Thursday, June 30, 2005


(Originally run 1/15/04 on our old site)

Dan Randle

After reading Harold Sullivan's summary of radio programs of yesteryear, a few more programs that I used to listen to pop into mind. I remember that, before I was allowed to listen to the Saturday morning programs, all the household chores had to be completed. I would get up early and work fast to maximize my listening day. I haven't thought much about them in past years and haven't put much thought into them now. A few that come to mind are:

Sky King (who, in real life, became Earl Nightingale of motivational talk fame)
Roy Rogers
Gene Autry
Jack Benny
Bob Hope
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
Red Skelton

I have always liked radio programs over TV programs because TV doesn't develop your imagination.

A good case in point: Red Skelton played a character that was hilarious on radio, but just didn't play out on TV. Those of us that remember him as "Junior, the mean widdle kid” might remember that, on one program, he caught the Devil and locked him in the closet. Afterwards, he then turned into a nice kid, and turned the devil loose.

You could picture a rotten little kid doing all the nasty things that he did. However; when Red moved to TV, you saw him as "Junior" dressed in a diaper, sitting in a very, very large chair. What you saw was an old man trying to pull off being a little kid. It just didn't make it! His older characters (Clem Kiddlehopper, for instance) were more believable.

On a different note, Harold's mother was either my 2nd or 3rd grade teacher. She was a great teacher; even though time has made the memories grow dimmer, I still remember her. I wonder how many other people reading our journal remember her?

Tom Pry

I remember “Junior” always called the show’s announcer, the legendary Don Wilson, “Fat Boy!” A typical Junior exchange with Wilson was, one night, when Junior laid that label on Don. Don asked him why he called him that (which was a joke in itself, since Don was built quite substantially). Junior’s reply? “I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em!”

Junior was the personification of the gentlemanly, generous Skelton’s “dark side,” but Dan’s right: Junior played better when you could build him in your mind. My mental visualization of Junior bore almost no resemblance to Red’s.

Remember him .. then? Posted by Hello

If you’d like to read up on Red, incidentally, there are a wealth of sites. I was rather taken by , if for no other reason than the site name.

And this is a good place to mention that our elders were listening to radio and, by our simple presence, we heard some of their stuff, too. My grandmother (and I’ll bet yours, too) had to have her shows. In the morning, it was “Arthur Godfrey and Friends” (he’s the guy who introduced Patsy Cline nationally, via his “Talent Scouts” program), and “Art Linkletter’s House Party,” (worthy of a takeout all by itself, if for no other reason than Linkletter made the most lucrative deal ever made in television, even to this day).

In the afternoon, after granddad had picked up the latest market news from KLRA, and the national news from KARK, possibly (on a good radio day) even picking up some stock reports from KCMO in Kansas City, it was back to grandma … for her “soaps,” so-called “soap operas.” That was an extensive list, which included (but was not necessarily limited to):

Ma Perkins

One Man’s Family

Lorenzo Jones and his wife, Belle (originally comedic, kind of a poor man's "Fibber McGee and Molly," and then someone decided to put Lorenzo into an accident, and give him amnesia. From that point on, it was another tear-jerking cliffhanger).

… And my mind’s just gone blank.

Remember any? Let us know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


(Originally run 1/9/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

I sometimes wonder, as I get older, how my dad viewed things in his last years. He was very philosophical in some ways, and had a ‘feet on the ground’ type of attitude that always seemed to be there. He had a common sense approach to just about everything, for which I had great respect. However, I remember stories he told me of his being a young man, and some of the funny stuff he pulled. So, when he was younger, he was ‘one of the boys’ who liked to horse around with friends. It sometimes got him into trouble.

In the early ‘30’s, entertainment was the type that was created or at least required creativity, and sometimes the greatest form of entertainment was the practical joke. This was especially true with the young men who lived around the Four Mile Hill community or Holly Springs, north of Searcy.

He told me once about the time he and a friend decided to play a practical joke on an ‘ol boy who had just begun to date. This guy thought well of himself evidently; dad said he was kind of a ‘dandy’ with a cocky attitude. He always dressed very stylishly, and always wore boots with a semicircle metal tap on the heels, that made a loud clicking noise on gravel or concrete. Very cool in those days.

One night the guy went to see a girl down the road, and dad and his friend decided to scare the suitor. They took a black slicker-type raincoat, and tied it to a rope with a wire brace through the arms, and laid the slicker flat in the road. They then ran the rope over the limb of a tree overhanging the road, and waited quietly in a ditch.

Few people had cars, and when all else failed, walking or horseback was the transportation for dating. So the victim had walked to the girl’s house that evening.

It was a dark night, you could barely see in front of you , dad said, and pretty soon they heard the guy coming down the gravel road, the taps making a lot of noise on the gravel, clip, clop, clip, clop. He approached close to where they were, when they slowly began to raise the black slicker up from the road with the rope.

As the slicker rose to its full length, the guy saw it, and stopped short in the road, and shakily uttered, “Whoaaaaa, by God!” There was total silence for a moment as he tried to make out the scary shape that rose up from the roadbed. Finally, he issued a challenge.

“I don’t know who you are, but by God, if you don’t speak up, I’m going to let you have it!” He picked up a large rock and drew back. “One, two…” and let go. The rock hit the slicker, made a loud rattling noise, and the guy wheeled around and took off at full speed the way he came. Clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop!

Dad and his friend started laughing and kept on until the guy was out of earshot with the sound of the heels taps fading in the distance. He said they laughed till they hurt, finally able to get to their feet, stomachs hurting from laughing so hard. He told me they kept that story a secret for many years. No names were ever mentioned.

EDITOR’S NOTE: My dad grew up on the Ohio River. When I was young, I listened to him Remembering When with a high school chum of his. This included such little items as their gangs stealing a couple of rowboats, loading them up with as many big rocks as would not quite sink it, going out in the middle of the river, and then each boat load trying its best to pound a hole in the bottom of the other boat and sink it.

Dad summed it up by saying, “You know, if today we caught our kids doing some of the things we did at their age, we’d probably kill them for it, if whatever they were doing didn’t do it first.”

Seems that some things never change. –tlp-

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Arwood and Dwaine

(Originally run 1/8/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

It was Arwood Helms and Dwaine Southard who were killed in an accident in a ’51 Ford convertible heading south of Pangburn on highway 16, the summer of 1955. They were both seventeen. Dwaine died instantly, the date was July 30. Arwood lived a few days and passed away on August 7.

The story is, they were coming over the top of the curve towards Searcy at Four Mile Hill each time at a faster and faster speed. They had some kind of record they were trying to break, everyone figures, and this time they lost control, and rolled the car several times. I don’t recall if it was determined who was driving, but the top was down and all three were ejected from the car.

I had been putting up baled hay south of town that day with our hay-hauling crew of high school buddies, and we had just finished a field of almost 1,000 bales. Robin Moore along with Norman Richards, George Payne, Dan Randle and me in the crew finished around 2:00 a.m. Hay can only be put up from around noon until dew settles, in order to keep from putting away damp hay, and I was glad to be heading home.

Driving north on Main towards home, I saw the lights, wrecker, several people and police on the corner of Main and Race Street at Truman Baker Chevrolet. I stopped and went over, the car was there in the lot, and a small crowd was gathered looking at it. The windshield posts were in fragments, and the doors, hood and trunk were battered from end to end. I asked what happened, and a wrecker driver explained what they thought happened and who was killed.

I turned immediately got in my truck and drove home. I woke Dad up, and told him what happened. Arwood was a cousin by marriage and a classmate. We had just finished our sophomore year at Searcy High. Both Dwaine and Arwood Helms are buried at Holly Springs Cemetery in the northern part of White County. Both teen-agers were good guys; Arwood was the quiet one of the two.

Tragedy in our high school days was rare, but somehow it lingers even after close to fifty
years later.

Ernie adds:

Although interesting, I have found this piece to be slightly inaccurate....I called Jerry Huntsman, indeed he was in a wreck with FOUR GUYS in the 60's (or 70's he said, maybe) south of Pangburn, two were killed, two lived. The four were; James Kirk; Don English; Frankie Feltrop; and Jerry Huntsman. Jerry has short term memory loss still, I can tell by talking to him and is still not completely back.

Tom Pry

Highway 16 killed a number of SHS students. For some reason, its hills and turns represented an invitation to Stupid Driving. At one time, in the early 50s, we had a couple of students who were school bus drivers. They got canned from the job when they were reported for side-by-side racing of their loaded buses on that road. This ban stayed in place until my senior year (55-56), when I spent several months driving a split route .. NOT on Highway 16.

Several of my younger sister’s classmates were killed in an accident on that stretch, too, in the latter 50s.

FOOTNOTE: We note, with deep regret, the passing from this life of MAURICE THOMPSON, father of our friend, Frank. In his 90s when he died earlier this week, Maurice was a good businessman and father, and treated his sons’ friends like members of the family when they were around the house.

Incidentally, while I live here in Searcy, news of his death started with Jo Ann Roth in Jonesboro, e-mailing to Elois Bleidt in Hot Springs Village, who forwarded the news to Ernie Simpson in Jonesboro who, finally, sent it to me, here in Searcy.

What did we do before e-mail?

Monday, June 27, 2005


Tom Pry

Thanks to our sometime-classmate, Madeline Simpson Barber, we now have photos of the Class of 55’s 50th Reunion.

