth Street .. a la old 67.

Consider the crossing gate, dedicated in 1937 by the then-Governor, moved.

Now another newbie, Betty (Taylor) Emerson, is heard from:

I have loved reading and traveling down memory lane. Roland King sent me the e-mail today. I want to be added to your list you notify of updates. Thanks. I will notify Carl and Lucy Ann (McNeese) Wilson.

One more newbie, Dr. Wallace Evans (SHS Class of ’54) popped out of the blue to write:

As I get time, I will send you some stories. I also have some photos on my computer from a mini-meeting with 1954 classmates at Searcy this past April.

I live in Bella Vista, AR, now that I have retired from the U.S. Dept. of Interior (27 yrs.), and now find myself volunteering to advise Bella Vista Village on their 7 lakes (all of them have some pollution problems). Don Thompson, one of my classmates, just made me aware of your website. I have been working on the 1954 SHS class list for about a year and have 57 of the 60 classmates located in preparation of next spring's mailings. Seven of the graduates are deceased.

The Reunion was a success. See the photos at .

Here’s a funny coincidence for you. Part One is this note from Anita Hart Fuller:

Where did you get this latest pic of the band? Don Thompson???? Now that you've written about the coveralls, you MUST get Don's pic of Paula in hers. It's made from the back so as to show "Searcy High School Band" - great picture. I wish someone had a pic of ME marching in the band but, as far as I know, none exists.

Part Two is that, exactly five minutes BEFORE I got Anita’s note, I got one from Don Thompson, containing Anita’s requested picture. You two reading each other’s minds?

Anita also contributed:

One more remembrance about playing the string bass, two actually. I was so short I stood on a Coke case.

For one number in a concert, the string bass started it out, as a solo. To ensure I got my finger in the proper position, Mr. Laas put a piece of tape at the position......and marked it accordingly.

With new people suddenly piling in with us (glad to have you!), it’s worth repeating two points.

I’m the writer ONLY of those sections marked “SEARCY ’46-’56,” except as noted, and other places where it’s obvious. I am ALSO the Editor of the rest. Unlike a teacher, an editor doesn’t grade: just quietly corrects or, sometimes, adjusts to fit his/her own grammatical prejudices. This is the long way ‘round of saying: you send me the story, and I’ll make sure no one knows you were asleep in English or typing class that day.

If you want to get a message to one of our contributors, send it to me here on the site, and I’ll see that they get it. IF they then want to give you their personal e-mail address, that’s their choice. NO ONE’S e-mail address will be indiscriminately posted on the web or in mass mailings. P.S. Be sure you include your own e-mail address.

Thursday, May 19, 2005



(Run originally 10/18/03 on the old site)

Ernie Simpson,

When we are very young, sometimes a role model will come into our lives that inspires us, and causes us to look at them with awe or, at least, great admiration. Bill Laas was a wonderful teacher who recognized something, I know not what, in a barefoot sixth grader that he would spend his important time to try to cultivate. He loaned me an old Buescher cornet, because my family didn’t have money for a horn, and that kind of thing was totally foreign to my parents anyway. Only rich people had the desire to play such a sophisticated instrument, essentially because it would wind up being a hobby. This, because there was no way to get a job playing a horn and you, of course, could not make a real living playing a horn; maybe a fiddle or guitar, but not a horn. Everyone knew that.

Why barefoot? Well, in the summer before my 6th grade, several of the incoming 6th graders were invited to come to the band room to meet Mr. Laas and, if we would like to join the band, he wanted to talk to us. It was summer, I was barefoot and having summer fun, but I also wanted to join the band. So I walked to the band room from Grandma’s house at 1705 North Main to meet Mr. Laas. He talked to me about playing a horn, and tapped out a rhythm with his toe, and asked if I could copy it, with my foot pat. Gosh, if I had known he would ask me to tap out a rhythm, I surely would have worn shoes. Years later, my paternal grandfather, J.B. Lowrey, did his best to convince me to go to L.A. and try out for the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. Nothing doing, because I at least knew the real story behind the group, having met a couple of members of the troupe on a tour, and asking them a lot of questions. Besides, I wanted to be a teacher.

Bill Laas is gone now, but it was him, before Al English, who set a standard for what a hero a teacher could be in the life of a young kid. I thought he invented the word ‘embouchure’ and when he said my embouchure was a natural for a cornet player, I was totally impressed that he recognized anything I had that might help me become a good player. He was continually hounding the school to take us on field trips for concerts, outings and anything musical that would cause us to be inspired.

It was he who took a quartet of players to the Mayfair Hotel to play for the Kiwanis club luncheon. Jimmy Chandler, Don Christian, and Larry Killough played Sophisticated Lady, a clarinet trio. And the 6th grader played, ‘Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms’…. on the old Buescher cornet.

It was he who took our band to Conway to hear THE United States Marine Band in an evening concert. He told us all it would be 50 cents. I told my mom and she said, “Son, we really can’t afford it.” I apologized to Mr. Laas and said I couldn’t go, and he told me, tell your mom don’t worry, I’ll pay your way. She sent me back with the 50 cents, and said, “If Mr. Laas thinks it’s important for you to go, then we’ll find the money.” From then on, Mr. Laas had two other fans: my mom and dad.

What a wondrous occasion it was, those beautiful uniforms, shiny horns, and wow, how they could play. The trombone soloist was featured in the Del Stager’s arrangement of Carnival of Venice, and for the third movement, he tied the trombone slide to the toe of his shoe, and played sitting down, with one hand on the horn, and his right toe making the position changes! Impossible!

It was he, Bill Laas, who took a school bus to Memphis State to hear a clinic and concert by the World’s Greatest Trumpet Player, Rafael Mendez. By this time, I was about in the 9th grade. I could not believe a trumpet could be played like that. How could it be, the wondrous sounds coming from this horn?

Just One of My Heroes Posted by Hello

In the clinic, Mr. Mendez answered questions about playing, practice, endurance, and range. The auditorium was full of Memphis State musicians, and other high school guests who came from far and near to hear him speak and play. The balcony was full where we were, but we could see very well, and hear as good, too.
One of the college kids asked about chewing gum and playing at the same time, and Mr. Mendez artfully explained about the importance of keeping the tongue and lips clear for the work they had to do in performance. Others asked about how much practice is important, and questions of a really technical nature. We were taking it all in.
Finally, he said, “ Are there any other questions from the audience?” Silence, then one of the hands in our little group went up. I looked over, and it was fearless, obnoxious little Billy.
Mr. Mendez said, ‘Yes, there’s a question in the balcony?’ Billy said in a loud voice, “Yeah, how loud can you blow?”
Omigod, I wanted to crawl under the seat, as the whole audience erupted in one huge guffaw. I looked over at Mr. Laas, and he was sitting with his hand over his mouth, stifling a chuckle.
It was, after all, pretty funny, and the Great Rafael Mendez replied after things settled down, “Well, you know, I think I can blow pretty loud.” Another huge laugh from the audience.
This was a wonderful experience, except for that one embarrassing moment, and all we little band kids from Searcy got to hear and see the Worlds Greatest Trumpet Player, Rafael Mendez, thanks to Mr. Bill Laas.
So, this is a story about a good man, a true and compassionate teacher, not Rafael Mendez, the worlds greatest trumpet player, but Wm.E. (Bill) Laas, who started me on a path and a love affair with music that continues to feed my soul, lift my spirits and has given me a wondrous, life-long gift, and a burden lifting power. Here’s to you, Mr. Laas, God Rest Your Soul, and may you never be forgotten. Not by me, and not in my lifetime, my hero, for sure.

Tom Pry
Ernie told me I could footnote this, so I will.
First of all, for you non-musicians, “embrochure” is the way you hold your lips when you’re playing, and it’s critical to the sound. With my buck teeth, the only way I managed the French horn was to find a mouthpiece with a very large cup and, consequently, a very narrow bore – all this for a decent embrochure.
Ernie had a good one.
Bill Laas was seminal in a lot of lives, mine included. In my case, he let me join the band at the beginning of the 10th grade (there’s a long story there), because I could read music, and he figured he could teach me enough about drumming to get me through. He was right, but I never would’ve went where I did if he hadn’t taken a flyer on me.
Ernie and I differ on our memories of that Rafael Mendez trip: I would swear it was Al English who herded us to Memphis to participate in an afternoon seminar with Sr. Mendez, then back that night to hear him in concert with the Memphis State Band. I could also be very wrong.
Al was a worthy successor to Bill. Both were excellent musicians, both genuinely cared about the students under their care, and both were worthy of emulation, as judge the rather large number of their high school students who went off to College intending to be a “ director, just like Mr. Laas/Mr. English.” I was one of them, as was Ernie, Larry Maness, Bobby Scott Fuller, etc.
At the end of the 53/54 school year, Bill Laas accepted an appointment in Michigan City, Indiana; his departure was counterbalanced by the arrival of Al English; as I said, a worthy successor.
Bill died some years ago. Al is in his native Texas, apparently in pretty bad shape, but still alert and reading the notes we send him from time-to-time.
A lot of lives would’ve been radically different had these two gentlemen not come into our young lives – and hearts.
A couple of other fast notes. Don Christian went on to become a star quarterback. Larry Killough became a doctor.
No one in their right mind would work for Lawrence Welk. To say he was a cheap, chiseling, insulting bastard is to insult cheap, chiseling, insulting bastards everywhere. Ernie has apparently made a lot of wise decisions in his life (more than I did, at any rate), and not chasing the Welk entourage was one of them.
Bill .. Al ... thanks for paving our ways to interesting and, sometimes, even productive lives. We hope we've returned the favor.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Tom Pry