Saturday afternoon meant a lot of rockin' & story-telling.
Madeline was kind enough to spend money to take them, process them, and then mail them to me.

All of them have now been scanned and can be found at .

Buddy Phillips and Sylvia Thompkins.

Reunion Coordinator Elizabeth Vaughn Capps

Room for more if you’ve got them, folks.

Thanks, Madeline!

Saturday, June 25, 2005


(Originally run 1/11/04 on our old site; revised since)

Harold Gene Sullivan

I really enjoyed your discussion about radio history. After finishing Hendrix College, I went to Columbia University to Engineering School. The memory of the Sarnoff-Armstrong battle was recent enough that several of the professors there knew Armstrong. He had done much of his work at Columbia. In fact, the student radio station still used one of his transmitters. Also, I was very active in the Amateur Radio Club and we had some equipment that he had built.

This talk about old radio has made me think about all the old radio shows that we use to listen to at night. I remember going to bed on cold winter nights, covering up, and laying there listening to my Philco radio, trying to keep up with my favorite shows as they faded in and out.

I still enjoy old radio shows. There is a newsgroup devoted to them where one can download old shows, Alt. Some of the old shows that have been uploaded to the newsgroup are, all of which I remember:

Hopalong Cassidy
The Life of Riley
Jungle Jim
Information Please
X Minus One
I Love Adventure
Duffy’s Tavern
I Love a Mystery
The Whistler
The Shadow
That Hammer Guy
The Danny Kaye Show
Amos and Andy
Jack Benny Show
Firestone Hour
Band of America Gunsmoke
Have Gun Will Travel
Jack London
Lum and Abner
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon
The Lone Ranger
Our Miss Brooks
Nick Carter, Master Detective
Groucho Marx
The Green Hornet
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
Charlie Chan
Burns and Allen
Richard Diamond, Private Detective
Father Knows Best
Martin and Lewis Show
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy
My Friend Irma
Challenge of the Yukon
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
March of Time
The Radio Guild
Texaco Star Theater
The Aldrich Family
Red Ryder
Perry Mason
Radio Guild (actually, I think, it was "The Theatre Guild of the Air" -tlp-)
Father Knows Best
Big Town
FBI in Peace and War
The Green Hornet
The Big Story

I wonder if TV shows are making such an impression on today’s kids where, 50+ years later, they will have such vivid memories of them? On Sunday nights we always went to church, First Methodist, and would sit in the parking lot listening to the end of Amos and Andy. As soon as it was over, you would see a stream of people getting out of their cars heading into church. I have forgotten what came on next, but remember I always wished I could hear it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lord, I could do an entire column of just notes on those shows. For instance, the “Band of America” was, actually, the Cities Service Band of America, under the baton of Paul Lavalle. Cities Service eventually, I think, became CITGO, and Lavalle moved on to form the annual McDonald’s Marching Band, made up of outstanding high school musicians from across the country.

"The Lone Ranger" came out of Detroit.

"My Friend Irma," with Marie Wilson, was one of the most popular programs on radio; so popular was it, that a major motion picture was made out of it. The studio also had in hand contracts on two young guys that they didn't know what to do with, so they had the script re-written to include them as supporting characters. Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis stole the movie and Marie Wilson sank without a trace.

“Duffy’s Tavern” always began the same way: a phone ringing, and a New York-accented voice answering it by saying “Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the Manager speaking; Duffy ain’t here.” Duffy was NEVER there … but Mrs. Duffy was and, I swear, you could smell the peroxide in her hair over the radio. She was the #2 radio dingbat, right after Gracie Allen.

“Lum ‘n’ Abner” were originally from the Hot Springs area.

“Amos and Andy” was something remarkable. Two white guys (Lou Gosden and Charles Correll, who developed the show) playing two black guys .. but NEVER demeaningly, which was quite remarkable for the 30s and 40s. So universal was the appeal of this program that, in many cities, the only way movie theatres could get people into the seats on Sunday night was to stop the film at Amos ‘n’ Andy time, turn on radios all over the auditorium, play the program, then resume the movie when the program was over.

Later, when they decided to make a TV series out of A&A, the problem was finding two black guys who could act, while sounding like two white guys who were trying (successfully) to sound like two black guys.

The REAL Amos 'n' Andy Posted by Hello
Lou Gosden & Charlie Correll

And it was a cultural phenomena, too. As one writer said, “Misperceptions and misinterpretations have been picked up by writer after writer, and incorrect conclusions are repeatedly drawn by commentators who know virtually nothing about the original series. To form an assessment of "Amos 'n' Andy" based on the 426 episodes aired in a half-hour situation comedy format between 1943 and 1955 or on the 78 episodes of the television series filmed between 1951 and 1953 is to reach a judgment based on only a small sampling of what the series actually was -- ignoring the 4,091 episodes of the series which aired in the nightly fifteen-minute serial format between March 1928 and February 1943.”

This complete, and fascinating, piece may be found at .

I don’t think TV will ever duplicate radio’s memory-making ability. Back in the 50’s, one kid was asked why he preferred radio to TV, and his reply may’ve have summed it all up: “’Cause the pictures are prettier.”

Think about that. –tlp-

Friday, June 24, 2005


(Originally run 1/5/04 on our old site)

Don Thompson

Anita, thank you, thank you for talking about Margarete Neel. She got me excited about classical music in the 7th grade with those records you mentioned. I never fancied pop, rock 'n roll, or country western music much, but those Sunday afternoon broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic orchestra really turned me on. I wonder why I wasn't interested in the band? Probably had too many irons in the fire to be patient with the long hours needed to learn playing some instrument.

We moved to Searcy when I was 6, and my grandparents bought a big heavy upright piano. My grandmother was set on me learning to play. I took lessons from some young, pretty teacher who broke my heart when she decided to get married and stop giving lessons. I think I had 2 recitals in the First Methodist Church across the street, and that was my total experience with the piano. We rented houses and moved that piano several times before my grandfather decided that was enough and sold it. I think my grandmother was very disappointed that I didn't learn to play. I have no regrets. I would much prefer spending my time listening to accomplished pianists who have spent countless hours practicing.

I remember how excited Anita was when she discovered that poster on eBay and won the bid.

(I wonder why Bobby Scott Fuller and Judy Rice didn't become an item. He had the RCA radio and she the 45 record player.........)

(EDITOR’S NOTE: It was Don who found out that everybody and their cousin has been spelling Ms. Neel’s first AND last names incorrectly. He assures me that the spelling, as shown here, IS correct. –tlp-)

Margarete Neel Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 23, 2005


(Originally run 1/3/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

One of the joys of running this site is “meeting” so many people that, for whatever reason, didn’t hit your radar during your school days. Another of the pleasures is finding out things you didn’t know about people you thought you knew well.

For instance, as well as I knew them, I never put Anita Hart and Bobby Scott Fuller together as an “item;” yet, so far as I can tell, they had been as far back as middle school.

I’m still finding out things about Roland King. By all odds, Roland and I should not have been chums since, other than living in the country, we had absolutely nothing in common. He was a jock, I was a bandsman. He was two years ahead of me in school (’54 and ’56) which, as you’ll recall, could be a sizeable gap at that age.

Yet, inexplicably, we were buddies. I quickly learned to dress warmly if I were spending the night at Roland’s. He loved sleeping with both windows in his room open. “Fresh air’s good for you, Tom, it’s healthy!” Somehow, that fresh air translated to Roland wrapped cocoon-like in every damned cover on the bed come morning while you froze.

Roland, I would tell him, pneumonia is NOT healthy.

His friendship was worth that minor glitch, though.

After doing running that piece about his infamous “Midnight Run” at the Commencement of the Class of ’54, I expected a reaction from Mr. King. When it didn’t come, I asked for it. This time, I got it .. plus another piece of the puzzle.

Roland King

I really enjoyed that story that Anita remembered. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. Hitting that fence, rolling around in the drainage ditch, having no idea where I was was really disconcerting. And the thing I was thinking about the whole time was that I was ruining their beautiful, solemn ceremony by rolling around in a ditch. I think I actually was going behind the stands before Billy Barger, Larry James, and others caught me before I ended up no telling where. As I recall, the next year, John Alex McCoy (wrong: he was class of ’56) was the runner, but someone had the good sense to leave a bank of lights on.

I was in a similar situation a few years later when I was really trying to look good. I did, but not the way it was planned. Several years ago when I was doing my first free fall, I went out of the plane and immediately went into a spin, which resulted in my main chute wrapping completely around me and then trailing off my right foot. My first thought was "Aww shoot, this is embarrassing." And believe it or not, that's what I thought, not the other s(tuff). If you have seen professional sky divers slip their main chute, fall a distance and then open their reserve, you know it can be quite exciting to watch, as well as scaring the devil out of people watching. The people on the ground, including my son, Mark, were frozen, watching. I was the first jumper out of the plane, there were five others and they later told me they couldn't figure out why the instructor was leaning almost out of the plane watching me jump. He didn't say a word to them except for the next one to go. They said if he had told them they wouldn't have jumped. That's the reason he didn't tell them.