Another piece of our memories is about to be trashed. For information, follow this link:
I especially love this: “Amy Burton, director of Searcy's Main Street program, said she will be sorry to see the old armory demolished, but she thinks the new Walgreens could increase traffic flow and business in the downtown area and help existing businesses there.”

Yep, that’s just what that already bottlenecked corner needs: more traffic.

I think I’ll stay with Stott’s.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

I think maybe they paved Hway 36W a little later than 1950; could it have been in 1952? My Dad taught me to drive on Hway 36W when it was still gravel. I remember feeling as if the car was sliding on that gravel and the ditch being awfully close to the front wheel! In November of 1950, I turned ten years old, and I don't think Dad began teaching me to drive before I was 12.

Tom Pry (again)

This has bothered me all morning, so I finally bit the bullet and started plumbing the depths of the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department -- and finally found Hilda Harris, a delightful lady who's in the Technology section, and also part of Arkansas Highways.

Hilda reports thusly: "The paving of highway 36 west of Searcy was project 5369, entitled 'Searcy to Rosebud.' It was 17.07 miles long, a 'Base & Surface' job, with contract let in 1951 and work completed in 1952."

Thanks so much, Hilda. Any questions?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Cliff Wiggs

Hello Ernie, While it may have been a "rerun", I sure enjoyed your article in the "Searcy Journal" a day or so ago. Always do!I've often thought about the old cliche, "You can't go home again". But I must have been there a thousand times or more, in my mind. I've traveled that dusty 12 miles to Searcy many times, looked at both sides of the road all the way there, and it only takes a couple of seconds. I remember very well where the pavement started or ended, depending on which direction you were going on hiway 36 west. It was just barely west of Mr. Claude Harrison's store. He had a big sign in front of his store that said "First Chance" as you were goin into town, and "Last Chance" as you were coming out.

I remember when 36 was paved in the early 50's, and how we'd longed and looked forward to the time. It was such a mess that first winter they worked on it that, in front of the "Robert Street place," cars would get stuck in the mud. Robert Coffey and his family were living there at that time, and he would pull cars out with the tractor, and charge them 50 cents. Pretty good money in those days for a few minutes work.

The memory is as great thing, isn't it? I hope I never lose mine. Take care, my friend, and may The Good Lord keep a’blessin’ you and yours.

Ernie Simpson

Good morning Cliff;

My Grandpa Lowrey had a blacksmith shop in the middle of Center Hill in those years, and the only thing I dreaded about going to see Grandma was that old gravel road. Our old model A didn't like that gravel, and it was hard to keep it in the road.

Yep, I'm thinking the road was gravel in the late '40s, as I remember. It was a big deal when they paved it.

Take care my friend.

Tom Pry

I think it was 1950 when they paved Hiway 36-west. We probably would’ve hated the graveled version, too, except that it was such a relief, so comparatively and wonderfully smooth, when compared to the bumps, ruts and potholes in what’s now North Valley Road, that it didn’t leave us any room to complain. And now they're almost finished making it four-lane to a mile west of North Valley ... with a nice concrete sidewalk all the way out to Honey Hill Road!

The changes we've seen .....

Which is one of the reasons we have this site.

Monday, May 16, 2005

VOX POPULI (The Voice of the People)

(Ran originally 11/10/03 on the old site)

Tom Pry

My last couple of pieces shook some things, some very welcome things, out of the attic. There is, for instance, this note:

I'm Donald Thompson, SHS class '54. Anita Fuller steered me to your web site. I lived next door to Ollie Mae in 1944- 1947, when she lived on 4th St. and Academy. Her nephew would visit and I would play with him and his pet pigeon.