Fortunately two things happened. First, they train you pretty well on how to go down on a reserve chute if something happens, and second, I finally wound up falling face up to the sky. Since the reserve is on your chest, I popped it right open and made a beautiful jump and landing after giving everyone an unintended show. Some of the old pros, over 3000 jumps, told me that was one of the most beautiful uses of the reserve chute they had seen.

I had to tell Roland, truthfully, that skydiving was not in my bag of personal experiences, since I long ago made a promise to my Mom to NOT climb down out of trees I hadn’t climbed up into.

Roland, incidentally, ended up as a big time computer weenie, and he and his lovely wife, Paulette, live in northern Virginia.


We started this piece with a comment about Anita Hart Fuller. After my history piece about the record/TV wars, she had her own comments:

Tom, loved your article about the radios/record players/tv.

I think this was way before you moved to Searcy, but see if you get any response from classmates who MIGHT remember more details than Bob and I do. We think it was in 1950, and we think we were raising money to go to the Texas State Fair in Dallas and perform in the Cotton Bowl. We sold tickets for some kind of raffle and those who sold the most were rewarded with either a little RCA radio or an RCA 45 record player -- the kind that had to plug into a radio. Bob remembers he chose a radio, I remember Judy Rice got a record player. I didn't win anything.....but so envied Judy her 45 record player.

I bought a portable record player last year that plays the 45s, 33-1/3s and 78s and I still listen to some of my old records. I have "Peter and the Wolf", narrated by Basil Rathbone, and "Rusty in Orchestraville" -- both were used by Margaret Neal, our 6th grade music teacher. She would come around to our respective rooms and teach us music and, oftentimes, would bring her portable record player. As many of MY classmates know, Margaret Neal was the official American Red Cross Poster person in about 1947 and I have one of the posters. I've carried it around and bored most of my classmates showing it and telling how I obtained it.

Anita and her "Margaret Neal" poster Posted by Hello

Now this should be good enough to start us off down memory lane in 2004.......Mildred and Paula (Windsor Thompson): y'all jump in there!


From Don Thompson:

Thanks guys. You made history fun to read. Now why couldn't our world and U.S. history books have been written in such interesting styles?

By the way, I was in Mrs. Moody's 10th grade world history class when we got the word that Bobby Scott Fuller had been stricken with polio. That is one of those etched in stone memories. The words “world history” invoked that memory.

That’s one of the nicest compliments we’ve ever received. As I told Don in my red-faced reply, one of the lessons they DIDN’T teach in the Searcy school system (or in most of the rest, for that matter) is that history is NOT necessarily groups, places, dates … it’s PEOPLE and their reactions to what the devil’s going on around them.

But that’s a rant for another time and place.

Finally, from my partner-in-crime,
Ernie Simpson:

I saw in the Jonesboro Sun this morning a little poem that I thought was appropriate for the New Year, and thought I’d put it down here. Written in 1934, St. Joseph School, Menomonie, Wisconsin.


To leave the old with a burst of song,
To recall the right and forgive the wrong;

To forget the thing that binds you fast,
To the vain regrets of the year that’s past;

To have the strength to let go your hold
Of the not worthwhile of the days grown old,

To dare to go forth with a purpose true,
To the unknown task of the year that’s new;

To help your brother along the road,
To do his work and
lift his load;

To add your gift to the world’s good cheer,
Is to have and to give a Happy New Year.

Ernie adds:

And of 2003, let me say, like ol' Gus McCrae said in Lonesome Dove, "Woodrow, it's been one helluva party".

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You’re A Real Arkie, If…..

" Arkie" is short for anyone who is a native Arkansan who is proud of the fact, and is defensive of the definition to a point. Sometimes the term is used in an unfavorable way, but is still very definitive of the life and culture of the natives. I have found many definitions funny and true. Below are some of my favorites.

You’re a Real Arkie if….

1.You automatically think of worn out tires as planters.

2. You’re sometimes slightly rubbed the wrong way when you hear the term “Arkie," and you aren’t really sure why.

3. You know any millionaires who chew or drive a pick-up.

4.You’ve traveled the state, but wouldn’t think of living anywhere else.

5.You can look down on people who are better looking, better educated, and more prosperous than you because…”they aren’t real Arkies."

6.Regardless of the importance of the work being done at the plant, you expect or do not find it unusual for it to come to a complete halt during deer season, including a day out of school on the first day of the season.

7.You know when to say “Woo, pig sooie,” and when to say, “here, sook, sook”. (The first is for pigs, the second is for cows)

8. All the school superintendents you know are former coaches or insurance salesmen.

8. Your child’s school doesn’t assign homework on Wednesday nights.

9.Your new bathing suit is last years jeans.

10.You always repair things that aren’t broken. (i.e. fixin’ to go, fixin’ to get up, fixin’ to cut the yard, fixin’ to start supper).

11.A “bagle” is one of your favorite huntin’ dogs.

12.If you answer someone’s statement with, “o did g,” and they respond with “u bet g.”

13.You refer to all sodas as “Cokes."

14.You’ve ever used “ya’ll” in the possessive form, (i.e., Ya’ll’s house).

15.You have a backyard storm shelter, but it’s mostly filled with canned beans and jelly.

16. Your idea of a night out is McDonald’s and a trip to Wal-Mart.

17. It isn’t New Year’s Day without hog jowl and black-eyed peas, it isn’t the 4th of July without home grown watermelon, and it isn’t the first cold day of fall without turnips from the garden with fresh baked cornbread.

18. As a child, you thought “yonder” was a real measurement of distance.

19. You actually know what a green persimmon is, and how it tastes (garrgh!).

20. You didn’t think indoor plumbing was created until 1958 (it wasn't at our place until then).

21. You’re all for progress, as long as nothing changes.

22. You know what "bleedin' like a stuck hog" means.

23. You’re smarter than they think, but not as smart as you think.

24. You’ve ever gone barefoot from spring planting till fall harvest.

25. One of the green vegetables in your diet is “poke sallet.”

26. Sometimes the kids “tump” over their chairs.

27. You know what “chiggers” are and how to kill them.

28. You would never, ever say, “yams”.

29. As a child, you ever froze your bottom off sitting on a hand-crank ice cream freezer.

30. Your chigger bites ever formed a ring around your waist.

31. You love and defend this state even with the bad press, and embarrassing characters.

32. You’re not afraid to eat barbecue in a white shirt.

33. You can remember hanging out the socks and underwear on one end of the clothes line, while your Mama hung the big wash on the other.

34. Your Mama sent you to pick your own switch off a tree when you misbehaved.

35. You know that “Fedville” and Fayetteville are the same town.

36. You say “pitcher” for “picture” and “I’m a'fixin to go”.

37. You think fried catfish and hush puppies are a gourmet meal (they aren't???).

38. You call any plastic bag a Wal-Mart sack. (Yankees call them "Arkansas Tumbleweeds").

39. You know what hog jowl is.

40. You’ve had some of your most significant conversations about life sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck.

41. In high school, you could identify an approaching car by its headlights, from five blocks away.

42. You call your elders “Mr. or Miss, “ even in your 50’s.

43. You think it’s bad to have to eat tomatoes from the store.

44. If you’ve ever asked a friend or neighbor if you could “borrow their phone”.

45. You have ever been stung by a wasper.

46. You’ve ever been swimming with the family in a stock pond.

47. “Might could” is a regular part of your vocabulary.

48. You know what chitlins are.

49. “Cooked” automatically means "fried" when it comes to fish, okra, and squash.

50. You have a deceased family pet buried in the back yard (right at the base of our dogwood tree).

51. You think the shows at Branson are every bit as good as the shows in Vegas.

52. Your favorite home repair tool is duct tape.

53. Your favorite cruise line is the “White Ducks” in Hot Springs.

54. Your tupperware collection consists of emptied Cool-whip and margarine containers.

55. You’ve ever used a broom straw for a toothpick.

56. You plan a vacation and it’s to another Arkansas city.

57. The one time you went to the dentist is when you got dentures.

58. You buy new tires for the pickup and then put the old ones on the wife’s car.

59. You were 18 before you realized that tires were supposed to have tread.

60. The pickup is the family car.

61. You think people from St. Louis are Yankees. (Aren’t they?)

62. You know that a percolator test has to do with a septic tank.

63. Your definition of ‘tar arn’ is a southern weapon, kept under the seat of the pickup.

64. You’ve ever had to take a bleach bath to get rid of Chiggers.

65. You think Velveeta is cheese. (It's NOT??!!?)

66. Your favorite recipe calls for a can of cream of chicken soup.

67. You are agahast if someone refers to ‘far’ as a measure of distance.

Arkansas' First Lottery Winner Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


(Run originally 12/21/03 on our old site)

As a followup to our comments on the surprising things you find by going through Anita Hart Fuller’s photo albums, got a note from the always-resourceful Don Thompson has proudly announced that he’s already scanned most of Anita’s treasure trove.

Just so you don’t think I was pulling your leg about the closet fiddlists, photo is attached. What’s really surprising is that an ex-girlfriend is in that group, and I didn’t know she fiddled around, either.

Forget the thousand words; enjoy the picture, and ask yourself how many of this mob you recognize.

Thanks, Don.