Ollie's father lived on her property and would plow a plot of land with a mule. Ollie was a first class lady and her cooking was good. She was Dr. Porter Roger's cook, also. Thanks for the memories. My wife Paula, formerly Paula Windsor (class '53), and I have lots of pics of Searcy. Mostly from her dad, Paul Windsor, who managed the Safeway store on Spring St.

Don was good enough to send me the URL for some of those pictures. Most I recognize, some I don’t. How good are YOUR identification skills? Take a look here:

From my site buddy, Ernie, who was Best Friends with Frank Thompson:

Yep, Frank Thompson did what no other kid did in Searcy or anywhere else with that switch from clarinet to trombone. I have taught a bbbbuuuunch of all-staters, and none have made that progress. Frank came to school every day that year with swollen lips; the inside of his top lip was practically hamburger. He would not relent. When you look at the word “persistence” in the dictionary, you see Frank.

He went on to be a good band director, too. Married the Chief Majorette, Sandy, from the ole Miss Band. The two of them were or are living here in Searcy.

Speaking of Anita Fuller, husband of Bobby Scott Fuller, and mother of KARK-TV’s Karen Fuller, (now working television in Kansas City), she and hubby (a trombonist) were members of the SHS Band, too. I made District Band trips with Bobby and, being a tympani/bells player in the concert band, and Anita the string bass player, we stood next to each other, which eventually made us thick as thieves.

She and Bob graduated in 1954 (that’s me, all the way to the right, standing, counterbalanced by Al English, also standing, on the left). If memory serves me correctly, that’s Frank on the very right front of the photo – already first chair trombone, albeit a junior.

Moving on, Anita adds:

I loved Ollie Mae, too. I can tell a little story about her serving at the Dr. Porter Rodgers’ home one night. It's actually nothing, but Mother tells it real well. I can almost taste her cornbread, now that you've mention it. Didn't she also make rolls to die for? Someone in that lunch "kitchen" did!!

Do you remember - and you may not - when Bob "made" Donald Hunt smell some chlorine he had made in Ruth Fuller's chemistry lab? Don took too strong a smell, passed out and had to be taken to the hospital - and I think he stayed overnight.

Anita apparently has a pile of photos, too. I am going to do my best to either temporarily kidnap them, OR wait for Anita to con Bob – the apparent keeper of the scanner – into scanning and sharing them with us.

And, Anita, don’t hold out: what was your Mom’s story about Ollie Mae at Dr. Rodgers’ place?

After all, the intended recipient may never have forgiven you for that stunt you pulled in Mrs. Forrest’s class that day ……

SHS Concert Band 1954 Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 15, 2005


(Originally run 11/8/03 on the old site)

Tom Pry

My accomplice in this Journal of Homeless Memories is Ernie Simpson, a man on whom I have not laid eyes since 1956, when I graduated from Searcy High School, him a year behind me.

Ernie is not as wordy as am I but, like the legendary “still waters,” he occasionally Runs Deep; the rest of the time, his memories seem to come in small spurts, and from a totally different viewpoint than mine.

Here are some of his spurts.

Ernie Simpson - 1956 Posted by Hello
I KNOW about dirt roads. North Main, (used to be called route 5) was paved about 1951. Bobby Van Patten and I rode our bikes from Truman Baker's out to the bottom of 'junk pile hill,' where the pavement stopped. Ours were the first wheeled vehicles to roll on that new pavement. I thought that was a 'cool first.’

At the 4-way intersection two miles further north, was Ballew Community Church, now an Optimist Club building, the old church long gone. Yep, when you walk a dirt road, and a crowd of kids get off at the same place, you learn to get along, play marbles or fight, whichever is the order of the day.


Do you remember the great jingle played on the radio for Peck's Dog House, (remember, across from the Spring Park?) It featured Oran L. (Peck) Maness, with “Punky” Caldwell on clarinet. I think Peck did the singing. Just another notion to stir your rusty memory.

Peck's Hot Dogs (in a moderate four)

Peck's Hot Dogs, mmmm they're delicious,
Peck's Hot Dogs, you'll come-back-for-more,
Peck's Hot Dogs, mmmmm, they're nutritious,
There's a treatn', Always eatin' Peck's Hot Dogs! (clarinet: diddle-de-dum, dum, then a slow downward glissando)


I was just remembering valiant Uncle Albert Simpson. In WWII, Uncle Albert got two fingers shot off by a German machine gun, but destroyed the nest, and won a Silver Star. My Dad said later that Uncle Albert was tough in a fight, because the two fingers and stump of his right hand made a formidable weapon in a bar brawl!