"The Fiddle Group" and other budding musicians
Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005


(Originally run 11/21/03 on our old site)

Don Thompson

First, a story. As you are aware, the combined 54, 55, and 56 class reunion in 1999 yielded about 100 souls, all crammed into the Patti Cobb Dining Area, and there was that long drawnout raffle of sorts. We all brought some kind of gift that would be given to someone. I had a tape of pop music I’d made in 1956, with songs like Ruby, Laura, etc. I selected some of those songs and put them on a cassette as my gift. I also made a dupe for Anita and Bob. When my tape was drawn, it went to the chap sitting right next to me. Out of the approximately a hundred folks! He was Larry James, husband of the former Mary Kay Van Patten.

Mary Kay has e-mailed me several times and I bet she would be willing to write something. Maybe Larry, also.

Elois Bleidt Pelton

I have a Ph.D., but you would never know it when it comes to spelling.

Talking about spelling … in the seventh grade down at the L building with Mrs. Stewart as our teacher, Roger Duncan would poke me and say, "Elois, when we have our spelling test today, if I kick your chair, lift up your paper and play like you are checking your words, so I can see if I have spelled my words correctly!"

Today, I truly believe my back pain is due to the many hits on my chair, because the chair was rocking and rolling from many kicks that year!!!

Of course, Roger would kill me if he knew I was writing this!

Besides, it wasn't "cheating," but only "sharing knowledge," which was legal back in the seventh grade.

They say the best way to learn is to teach, but this sounds more like the old definition of “Honor System:” where the teachers have the honor, but the students have the system.

Incidentally, if Roger doesn’t know you snitched, I bet he will by the end of the week.

Hey, do you remember The Pit out on Race Street, where we all would meet, have a hamburger, put a nickel in the juke box, and dance the night away on the concrete pad that was put down for us so we could have a place to gather? What fun!!! And the Community Center that was opened each Saturday night for us to dance -- and, boy, could Marvin Sowell dance and do the dip and twirl me around the hall to the great music of the '50's -- great fun!!!!

And now a newcomer to the party:

Don't know if you remember me. I was Mildred Taylor (Wilbourn), class of '54. Don Thompson hooked me up to your journal over the weekend, and I have had a lovely time wading thru the verbiage.

There were so many memories that I can't resist adding some of mine.

Band trips -- the time we went to Fayetteville was for Gabalee, the annual spring festival on campus, that they still had when I was up there. The band went in the spring of '50, when I was in the eighth grade (I remember that John Gabe marched beside me in the sax line, and he graduated that year). Don't remember where the boys stayed, but all the girls stayed in a dining room in Carnell Hall, on cot-type beds.

We marched in the parade, which was competitive.

As we rounded the corner off the court square and dropped to a half-step, Bobby Collins (who played the bass drum) didn't get the message, and rammed his drum into John's back. John automatically proceeded to turn around and cuss him out.

We later learned that this spot was where the judges were!

Despite that, the other bands must have been terrible, as we won the trophy.

SHS Marching Band (year unknown) Posted by Hello

Before I forget, someone moved the band-room directly from the east end of the high school building to the stone building. The entire time I was in the band, it was in the white frame building between the grammar school and the stone building. The lunch room was in the west end of the building.

I was the one who moved the band to the stone building – in HUGE error. For the hundreds of hours I spent in there, it’s surprising that I could make a boo-boo that monumental. Thanks for the correction.

I was in the 9th grade when we went to Dallas in our wonderful white coveralls (those things were not easy for using the bathroom if you were a girl). We stayed at the Baker Hotel, which was across from The Dallas Morning News Building. I roomed with Suzie Wasson, and we had the wonderful idea of unpacking our clothes and hanging them in the bathroom, turning on all the hot water faucets and closing the door. When it was time to go to supper, everyone was complaining that there was no hot water on our floor. We were scared to death that someone would notice our unwrinkled clothes and figure out what we did!

Anita remembers Frank Sinatra, and I remember Sally Rand, the famous fan dancer of burlesque days; we didn't see her, but her theater was across from where our buses were parked and we were endlessly fascinated, but couldn't work up the courage to go see a naughty show. (My, how times and we have changed).

The buses were also next to the first and only roller-coaster I ever rode.

Anita remembered that after we got home that the Colonel of Hadacol fame sent us the money. I remembered that Bill Laas contacted him and asked for money and, if we hadn't gotten it, we couldn't have afforded to go.

One last band thing. Someone talked about the shows we put on at halftime. Part of the reason for the theatrics was that we couldn't march our way out of a paper bag!

(I forgot to say that Carnell Hall where we stayed in Fayetteville was the old Women's Dorm. It’s since been restored, and opened in September as an inn and restaurant. It serves as a lab for the hotel and restaurant students. The restaurant is run by the famous James of The Mill at Johnson).

Ernie, Mildred’s got the answer to your question:

The three sisters at the Mayfair were Rose Neeley, May Branch, and Margaret Yarnell. The younger reddish-blond, who walked like she was plowing and was on the desk, was Phyllis Smith, a niece of the old girls.

Mildred also gave me my comeuppance for the second time in one letter:

The old Country Club is not one of the buildings on the fair grounds: that was the poor farm. The Country Club was the old Hilltop Club, and was where there are several small houses at the corner of Moore and Davis Drive.

Ollie Mae Dockens took over the lunch room when Angie Mae Dellinger retired. Her three daughters Thelma, Barbara (Bobbie) and Mary Evelyn remained my good friends ‘til they died.

Can't think of anything else that rang a bell. Hope I haven't bored you out of your skull.

Not at all, dear. Now, I’m going to eat my daily serving of crow and then creep quietly under a rock for awhile. -tlp-

Sunday, June 19, 2005

‘'Y GOD!"

(Originally run 12/20/03 on our old site)

Ernest Simpson

Grandpa Bennett told me this story, and I remembered it only recently. I wanted to jot it down before I forgot it again. Values were simple and straightforward in those days, but were made very clear to those who wished to hear the explanation.

One of my Grandpa Bennett’s relatives, I believe it was an uncle, maybe uncle Ben, had a colorful phrase he used often in conversation, the old timer’s called such phrases a “by-word:” sounds like it may have come from “By God!” and comes out, “ ‘y God!”

Each sentence was punctuated with his by-word, Aye God. It was not difficult to be used in a sentence, for example, “‘Aye God, me and Sadie went to town this morning, and it took us prêt near all day.”

“Aye God, I told Cletus not to prop his foot on the log while he was chopping wood, now look at his big toe.”

You get the idea. Anyway, Uncle Ben was a God-fearing man, went to church each time the doors opened, and appreciated the need for spiritual guidance from above. However, the church elders were concerned that his by-word might be interpreted by some as profanity, and talked about it at length, as how to approach the subject with him. His reputation was at stake in the church, and they, of course, did not want any disrespect to befall him because of his language.

So, one Sunday afternoon they decided to make a call on him, and went to his house as a group; there were three or four on the committee. He greeted them warmly, glad to see them, but I’m sure he was curious as to why they were there.

“Brother Bennett,” one started, “ we wanted to talk to you about something that has come up. Some members of the church are concerned at your language. They believe your cussing will not do, and we are worried that this will be a bad influence on the young people in the church.“

Uncle Ben was immediately offended, and spoke emphatically to the problem: “Aye God, I don’t cuss, never have, never will.”

“Yes, but some feel you do, and want you to leave it off.”

He repeated, “AYE GOD, I SAID I DON’T CUSS!”

The elders looked at each other, and one said, “ Well, Brother Bennett, I see, and we just wanted to bring it up, in case someone might raise the question.”

He thanked them for coming, they said goodbye, and left.

The subject was never brought up again.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

CLASS OF ‘55’s 50th – Part 1

Tom Pry

Well, at last, the mystery’s solved. Got the following note from “Poppa” Don Thompson:

“I'm also surprised none of the class of 55 have sent anything to the journal. You probably saw the attached article from the Citizen. Here's a slightly better pic of the group that came from Nancy Randle Caldwell via Anita Fuller.

The Class of 1955's 50th Group Posted by Hello

"Thanks for rebuilding the journal in the new site. I've been reading it daily.”

The clip to which he refers can be found at .

Don’s note had gone to my old mailbox at SBC. I’d ordered it closed but, last night, my wife unconsciously checked hers and asked, “Why is it still open?” Dunno, but it made me check mine and, Ouila!, there was Don’s submission.

Then got a phone call from Madeline Simpson Barber. She shot the bigger part of a roll of film (you remember film, don’t you?) at the Saturday afternoon Reunion get-together and, as soon as she gets it processed, she’ll get a set to me, I’ll scan them, run one or two here, and put the rest out at Searcy Memories.

FYI, since archives in the Citizen have a nasty habit of not being available too long, the listing of class attendees was: Jimmy Lewis, Martha Baker Robinson, Pat Baugh Shourd, Carlene Dodd Willard, Geneva Selvidge, Betty Taylor Emerson, Mary Ann Burgess Arnold, Peggy Baugh Brown; second row, Julie McNiel Killough, Nancy Randle Caldwell, Sylvia Thomplins Kays, Martha Ann Jenkins Burks, Peggy Killough Burkett, Burnes Abbott, Leo Person, Larry James, Jane Huntsman Walton, Lucy McNeese Wilson, Jessie Mae Smith Rayburn, Patsy Gilreath Jordon, Margaret Owen Allen, Elizabeth Vaughan Capps; third row, Boyd Smith, Austin Whitehurst, Shirley Murdough Castleberry; back row, Glenn Jones, Buddy Sandy, Don Russell, Lavon Wyatt Phillips, Marvin Sowell, Marlene Garrison Palmer, Susie Hoffman Boyett, Billy Barger, Jo Marning Joyner, Roxie Brown Troillett, Betty Merritt Harris, and Beverly Bales Sauer. In addition, special guests were Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Robins and Mrs. James Ahlf.