Speaking of missing fingers, this is as good a place as any to throw in a memory that Ernie and I share, because it involves one of his contemporaries and close friends, Frank Thompson.

I’m not sure if Frank would qualify as a musical prodigy but, if not, he came close. By the time I first became aware of him, Frank was a freshman, and already first chair clarinet in the highly-regarded SHS band.

His clarinet playing came to an abrupt halt in the summer of 1954 (?) when Frank’s right hand got into a losing fight with a lawn mower, resulting in a surgically-excised middle finger.

Frank’s dad was faced with two choices: feed the kid’s (somewhat justified) self-pity … or get him mad.

Dad chose the latter course, implementing it with variations on “Well, since you can’t play clarinet with 9 fingers, I guess you’ll have to take up the trombone!” To a clarinetist, the though of being relegated to the “slush pump” was a fate worse than death.

Dad was relentless and merciless, occasionally seasoning his comments with doubts as to Frank’s ability to even make the switch, to the point where Frank screeched at him one day, “Alright, you get me the trombone and I’ll learn to play the damn thing!”

Dad did … and Frank did, to the point where he became first chair trombone before he graduated and, I heard, made All-State Band on it his senior year. Not at all bad, especially when you consider that the only thing the clarinet and the trombone share in common is that they’re both musical instruments: their music isn’t even written in the same clef.

In fact, the missing digit only seemed to slow Frank down in typing class and, at that, not much.

The 10-minus-1 arrangement, though, was not without its hazards. The story is told that Frank was up in Newport at a band thing, and riding around town with his buddies one night, in the passenger seat of the car they were in, when they were almost cut off by a car full of locals.

As the story is told, Frank instinctively, unthinkingly, went to give the miscreants the time-honored symbol of teenage road warriors, the well-known “finger” … totally forgetting that he no longer had a finger to give. His intended rude (some would say) gesture thus looked like a clenched fist, which to us was an invitation to a fight (“The Finger” was merely a social suggestion).

The cars stopped, the occupants of both climbed out, and it took some fancy talking on the part of Frank’s companions to avert a full-scale street brawl. However, the locals were not entirely without a sense of humor and, upon evidence of Frank’s fickle finger, there was laughter and parting in peace.

Strange the things you remember … and, between Ernie and me, we’ve got a pile of memories, not all of which are entirely socially acceptable.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


(Run originally 11/1/03 on the old site)

Tom Pry

There is some evidence to support the idea that the Missouri Pacific Bus Line was operated for the railroad by Trailways Bus System. None of us knew that – or cared. It got us where we wanted to go, even if you had to leave here at 8 in the morning in order to get to Springfield, MO, by 6:15 that evening. I know, because I did it.

(It only FELT like 24 hours in the same seat. It was good training for my new, temporary job at KICK Radio not too long after graduation: Saturday was 3:30 p.m. till 1:00 a.m. – on the air by myself. The last hour was sponsored by a restaurant, and all I had to use for the commercials was one of their menus.

(Any questions about where I and my 17-year-old appetite went when my shift was over?)

The ticket was about a mile long, since there was a fresh stub to be collected by the driver after every “major” stop: i.e., anyplace you could get off the bus to use the restroom.


The Rendezvous Café was built in 1940. Photo at looks a great deal like an artist’s rendering rather than a photo, but it’s still the Rendezvous as we remember it.


That “small flagstone building” on the north side of the square was generally called “The Legion Hut.”


In 1976, as part of the national Bi-Centennial celebration, Harding University’s Harding Press published a book titled, simply, “Searcy, Arkansas,” subtitled, “A Frontier Town Grows Up With America.”

The book was written by the late Dr. Raymond Lee Muncy who, at the time, was Chairman of the University’s History Department.

This book is exhaustive to the point of being, well, exhausting. It is jam-packed with names, dates, and photos. It is also extremely well-indexed.

While it definitely doesn’t qualify as light reading, if you, like me, frequently need to check facts and/or be reminded of something very, very fuzzy in your memory, then you should have this book. The book has been reprinted, and is on sale at The Searcy Gallery.

Other books about our hometown and county are like this site, basically memories. “Searcy, Arkansas” is scholarship and research, and was a definite legacy to our Hometown.