Watch for the photos, just as soon as I get them – and thanks to both of you, Madeline and Don.

Friday, June 17, 2005


(Originally run 4/10/04 on our old site)

Harold Gene Sullivan

I remember Mady Armstrong well. In fact, within the last few days I had been thinking about her. It must have been the same Davenport story that jogged both us. One year, when the county fair was still held on the grounds where the gym was built and Birdseye went in, so it must have been in the late-40’s, I remember her chasing the high school band majorettes all over because she though the skirts were too short. Also, she lived on Vine or Academy just east of Main. It was all grown up around it, looking just like one would expect of such a character. Her house was always a favorite to hit on Halloween night.

Across from my house at 1212 W Race was an old man, Mr. Hall. His house was deep, and I mean deep, into some bushes so that little could be seen of it. Patsy Gail Forrest Fain’s house is on that lot now. We had all sorts of stories about him, mostly very weird. We never saw him as he seldom came out of his lair. We believed that he was real mean and it was always an argument who was going to retrieve the baseball that was hit over in his yard. I don’t remember him ever fussing at us but that didn’t stop the tales. Anyway, he got sick and his daughter, Mrs. Ratcliff, came to help him out. My mother got good friends with her and I started going over there with my mom, the first time with much trepidation. Anyway, it turned out he was a friendly old guy who had lots of stories to tell. I don’t know how our weird stories ever got started.

I too enjoyed the picture of the old gas powered Maytag. I remember my grandmother, my dad’s mother, had one. She lived out in the country between Monticello and Warren. A long ways from any electricity. I often spent most of the summer down visiting her. She lived by herself and would still climb in the hay loft to pitch hay out to her cows well into her 90’s. Anyway, on Monday morning one of my uncles would come by the place and get the thing started, I remember it being a real chore. Also, he would get the fires started under the wash pots, as described by Dan. Then all the nearby neighbor women, there were 5 or so within a mile, would gather in the barn lot where the wash house was located and would spend the day washing all their clothes. The water was very hard down there, she had one of the few wells that wasn’t so bad. But she kept rain barrels under each of the eves to catch soft water they used for washing, also. There would be laundry hanging on all the fences around the lot.

We had a wringer Maytag washer but it was electric. One time my brother and I were left a tub of peas to shell. We heard about people shelling dried peas (black-eye, field, purple-hull etc.) by putting them through the ringer and the shelled pea would end up in the tub. Well, it didn’t work too well but I remember for months after finding shelled peas all over the screened-in back porch.

Ramona Palmer Riddle (aka "Baby")

Do I ever remember Mady Armstrong. She lived on Vine close the Rodgers home, in a house grown over with vines and stuff. It was rumored that she built the house with dimes she had saved. We always ran as fast as we could when we passed her house. She always threatened to cut your shorts off if she saw you. Carried that big ole knife in her boot or whatever. She was a scary one for sure. Her name has come up in conversation several times lately.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


(Originally run 4/10/04 on our old site)

Harold Gene Sullivan

I remember Mady Armstrong well. In fact, within the last few days I had been thinking about her. It must have been the same Davenport story that jogged both us. One year, when the county fair was still held on the grounds where the gym was built and Birdseye went in, so it must have been in the late-40’s, I remember her chasing the high school band majorettes all over because she though the skirts were too short. Also, she lived on Vine or Academy just east of Main. It was all grown up around it, looking just like one would expect of such a character. Her house was always a favorite to hit on Halloween night.

Across from my house at 1212 W Race was an old man, Mr. Hall. His house was deep, and I mean deep, into some bushes so that little could be seen of it. Patsy Gail Forrest Fain’s house is on that lot now. We had all sorts of stories about him, mostly very weird. We never saw him as he seldom came out of his lair. We believed that he was real mean and it was always an argument who was going to retrieve the baseball that was hit over in his yard. I don’t remember him ever fussing at us but that didn’t stop the tales. Anyway, he got sick and his daughter, Mrs. Ratcliff, came to help him out. My mother got good friends with her and I started going over there with my mom, the first time with much trepidation. Anyway, it turned out he was a friendly old guy who had lots of stories to tell. I don’t know how our weird stories ever got started.

I too enjoyed the picture of the old gas powered Maytag. I remember my grandmother, my dad’s mother, had one. She lived out in the country between Monticello and Warren. A long ways from any electricity. I often spent most of the summer down visiting her. She lived by herself and would still climb in the hay loft to pitch hay out to her cows well into her 90’s. Anyway, on Monday morning one of my uncles would come by the place and get the thing started, I remember it being a real chore. Also, he would get the fires started under the wash pots, as described by Dan. Then all the nearby neighbor women, there were 5 or so within a mile, would gather in the barn lot where the wash house was located and would spend the day washing all their clothes. The water was very hard down there, she had one of the few wells that wasn’t so bad. But she kept rain barrels under each of the eves to catch soft water they used for washing, also. There would be laundry hanging on all the fences around the lot.

We had a wringer Maytag washer but it was electric. One time my brother and I were left a tub of peas to shell. We heard about people shelling dried peas (black-eye, field, purple-hull etc.) by putting them through the ringer and the shelled pea would end up in the tub. Well, it didn’t work too well but I remember for months after finding shelled peas all over the screened-in back porch.

Ramona Palmer Riddle

Do I ever remember Mady Armstrong. She lived on Vine close the Rodgers home, in a house grown over with vines and stuff. It was rumored that she built the house with dimes she had saved. We always ran as fast as we could when we passed her house. She always threatened to cut your shorts off if she saw you. Carried that big ole knife in her boot or whatever. She was a scary one for sure. Her name has come up in conversation several times lately.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


(Originally run 12/9/03 on the old site)

One of the key members of the SHS Musical Mafia during the mid-50s was Larry Maness. He was the first chair clarinet (after Frank Thompson had sacrificed a middle digit in favor of a neat lawn), which made him Concertmaster of the band, plus he was the Drum Major, he of the tall shako and commanding baton.

He was also the son of “Peck” Maness of Peck’s Dog House, a very commanding person in his own right.

Larry was one of the more self-contradictory members of an already crazy group.

On the one hand, he was both a sensitive musician AND a sensitive human being. On the other hand, he had a temper that he’d inherited from his dad. I think it would be safe to say that this slim young man lived in fear ONLY of his father. The rest of the time … well, Dan E. Randle contributes this:

Maness was a crazy person. I remember one Halloween, Maness, Thompson, Morris (can't recall his last name) and I were touring around town in a panel truck that Thompson's dad had just taken in as junk. We had a 55 gallon barrel with the top cut out, and filled three quarters full of water, with a big block of wood floating in the water to keep it from splashing out as we started, stopped, and turned corners. Inserted into the barrel was a hand operated fruit tree sprayer. Had a valve cock on the end so we could pump up the pressure and get further distance when we opened the valve.

We sprayed the dorms out at Harding at one time. Most of the time, we just went around the Court Square spraying down the people.

One of the town bullies, Frank (something), got sprayed down one night so, the next time around, he threw a rock and broke the front windshield. At this point, Maness jumped out of the truck, chased him down, and started beating him up. I think at any normal time, he would have never done it.

Some of the things we did in that era would land you in jail now!

Enough for now. Remind me to tell you about the time we took Eugene McCormick out to the airport. That’s another story for a later date.

From Larry’s best friend, Ernest, recalling that before Sue, the lady who was to become Larry’s wife, came into his life, Larry had a girlfriend over in the Delta region:

This is so wild that Dan remembers that! You'll never believe this but the girl's name was (oops now it left me; I thought I'd never forget her name, Sissy-something). After Hot Springs that year, Larry went to meet her, and went to her house, where her mom said she was out with her BOY FRIEND, home from the Marines! Larry went to find her, and did: they were in a parked car on a country road. Larry drove up behind them, banged on the window of the car, the guy got out of the car, pulled up his pants and beat the crap out of Larry!

Larry got in his car and came back to Searcy, never spoke to the girl again, duh.

I felt badly for him at the time, but that's when he then found Sue, and they were together from then on. Larry struggled with some inner demons (didn't we all) that were part from his dad, part from 17-year-old rebellious stuff. But I loved him as much as a brother, and my son, Stuart Leslie, is named for him. Larry had a son, now grown, of course, named Michael Lee, after yours truly.

As close to blood as two men could be, I keep saying I'm going to write about him, but what can I say that would do justice to that memory? I'll try when I get the courage. It’s tough, ‘cause I’ve just gone through the anniversary of his death 30 years ago. November,1973, in a Nebraska corn field.

Larry truly qualifies as an Unforgettable Character.

Larry Maness (1956) Posted by Hello

On a more cheerful note, Ernie goes on:

I remember the Plaza. Right across from the Mayfair. Close to the Plaza, (correct this if not accurate, please), Morris and Son was the place to get real Levi's...$4.75 a pair; I could only afford one or two. Summer jobs at Mr. Haile's station got them for me.

Carol Hill, though, was the champion popcorn maker at the Rialto, but here's a question for you...who was the projectionist 1955-1957? The projectors used carbon plasma arc rods, like a welder would use, which made a BRIGHT light. Coordinating the reels, (there were two projectors) and keeping a rod going for the arc was a delicate task. Note the little white dot that appears for one frame just before the reel changes on real film. That's the signal. (Why I even thought of this stuff I'll never know, it just comes out, sometimes).

Ernie remembered when I brought it up to him, but there were actually THREE flashing signals, 3 frames of film apiece (moving at 24 frames a second, they weren’t up there long). The first came at 10 seconds and, like smashing a mule across the nose with a 2X4, were to tell you there was a message coming; the second, 5 seconds after the first, told you to roll the next projector. The last one, at the one second mark, told you to stomp the pedal to change the picture from one projector to the other.

Ernie concluded his contribution:

Phyllis Smith: "Bring that here, Misto'!" "Take that there, Misto'!" Yes, ma'am says I nervously.

Thank you, Lord, for Mrs. Morgan NOT making me sew in Home Ec I!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


(Run originally 12/18/03 on our old site)

The old barter biz (which the IRS hates, ‘cause they can’t track it or tax it) is nothing new. Witness:

Wallace Evans

In 1950-1951 I was an early morning AR Gazette newspaper delivery boy on my trusty one-lunger motorcycle, and would stop off at Paul Saunders’ Dixie Cream Donut Shop just off West Pleasure St. in the wee hours -- 5 to 6 a.m. -- to trade him a newspaper for two of those great donuts. Shortly after that, I would meet the Benton Dairy (owned by Harold Benton's father) milk truck and trade them a newspaper for a 1/2 pint of chocolate milk, which took the edge off of the food needs. Then, I would return home to sit in front of a natural gas stove to thaw out the semi-frost-bitten fingers before catching a quick nap and heading to Searcy Grammar School/Junior High for those great words of wisdom. So much for the annals of Searcy and the newspaper delivery business that paid all of $6.00/week. Gasoline at that time was "dirt cheap" and the cycle used very little on one run of the paper route.

Thanks, Wallace!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Stupid Band Director Tricks

(Originally run 12/17/03 on our old site)

Ernest Simpson

One of the most seemingly cruel and cold-blooded, mean groups of people, at times, towards each other are band directors. Each has stories to tell of what they have done to each other and practical jokes pulled, along with many pranks. All in a good and friendly spirit, but with the help of the students in many cases. Sometimes this involved the students or even maybe stunts pulled on the students. A couple of brief notes come to mind:

I had a majorette in my band once that always wanted to twirl fire, and after saying no many times, I finally gave in. When she caught her uniform on fire in the half time performance, I was doing the announcing, and just acted like that was part of the show. Of course, I had safety measures on the sideline, and there was no injury, just hurt feelings and embarrassment. There’s nothing like being shot with a fire extinguisher in front of the home crowd.

I was a guest director one summer at band camp at Arkansas Tech, when one inebriated director came back to his dorm room late one evening. The old dormitory had hardwood floors, so some of his director friends decided to teach him a lesson and, using thumbtacks, tacked his clothes to the floor, where he had decided to sleep. Imagine his surprise when he awoke and tried to get up.

Bill Laas, our wonderful band director early in my life, enjoyed a practical joke. He loved to invite friends as guest conductors for concerts, and scheme with the band to ‘pull one’ on the guest, if the guest, of course, was a good sport.

Too bad if they weren’t.

Bill was a true showman, and his “William Tell” halftime show was a classic. I still remember the giant paper mache’ apple that had a huge arrow pop out when the signal was given to shoot the apple off Wm. Tell’s son’s head. The arrow was spring loaded and each end came out of the apple with the pull of a string. The ‘fired’ arrow disappeared into a long sleeve as the other arrow simultaneously popped from the apple.

The great Ralph Hale, director of the Christian Brothers College Band in Memphis, was a frequent visitor to Searcy. Ralph came to Christian Brothers in 1947 and taught there until 1988. After a few years, he started the Christian Brothers High School Band. He is the only high school director ever inducted into the American Bandmasters Association, whose members consisted of only college and university directors. He, along with the very talented Bill Laas, were a good pair of showmen.

Being good friends, Bill invited Ralph to be guest conductor of the Searcy Band at spring concert.

Word is, Bill had been guest conductor the year before for the Christian Brothers Band, and Ralph concocted the following with the band: as Bill was conducting the march, he loved to end the last measure of the trio with a flourish of the baton, wheel and step off the podium and do a sweeping bow. Ralph told the band that, when Bill stepped off the podium, they were to go immediately back to the last strain of the march and begin playing again.

The trap is set.

Last note of the trio, Bill pivots off, bows, the audience begins applause, and the band starts up again. To keep from looking like an idiot, Bill jumped back on the podium and began conducting again, as though it were on purpose. Well, the band did it twice, and twice, he jumped back on the podium and started conducting again. Finally it was over, and everyone had a great laugh.

So, in the spring of 1953 Ralph came to Searcy, and Bill Laas and the Searcy Band lay in wait.

Bill took his creativity, enlisted the help of a couple of senior boys in the band, and borrowed some tools from Luther Hardin. They modified the conductor’s podium by boring several ¾ inch holes in the surface, and ran an extension cord attached to a hot plate under the podium. Sitting on the hot plate was a pan of water, and mixed in was a whole jar of Vicks Vaporub.

He also made a conductor’s baton of paraffin, and attached a handle.

The trap is set.

The date is March 17, 1953, and the rivalry for one-up-manship was heating up, so to speak. The concert went well, and the water and Vicks were heating up. The vapors started up through the holes when Ralph came to the podium for his portion of the program.

In the middle of the last piece as he was conducting, the vapors became overwhelming. Fumes came up though and rose up and blended with the heat and lights of the stage. Tears started, and the wax baton started to wobble. Ralph was choking but managed to get through the piece. When he stepped off the podium, wiping the tears from his eyes, the front row of the band was getting the full effect of the Vicks, as well: the flutes and oboes were getting as much as the director. Paula Windsor, Martha Jenkins, and Carolyn Walker had stopped playing long ago. The first row of clarinets, Larry Killough and Jimmy Chandler, braved on through.

Our little class of future ’57 had no problems, since we sat so far back in the group; besides we hardly had a clue what was going on anyway.

When the piece was over, Mr. Laas explained what was going on, and the audience got a good laugh. Revenge at last.

I recall in a concert once we had a rubber duck and feathers in a box above the stage and someone shot a blank from a shotgun during one of the pieces, and the fake duck and feathers fell from above the curtains. It may have been during the same concert, I can’t remember. Bill Laas loved to have fun with the kids, and proved it by leaving a memorable legacy of love of music and memories for many who were fortunate to have known him.

As a side note, I was asked to serve on a judging panel for which Ralph’s Christian Brothers Band performed in contest in 1980 and, at the time, his groups had received First Division ratings for twenty-six years in a row. Dear reader, you don’t think this judge would be anxious to be the first to award anything less than the top rating to this band after a record like that, do you? Along with Bill Laas, I had known this man since Junior High. I prayed that the band would play well and, truly, they were flawless.

Tom Pry points out many of the great successes of Bill Laas: our teacher, composer, inventor (Thum-Eze for sore clarinet player thumbs,) musician .. and friend. Belwin-Mills publishing company published many of his pieces. Bill was the director of the Michigan City (Indiana) Junior High music program for many years, before his retirement.

Inveterate Prankster Posted by Hello

Tom Pry

Before you ask what a high-powered guy like Bill Laas was doing in a junior high school, let me briefly mention a fellow you never heard of, Stan Ciciora. I decided to join the large, very active community band in Naples, Florida, many moons ago. Stan was directing it at the time and, after my first rehearsal with the group, I said, “Stan, you’re really good. What in hell are you doing in a JUNIOR high school?”

He got a rather embarrassed look on his face, thanked me for the compliment, then added, “Remember this, though: if I’m as good as you seem to think I am, then that’s exactly where I belong because, in junior high, is where I’m either going to make ‘em or break ‘em.”

Not too terribly much later, my children went through Stan’s hands in junior high, and I realized the 100% accuracy of what he said: both kids became outstanding musicians, thanks to Stan.

As for Bill Laas memories, I’ll always remember the halftime show he put together in the fall of 1953. It had a circus motif, capped by Drum Major Larry Maness seeming to throw some very large and wicked-looking knives at one of the majorettes.

The majorette (sorry, I don’t remember which one) was outlined in balloons, standing in front of a large box, looking appropriately frightened as Larry would bring his arm back, take careful aim, and then toss the knife. A balloon would pop, and there would be the knife, sticking in the panel next to her, quivering from the impact as the majorette quivered in fear.


What was actually happening here was that, when Larry would release that “knife,” a set of strong rubber bands would pull it instantly back up into his sleeve. At the same time, one of our band members hidden in the box would release the retaining pin on an identical-looking “knife,” one with a pin projecting from end of the “handle.” When released, the knife lookalike, spring-loaded, with great force would pop out of the front of the panel, breaking the balloon with the pin … and looking for all the world as if Maness had picked up knife throwing skills during his checkered growing-up years.