Not bad for a West Virginia boy who got here by way of Indiana. See, there IS a place for damn y**k**s (I was 15 before I found out that was actually two words) in this southern world. (Well, okay, Dr. Muncy was also a graduate of the University of Mississippi).

By the way, lest you think I’m practicing reverse jingoism, the cover art on the attached dust jacket was done by Linda Hare, a Searcy native who, in 1976, was a senior Art major at Harding.


William E. “Bill” Laas (of whom both Ernie and I have written, with warmth), I was surprised to learn from Dr. Muncy’s excellent book, had been the Band Director for four years at Harding (then-)College, plus played in the Arkansas Symphony, prior to the outbreak of WWII. When war broke out, he joined the Navy, and was a band director in Pennsylvania and Texas.

He became the Band Director at Searcy High School following the war, and served in that post until the end of the 53/54 school year.

April 1, 1949, was declared “Bill Laas Day” in Searcy. It is not known if there was a hidden message in the selection of April Fools’ Day for his honor.

I don’t think so.


The old Plaza Theatre Posted by Hello

Does anyone remember the Plaza Theatre? It was born one month after me, in November, 1938, to quite a bit of hoopla, the first Searcy adventure of K. K. “Deac” King, who ended up with a lock on theatres in Searcy. Located on the northeast corner of Spring and Center streets, it seems to have disappeared from everyone’s memory, including mine, because I don’t remember ever seeing it, let alone setting foot in it. It DID exist, though, at least long enough to pose for a picture. But I sure don’t remember it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

What’s "Old?"

Tom Pry

(Originally run 10/31/03 on the old site)

Got a pleasantly laudatory note from Eddie Best the other day. Eddie is a retired (mostly) journalist, and a driving force behind the White County Historical Society. Among other things, he asked for permission (granted) to occasionally dip into this site for material for use in the Society’s excellent newsletter, which he masterfully edits. What was of interest was his reason for doing so: “We need things that appeal to younger people. Those of our members who remember the Depression are dying off.”

WCHS Newsletter Editor, Eddie Best Posted by Hello
Are Ernie and I younger or older? Depends on your viewpoint, I suppose but, as the Editor of this excursion into the past, I found it personally amusing that Eddie’s welcome note was almost immediately followed by the following thinkpiece from Ernie -- with which I wholeheartedly concur, and it is lovely.

Ernie Simpson

Getting Older
(An Old Man’s View)

One day you realize as you read the obits in the paper, everyone listed is younger than you. When your 4-year old granddaughter says, “I love you, Grandpa” … in younger days, it was “Big Ern,” now it’s “Grandpa.” I like Grandpa much better; it’s wonderful to have the favor of a precious four year old.

You look in the mirror and wonder who the old guy is looking back at you. But now is not the time to despair, and I offer this as advice:

There are several rewards we still have to receive. First, look at growing older as I do. I look at this as good news, and have tried to become accustomed to thinking of it in a positive way, without sentimentality. That’s hard for me, because I am a sentimentalist, fundamentally. However, accepting death is the final milestone on the road to full blooded manhood. Once fearless, you’re free. You may be physically frail, but if you’re fearless, you are a spiritual strongman. An old man can speak the truth without fear or favor, indict the guilty, and sing the good of what he believes.

There are no shortcuts to this kind of serenity. It is serenity earned from a life deeply lived, and bestowed only on men who have known passion and have stepped up to the plate and took their cuts. Just look at the wealth we have accumulated, not in material things, but in experiences, loves, relationships, friendships, closeness to God, and the difference we have made in our passing through this world. We have touched, and been touched, and that, too, is a part of our reward.
Once and only once I pass,
Through this toilsome world, alas,
If a good deed I may do,
If a kindness I may show,
To a suffering fellow man,
Let me do it while I can,
No delay for it is plain
I shall not pass this way again.
(Author unknown)
The idea is not to be afraid of death but to accept it and understand that is the reward for every man in his life who has done all he can do to make a difference, truly believed has done all he can to make a difference, and has taken his chances with the possibilities of everyday life. Now is not the time for doubt, but for acknowledgement of self-worth, and recognizing the place you hold on this earth will never be replaced, regardless of what happens after you’re gone.

The day we drew our first breath, we crossed the Rubicon, just as Julius Caesar did in 49 B.C.

It set us on a course that will not turn back. The die was cast at that first breath and, thus, set us on a path of life that was irrevocable. Death is with us from that first moment, and it is not a curse, but a reward for a life deeply lived. When we realize that as men, we can move towards our treasure without fear. Let us acknowledge our place in this world and in this life, and know that our reward is part of the strength we hold in our hearts.