Impressive as hell .. ingenious as could be .. and one of many lasting memories we have, compliments of the late -- and missed -- Bill Laas.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


BEFORE WE GET INTO TODAY’S SUMMER RE-RUN … I am both surprised and disappointed that not one single person has either given me a report nor sent me photos of the Class of 55’s 50th Reunion. Did anyone attend? Does anyone care?

I do. C’mon folks, help me out: I can’t do it all myself.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system … -tlp-

(Originally run 12/11/03 on the old site)

Ernest Simpson

Tom, this is a great entry. Dan told the story very accurately.

We can solve a couple of names in Dan's story. In the back of the old panel truck was Morris Brookhart … and, yep, there was another one in there, too: me. The big guy Larry tackled on the court square that Halloween night was Frank Barnett.

I guess we were pretty stunned at Larry when he bailed out of the back of the truck in fast pursuit ... but we should have known not to be surprised at any of his antics.

Larry's first car was a '49 Willy’s Jeepster. Great car. It was green and had square fenders like a '54 MG roadster. His first wreck occurred when he was traveling north late one night on old 67 past the (fairgrounds, now) and turned left on the (north by-pass road) at a high rate of speed. The old Searcy Dairy had a stone wall about 4 feet high near the road, and the Jeepster couldn't make the turn. Larry impaled the underside of the Jeepster on the stone wall.

1950 Willys Jeepster Posted by Hello

I’m unclear how he got home that night, but I do remember the Jeepster was still on the wall the next morning. There was great conflict between he and Peck over this incident.

He loved that Jeepster, and cars in general. We had a fight once over Corvettes and Thunderbirds, but that's another story.

Tom Pry

Hot sporty cars started being turned out in the mid-50s. This led to typical adolescent humor. “Hey, looking for a job? They’ve got one down at White County Ford that’d be perfect for you.” “What is it?” “Digging up worms to feed to Thunderbirds.”

Or “Hear what happened to Dougie? He’s in Hawkins Hospital.” “What happened to him?” “He got kicked by his Mustang when he tried to tighten up its nuts.”

Speaking of White County Ford … it was located where W&W Ford is today. I can still remember their motto: “Off the Square, but on the level!” Great as was their advertising slogan, their phone number (pre-dial) was the envy of every business in the county: 1.

Today’s Jeep Grand Cherokee™ is a direct descendant of that old Willy’s Jeepster (which name, incidentally, was a combination of "Jeep" and "roadster." For what it's worth to the discussion, the word jeep was how the initials for "General Purpose" ended up being pronounced).

So many trade names in the automotive field are no longer with us, like Studebaker, which you could buy down on Spring Street.

A real biggie for awhile after WW II was the Kaiser-Frazer line. Although they were huge cars, one of the last vehicles they turned out was a little stripped down basic car called the Henry J (after the founder of what is now the megalithic Kaiser Corporation). It was so small that it could only seat four people .. IF they were (a) slim, (b) good friends and (c) had bathed recently. Unfortunately, the Henry J was about 15 years ahead of its time, and didn’t last long.

It was novel enough, though, that Sears had it manufactured to sell under their own name for awhile. Remember the Allstate™?

Saturday, June 11, 2005


(Originally run 11/23/03 on our old site)

When my “co-historian,” Ernest Simpson, sent me that marvelous piece about being the first guy to take Pre-Wed (or is that Home Ec?) at Searcy High School, I couldn’t resist passing on to him this TRUE story:

Home Ec for Boys is a state-mandated course in Ohio. Massillon, OH, had barely enough guys signed up to make it possible to hold a class. Then, over a summer, some nameless soul had an epiphany. They re-named the course, and then the stampede hit. They had to add a second class period, and almost a third.

Same course, same teacher, different name.

The name?

"Bachelor Living."

Ernie’s response:

Thanks for telling me that about that.

You know, I never once was concerned for my masculinity during that time, maybe for obvious reasons, but maybe reinforced by the girls, and the guys who wanted in the course, too.

Go figure.

Anyway, it was a great time and, like ole Augustus McRae said in Lonesome Dove, "Woodrow, it's been one helluva party." You may hear that quote from me again sometime, ole bud....

Thanks to Mildred Taylor Wilbourn for sending the info about the Mayfair. Those old ladies were really eccentric ... at least, three of them were. They had an old '37 Hudson Hornet in the garage behind the hotel, dusty, but had very few miles on it. I was really impressed by the vehicle...

I loved this story (about our friend, Benny)! It causes memories, and that is a good thing, besides being a great entertainment piece.

I had home brew as a hobby for several years (my favorite recipe I called "Goat Scrotom Ale"), then I got into wine making, too. Another fun thing to do, I assure you, if you can keep up with production. I have since shut down and given all my equipment to another budding winemaker.

(Glad you added that Ern, or everyone would’ve been bugging me for your home address).

When Dad worked at one of the feed stores in town, “Uncle” Everett used to come and buy sugar 400-500 pounds at a time. We knew he was making corn whiskey.

Dad posed the question in front of several of their friends as Everett came in to pick up his load one day: "Everett, what are you going to do with all that sugar?"

Uncle Everett says, "By God, I like my tea sweet!" That brought a great laugh, and Everett loaded his sugar and went on his way.

P.S. I'm checking some dates now on bad things band directors did to each other. Bill Laas was a prankster, and Al and he both loved practical jokes

Friday, June 10, 2005


(Originally run 11/19/03 on the old site)

Elois Bleidt Pelton on Paula Windsor

Paula, do you remember when you took several of us in your new Studebaker car to the band picnic at Morris school? You drove behind the indoor swimming pool … and drove into this huge hole, which swallowed the entire car, with us in it.

Eloise Bleidt (1956) Posted by Hello

They had to get a crane to lift the car -- and us -- out of it...I still think about that and can't stop laughing! I even have a scar on my knee from the car seat back as the car plunged into that was really funny!

Harold Sullivan on Punky Caldwell

By accident, I met Punky on the street in Minneapolis in the late ‘60s or early ’70s. I worked for Honeywell in Seattle, but spent a lot of time back at Honeywell’s “Mecca.” (It used to be named the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company). Anyway, I was walking down the street and recognized him; he was going into one of the downtown music joints. He didn’t remember me but, of course, he remembered my brother, A.J.

I think he was married at the time. He had a band, and his picture was on the billboard at the entrance.

I never did get back to hear his band.

I believe Punky’s weight problem was caused be some medicine he took as a child. He was not expected to live very long, so he was allowed to do just about what he wanted in school. And about all he wanted to do was play his music.

I’m sort of hazy on all that, but that is the way I remember it.

Don Thompson

Sorry - I said Tommy Killough, and it was Larry in the 1952 All State Band photo.

More as I get it, folks. –tlp-

Thursday, June 09, 2005

DIRT ROADS and Other Bumpy Things

Tom Pry

To start this set, a friend of mine down in Louisiana sent me this little “think piece” by Paul Harvey, which I duly forwarded to Ernie Simpson (of whom more in a bit):

What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many Dirt Roads have been paved.

There's not a problem in America today, crime, drugs, education, divorce, delinquency that wouldn't be remedied, if we just had more Dirt Roads, because Dirt Roads give character.

People that live at the end of Dirt Roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride.
That it can jar you right down to your teeth sometimes, but it's worth it, if at the end is home...a loving spouse, happy kids and a dog.

We wouldn't have near the trouble with our educational system if our kids got their exercise walking a Dirt Road with other kids, from whom they learn how to get along.

There was less crime in our streets before they were paved.
Criminals didn't walk two dusty miles to rob or rape, if they knew they'd be welcomed by 5 barking dogs and a double barrel shotgun.
And there were no drive by shootings.

Our values were better when our roads were worse!
People did not worship their cars more than their kids, and motorists were more courteous, they didn't tailgate by riding the bumper or the guy in front would choke you with dust & bust your windshield with rocks.

Dirt Roads taught patience

Dirt Roads were environmentally friendly, you didn't hop in your car for a quart of milk: you walked to the barn for your milk.

For your mail, you walked to the mail box.

What if it rained and the Dirt Road got washed out? That was the best part, then you stayed home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on Daddy's shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody.

At the end of Dirt Roads, you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap.

Most paved roads lead to trouble, Dirt Roads more likely lead to a fishing creek or a swimming hole.

At the end of a Dirt Road, the only time we even locked our car was in August, because if we didn't some neighbor would fill it with too much zucchini.

At the end of a Dirt Road, there was always extra springtime income, for when city dudes would get stuck, you'd have to hitch up a team and pull them out.

Usually you got a dollar...always you got a new the end of a Dirt Road!

As happens with such things, Ernie sent it on to Cliff Wiggs, who responded:

Hey, this is good, and I sure-nuff can relate. I sometimes think of those old dirt roads, and riding that old schoolbus into town. It was so crowded you would have trouble getting another person on. People had to stand in the aisles, and when the bus started slowing down, they had to hold on for dear life, to the back of the seats.

Our last stop was at Annetia Gay's.

The windows would only go halfway down, but you had to let them down in the summer, and dust would just fog into the windows.

The law wouldn't let them stand in the aisles like that nowadays.

Even after 36 was paved, 305 was still dirt, and full of chugholes.

My first car was a 54 Plymouth. Stick shift naturally, and it would idle in high gear, at 12 m.p.h. No problem.

Tom again

Now, a couple of other notes.