From Tom:

All I can add to this is one of my favorite quotes: “Do not complain of growing old. It is a privilege denied to all too many.”

Thursday, May 12, 2005


10/27/04, was Ernie Simpson’s last day as an employee of Hytrol Conveyors in Jonesboro, having reached retirement age. He offered this thoughtful valedictory.

Ernie Simpson, just after Retirement Posted by Hello
It won’t be long now. Just a few things have to come down off the wall, and I’m ready. Woo-Hoo! I think it could all fit in one box, and that’s a good thing.

This is not my first office here; in fact, this makes office No.4 in twenty–five years. We’ve learned here that it’s best not get too comfortable in a spot, ‘cause it will probably change. My first office came as Asst. Manager of Marketing, then, Manager of Marketing, then, Manager of Distributor Education. Twenty-five years ago, an officer of the company, Ralph Pocobello, told me, “Well, we can’t guarantee you a vice-presidency.” Yep, he was right.

When you glance around here, there are some things I’ll be glad to take with me because, over the years, there are some special things on these walls that tell a personal story. I have enjoyed this office, and perhaps a few good decisions have been made from this position. Let me give you a little tour, as it will be the last from here.

On my desk of course, are photos of my bride, Shelia, granddaughter Lynlie, mom, and my two sons.

1. Facing directly across from my desk is a large lithograph of Napoleon given to me by a printer with whom we did business back when I was in charge of graphics here. Napoleon is pictured here on a wild-eyed stallion, and looks very heroic, but the truth is, Napoleon rode a mule in battle. They were more sure-footed, and their stamina was better. They didn’t look as heroic, however, so the artist put him on a stallion, rearing on its two hind legs. I always thought the lithograph to be humorous.

2. A plaque presented in 1988, proclaiming Ernie Simpson President of the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, for the years 1977-1978. The association invited all past presidents to a special presentation and gave the plaques at All-State Band that year.

3. An original cartoon strip of Funky Winkerbean, drawn and autographed to me by its author, Tom Batuik, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It depicts Harry Dinkle, Worlds Greatest Band Director, instructing his band as they leave for the Rose Bowl Parade.

“I just want to remind all of you to be on your best behavior before, during and after the Tournament of Roses Parade.”

“Remember….you’re a Westview High School Marching Scapegoat….”

“… and I expect you to ACT like one!”

That was the year Jonesboro High went to the Tournament of Roses Parade, and although I had left Jonesboro High and been at Hytrol for a time, Stuart and Amy were in the parade. That cartoon is special to me.

4. Below that, a picture of my dear friend, Al Poston and me, right after a summer Jonesboro Community Concert we had conducted. It was hot, and we now had our ties loosened, faces still red, but glad the concert was over.

5. A plaque, announcing FIRST PLACE in the September 6, 1997, 10th Annual Corvette Show in Searcy, at Berryhill Park.

6. A copy of a Picasso done in 1955, of Don Quixote. I always believed Don Quixote to be a special man to be looked up to, for his perseverance in the face of great odds. I have a favorite toast and salute I present whenever I have the opportunity:
“Here’s to the windmills, and the skinny little guys with spindly legs who keep trying to knock them over.”

7. An 8x10 photo I made in 1989, of Rabbit Island, located on the windward side of O’ahu. Monte and I were in Hawaii to do some distributor training.

8. A large print; “Robert Mondavi Summer Jazz Festival, 1985.” I loved that print, and that winery.

9. A portrait of my beloved brother and me, I was fifty, he was forty-five. We had our picture made every five years together and presented it to mom. That was our last one together.

10. Words by Jan Michelsen, that I offer as advice, that I had matted and framed, called, “Celebrate Life”.

Think Freely. Practice Patience.
Smile often. Savor special moments.
Live God’s message. Make new friends.
Rediscover old ones.
Tell those you love that you do.
Feel deeply. Forget trouble. Forgive an enemy.
Hope. Grow. Be crazy. Count your blessings.
Observe miracles. Make them happen. Discard worry.
Give. Give in. Trust enough to take.
Pick some flowers. Share them.
Keep a promise. Look for rainbows. Gaze at stars.
See beauty everywhere. Work hard.
Be wise. Try to understand.
Take time for people. Make time for yourself.
Laugh heartily. Spread joy. Take a chance.
Reach out. Let someone in. Try something new.
Slow down. Be soft sometimes.
Believe in yourself. Trust another. See a sunrise.
Listen to rain. Reminisce. Cry when you need to.
Trust life. Have faith. Enjoy wonder.
Comfort a friend. Have good ideas.
Make some mistakes, Learn from them.
Celebrate life.