Highway 36 -- soon to be four-laned. They've already poured a sidewalk that goes out all the way to Honey Hill Road .. AND the Searcy City Limits sign now resides just west of the gas station there at the corner of Honey Hill and 36. I certainly could've used that sidewalk back in the late summer of 1953, when I was walking into town for summer band practice!

The summer of 1955, when our phone was still a New Thing, Annetia Gay was my sanity's salvation. She and I never, ever went out with each other – but, that summer, we spent an awful lot of time together on the telephone, among other things trying to shock the silent little old lady who listened in on every conversation on our eight-party line.

She was also my Early Warning System. Her position at the beginning of Hwy 36 let her eyeball my mom or dad on their way home, so I could get busy doing the things I had supposed to be doing the rest of the day.

Anyone know whatever happened to Annetia? I had no contact with her after graduation in 1956.

I began this piece by promising something new about Ernie Simpson the other day. Well, last week was his birthday, and his friends at Hytrol threw a party for him.

We have a picture, and I’ve got to prepare you for it. Ernie’s been undergoing some treatments of late that have made his already-sparse head of hair even MORE sparse so, last week, he bit the bullet and had his wife, Shelia (yes, folks, that’s the correct spelling), go ahead and shave the rest of it off.

Interesting effect, and I MUST share it with you.



Wednesday, June 08, 2005


(Originally run 11/12/03 on our old site)

THE ELUSIVE FRANK THOMPSON HAS BEEN FOUND. Turns out the reason he couldn’t be found in Little Rock was because he and his wife, Sandy recently moved back to, of all places, Searcy. Had a long talk with Frank’s wife, and he’s been around. SIDE NOTE: Sandy, who was originally from Virginia – lived in Alexandria at the same time as I, in fact – was the Featured Twirler with the Ole Miss Band back around 1960. (2005 footnote: he seems to have disappeared again. Anyone have a clue?).

Frank was found because of the invaluable assistance of Anita Corinne Hart Fuller. Anita was a bell player, drummer and, of great importance (at least to me), string bass player. The reason it was important to me was that it meant she stood next to me during the concert season. In time, although we did not otherwise socialize, she became the Big Sister I never had.

Every adolescent boy needs one.

Anyway, Anita had quite a bit to say about the motels we stayed in when we made our annual trek to Hot Springs for the State Band Festival. I commented that I couldn’t remember those motels’ names, and her response was Typical Anita: “I can't believe you can't remember staying at The Fountain and/or The Green Elf in Hot Springs!” Oh, my dear, I remember staying in them – I just couldn’t remember their names. She not only remembers names, she has pictures. They will eventually show up here.

Anita also contributed her outstanding band memory:

When I played the bells, I and Rosemary Dacus (the other bell player) wore white pants with a red jacket, like the majorettes, but their jacket had tails, ours were short. Anyway, I had to wear white shoes. Next year, when I no longer played bells, but drums, and therefore wore the black and red uniform, I had to wear black shoes. I got black shoe polish and "dyed" them myself. They looked fine until we marched at half-time on the grass football field, grass wet with dew. When I marched off the field that night, I was wearing WHITE shoes!!! Now, I would think that just funny but, in those days, I was mortified and sooo embarrassed.

Anita Hart, the Bell Player Posted by Hello

On the subject, from Ernie Simpson:

While you're remembering Hot Springs: I remember Bill Laas using the white Sam Browne belt from our uniforms on Larry Maness, Frank Thompson, and Thomas Rongey in Hot Springs when we were making noise after curfew, (perhaps this was the Waverly Hotel, where we destroyed the elevator). I feigned sleep and got out of the a-- whipping. Larry the Rat says, ' Do you want me to wake Ernest?” Mr. Laas said, “Nah, let him sleep” .... as I cowered under the covers. That's another story.

Corporal Punishment? Yep, but it wasn’t mandatory. You could take a couple of whacks across your behind OR take a week’s suspension from school. Nowadays, if a teacher tried that, they’d be sued, after they were fired.

I don’t recall anyone ever opting for the suspension … and I think we all profited by the experience, even if it was usually from a large paddle Bill and Al kept in their office. Besides, the beating we got beat the one we WOULD have gotten had our parents were told our transgressions against the public good.

Ernie also contributes these memories:

There must be something magical .. about trombone players. Bobby Scott Fuller achieved in spite of all adversity. I think he would have been a good football player, and started out that way, except for a little setback. Went on to earn music degrees from the most prestigious schools in the country, and was a living legend at Jonesboro High School and the state with his choral groups. He could tell his kids, “Remember the pitch of this song we did two days ago? Well, hum that pitch, with no help.” And they did, and it was right! Spooky!

It was my privilege to be a summer guest conductor/clinician a couple of summers with him in the 70's at SIU (Southern Illinois University) in Carbondale. He did the choir, and I had the band, right? He told me once that one of the worst musical experiences he ever had was once, while working his way through school by conducting a mandolin band in an old folks home, two of the violinists started whacking each other with their fiddle bows. One must have hit a real clunker. I can't imagine anything musically worse than a mandolin band in an old folks home. It's a wonder Bobby Scott didn't turn out stone deaf.

Anita kept the balance though, she always impressed me as a no-nonsense lady with a great faith, and superb talent as a Registered Nurse. I'm glad the bass fiddle was for fun and the RN business was for real … with all respect, of course.

Their son, Chris, was a trombone player and last I heard he was a band director in north central Arkansas somewhere.

Bobby Scott Fuller, a real musician and teacher.

While we’re on the subject of Bobby Scott, let me contribute a few thoughts.

In 1952, the venerated Dr. Jonas Salk discovered a vaccine against polio – poliomyelitis – that worked. He knew it worked because the first people he vaccinated were himself, his wife, and their kids. The discovery was made just in time. The infection rate was climbing all the time; in 1952, it was almost 58,000 people, mostly children.

Nationwide testing was done in 1953 and, by 1954, we were all taking our sugar cube with a couple of drops of vaccine on it.

Polio was a wicked disease. Rarely did it kill anyone, but its other name, “Infantile Paralysis,” says a lot about the malady. It paralyzed, very selectively. In some, it struck the chest and required living in what was called an Iron Lung, like a big water boiler that your head stuck out of. The machine was required to run up air pressure, and then reduce it, so your lungs could suck in and then expel air.

In other people, it struck the limbs. This is what happened to the, until then, horribly active Franklin Roosevelt and put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

1954 was too late for Bobby Scott Fuller to gain any good from the Salk Vaccine. Sometime between 1950 and 1952, Bobby was a junior high schooler showing more than average promise as a football player. And then polio struck.

By the time I entered SHS as a freshman in 1952, Bobby was a sophomore. Now, in strictest terms, that traditional name for a tenth grader is made up of two Greek words, “sophos,” meaning smart, and “more,” meaning fool. In other words, sophomores are smart fools.


The encounter with polio seemed to have knocked the more out of Bobby Fuller. When I became aware of Bob, he was one of the most cheerful, most universally well-liked students in the whole damn school.

When Ernie referred to the end of Bob’s football career, he laid it to “… a little setback.” In saying that, Ernie was not being dismissive or making light of the subject. Instead, his term of reference is a direct reflection of the way Bobby treated it: an annoyance, but not the end of the world.

Bob wore heavy iron braces on each leg, and got around with the aid of two lightweight aluminum crutches, the kind where there’s a band to guide the arm, with most of the weight being carried by the hands and arms.

Now, you’ve got to understand that the term “handicap accessible” was a null concept in the 50s. Searcy High School was two stories tall, and the only way between one and the other (for that matter, to get up to the outer doors from the outside) was a narrow staircase at each end of the building, barely wide enough for two streams of kids, one up and one down, to pass each other.

Bob’s solution was to perch himself near the bottom of one and wait for the traffic to clear. While he waited, he’d ask someone to carry one of his crutches upstairs – if, indeed, someone didn’t volunteer first. When the between-classes traffic died down, Bobby would turn himself around and, one hand on the banister, the other on the crutch, heist himself up the stairs backwards (why backwards? Better sitting down hard on a concrete stair than doing a skull-first backwards dive to the first landing).

When Bob got to the top, he’d find that whoever had carried his crutch up had set it neatly between the banister and rail, handy for Bob to slip his arm into and hie himself off to class.

Now, I’m sure Bob had some down days, and some days where a little self-pity was bound to creep into his life – BUT I NEVER SAW ANY EVIDENCE OF IT, not in two years. He couldn’t march with the band, but he By God could sit in the stands and play with us there. After all, he was our first chair trombone.

He could go off on band trips, he could participate in music festivals, and he did. The few times when he needed a little assistance, those of us who could lend it felt privileged to do so.

Last time I saw Bob, he bore a disarming resemblance to the late British actor, Jeremy Brett, and sounded a lot like him, too, if you can imagine Sherlock Holmes (whom Brett portrayed a lot) with a vague southern accent. He still carries a cane, but it seems more as an affectation than a necessity.

I have not “vetted” this piece with either Bob or his wife, Anita, with whom he’s had a relationship for at least 53 years. The reason I haven’t is he/they would squall, “What’s the fuss? I did what I had to do. That’s all. Anyone else would’ve done the same thing.”

I don’t think so, Bob, not to have gained such universal respect .. including mine. I’m proud to have been one of your musical colleagues … and admirers.