So friends, here’s a tour of my old office, now I can say adieu to it, and look forward to this commencement, retirement.

May this old office serve those who come after, as well as it has me. To quote Gus McCrae one more time: “Woodrow, it’s been quite a party.”

Now, let the real party begin.

Ernie Simpson,
October 26, 2004

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

SEARCY ’46 – ’56 – Part 21

Chapter Sixteen

Tom Pry

Let Me Make You Privy To This

Sewerage. Offal. Toilets. Outhouses. Privys. This odiferous subject MUST, at some point, be addressed, if only for honesty and posterity.

Until the sixties or seventies, we didn’t know what in hell a septic tank was. “Indoor plumbing” was a house that was built over the well after it was dug, allowing you to pump water right at the sink.

In fact, for a moment, let’s take a side trip to the subject of water, drinking or otherwise.

Most well water in White County tastes like .. well .. crap, not to put too fine a point on it. It tastes like that even if you’ve put it through a salt filter. If you were, like my grandparents, lucky enough to have a natural spring in your backyard, no problem. For everyone else .. you either drank some really foul-tasting stuff .. OR you exercised some inventiveness (Dasani had not yet been invented: I mean, who in their right mind would spend the bigger part of a dollar for a bottle of .. uh .. water?).

I really don’t know what other people did, but our solution was to get a couple of five gallon milk cans and, once a week or so, go down to the ice plant that, at the time, was located on the south side of the downtown park, buy a block of ice, break it into pieces just small enough to fit in the rather large neck of the cans, then carry it home and do our drinking and cooking out of the melted ice. Water from the well was reserved for things we were NOT going to put into our mouth.

Simple problems: simple solutions.

But all that water has to, eventually, go somewhere and, out in the country, we used outhouses.

I used to describe our house as “5 rooms and a path.”

At the end of that path .. different constructions of the same thing. In its simplest form, a privy was a platform, to which was attached a framework, covered with vertical planks, a roof, and a door made the same way as the walls. Since they were always constructed of the cheapest green lumber money could buy, they quickly turned grey, warped, and let the wind blow through. Privacy? Forget it. Paint? That costs money. And it’s just a s***house, anyway.

Most were just built on a handy piece of ground, although the ritzier had a shallow hole dug under them, with a closed box/bench inside that was usually a two-holer and sometimes, in a really large family, a three or four-holer. If no hole, then the lower part of the back wall was open so that the overflow went THAT way and not up into the box.

In the summertime, in Arkansas, with that tin roof … had it been built in a prison, it would’ve been classed as “cruel and unusual punishment.” “Fragrant” does not even scratch the surface of the effect.

When my grandfather decided to go into the Grade A Dairy business, this necessitated a stricter set of construction standards. A hole in the ground was dug, then a concrete slab set over it (with a hole out of the middle, of course), THEN the standard construction. When the hole in the ground approached full, you could hook a tractor up to the slab and pull the whole damn thing to a fresh hole in the ground, and cover the old hole with lots and lots of dirt.

This was the environment into which my father moved.

While my father was brought up in a small town on the Ohio River, Mingo Junction, Ohio, at least had sewer service. From there, he’d moved to Chicago. So, except for briefly using my grandparent’s outhouse, this was a whole new family necessity with which to deal. He mulled this as our “new” house was leveled and re-painted.

Finally, in a moment of bucolic epiphany, he declared, “If we’ve GOT to have an outhouse, then by George, we’re going to have the Taj Mahal of crappers!” (Don’t faint, ladies: the guy who invented the commode was an Englishman named John Crapper, hence the name).

The end result was a wonder to behold. Inside, a bookshelf with a few paperbacks and magazines, plus a screw-on-the-wall ashtray. Outside .. a silver-painted roof surmounting a bright robins egg blue-painted structure.

It was, as such things go, absolutely beautiful. Worse/better, our house was right down in the bottom of the valley, and that edifice to elimination stood out like a sore thumb.

We were strangely proud of that damn thing … maybe because, within a month of its erection, every family in the valley had built a new, painted outhouse.

A strange form of keeping up with the Joneses, and a memory to be preserved.

(Series originally published late 2003/early 2004 on the old site).