Friday, September 30, 2005


There’s a new place to blow off a little steam, and a new/old place in which to do it, and it’s all thanks to one man: Craig Christiansen.

Craig is a man of many parts. He is, for instance, a professional horse show announcer. He has also been a gun & badge-toting investigator for the state’s Department of Transportation. He owns a model train shop, and he’s refurbishing the Bald Knob Railroad Depot.

He’s also the only guy I’ve met lately who can out-talk me, no small feat, as both my friends and enemies will attest.

Craig is still busy moving his business, Arkansas Traveler Hobbies, from Pine Bluff to Bald Knob, so at the moment, he's only open Wednesday through Saturday, but he’s somehow managed to find time to seriously intertwine himself in the social and economic structure of Bald Knob. His first visit here, not too terribly long ago, caused him to call his wife, Cathy, and say, “I think I’ve found our home town.” Her response? “I’ll start packing.”

Now, my reason for mentioning all this is that Craig is not the kind to just open a storefront and leave it at that. In an interestingly structured deal, he opened his model train store in the old (1915) Bald Knob train depot. This was built so long ago that, actually, the line wasn’t the Missouri Pacific: it was still the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern (a story in itself).

Anyway, the renovations so far are impressive, and the ones to come are even more so. Right now, besides having an amazing stock of model train rolling stock and accessories, he’s building not one, but TWO demo layouts, so you can watch the pretty choo-choos roll, and ask questions to your heart’s content.

Craig’s stated aim is to have a shop where it’s comfortable just to stop in and visit: loiterers welcome, and you’re bound to meet someone interesting; I already have in just my first visit there.

Craig and his wife, Cathy (who has her own businesses) live in Velvet Ridge, but have already snapped themselves and their two sons smack into the heart of Bald Knob.

If you’ve never been there, incidentally, the Depot sits right at the spot where the Memphis line and St. Louis lines either split or come together (depending on whether you’re heading north, south, and/or east or west). If your travel is by car, come down 367 to the heart of Bald Knob (location of its only traffic light), and turn east a block to the tracks, then look to your right: you can’t miss it.

Take a look at our past. It’s sliding into our future again, thanks to people like Craig Christiansen. You might want to mark October 8th on your calendar. That’s the date for a “Walk Through History,” a walking tour of downtown Bald Knob that’ll end up at the depot. Just gather at the Citizen’s Bank at Elm and 367 at 11 a.m. that Saturday. (501) 324-9788 will get you more details.

You can e-mail Craig, incidentally, at, and their website is .

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


(Run originally 3/30/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

(We recently wrote of having a friend driving behind us, checking our A model speedometer with his own, when my shotgun passenger threw the remains of his milk shake out the window .. and right onto the windshield of our chase car. My shaky memory said it was Ernie .. and he hereby confirms it. –tlp-)

Yep, my friend, I felt badly about the milk shake on whoever was following, since I loved Mr. Henry's famous Dairy Queen Cherry Milk Shake with added malt, and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top....yum, yum.

Anita's comments about the Poor Farm evokes the following from yours truly:

In the 1940's....from about 1946-1948, we lived on the left side of the road in a little white house across from what is now the White County Fairgrounds. South towards town, and on the east side of the road, was the "Poor Farm". As a child, I never knew what that was all about, except a lot of old folks sat in rockers on the porch that surrounded the building.

Somehow, mom and dad became acquainted with a little old gent called Uncle Tom .. Mason, Mitchell, Mose, or something. He was a quiet, dignified grandfather type, and we had him in our house often for meals. He walked to our house, and dad generally drove him back to the Home after dinner.

He loved to sit in our living room after dinner chatting with mom and dad, and during the conversation tapped his walking cane on the floor.

Between taps, he spun the cane between his thumb and middle finger. Tap, spin, tap, tap, spin. I guess he could do that for hours, because the whole time he sat, he was tapping and spinning.
Nobody ever said 'that gets on my nerves', and he visited with us until we moved out on Route 5, closer to Echo Dell.

This is a fragment of the story of "How to Get to Echo Dell From Crosby, in Eight Years.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Dan E. Randle

I was cleaning out one of my storage sheds this weekend and ran across this old picture of the barbershop chorus I sang in. It brought back some good memories.

We used to travel around the state singing and entering contests. We never won first place, but we did usually come in in the top five.

The picture was taken in March 1974, just three months after I bought my first business, the full line music store. The old gentleman standing on the bottom row first on the left, Colin McNabb, is the person I bought "The Music Box" from. He was 72 and still working. I can remember wondering why anyone would want to work after 65. Now I know: with me, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Even though I have many hobbies, they just don't give me the same feeling.

I no longer sing with the chorus because of other interests. At times I miss the harmony, but all the other things I am involved in keep me too busy. I have to let singing in the shower act as a
substitute for the chorus.

Tom Pry

I don't sing anywhere; members of my orchestra used to make fun of my singing during rehearsals.

In kind of a left-hand-reference to earlier comments about “band kids” and what goes on with them after they leave school … I’d say Dan’s barbershop quartet is a perfect example. My kids (daughter pianist/flautist, son percussionist with a mallet specialty) manage to shoehorn time in a bell-ringing choir at their church.

Me, besides my band and orchestra playing with and/or conducting, also spent some time as director of a Sweet Adelines chorus. For those of you not familiar with the Sweet Adelines, they’re a female version of your local SPEBQSA organization.

(All together now … SPEBQSA stands for Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc.). It was intended as a stopgap while they searched for a new permanent director. It worked as intended, with one of their already-members finally bobbing to the surface.

However, during that six-month interval, in order to get me some training, the group sent me to the Florida state SPEBQSA convention in Orlando. LOTS of singing; in fact, there was a group energy and sound that has never been rivaled in my life, somewhat akin, I suspect, to Bob Fuller’s story of all the choir directors singing their way down the San Antonio Riverwalk. 800 experienced barbershoppers all singing the same songs in the same lush auditorium all at the same time is, at the minimum, sublime.

It so inspired me that I helped form the Naples, Florida SPEBQSA group, although I didn’t have time to sing with them. It had its own funny side-benefit. When I was tapped to direct stage and music for The Music Man, I needed a barbershop quartet that could act. None of the SPEBQSA quartet groups could clear their schedules … but two members of one group could, as could two members of another. So, temporarily, four people from two different groups teamed up to make one quartet and then, when the show finished its run, went back to their old partners.

All experience at anything eventually comes in handy.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Tom Pry

We had a tornado Saturday night, one of three that struck around the state, little love notes from a not-so-nice lady named Rita.

This one meandered around off the ground from Higginson to McRae, visible only on radar, until it finally hit the ground on Country Club Road (Honey Hill ridge), working its way over to Highway 36, where it damaged a church and several homes.

There were no deaths, but some extensive property damage and minor injuries.

We could hear nothing but rain down here in the valley, about a mile from the mini-rampage … but when I went out into the back yard yesterday morning, there was a big chunk of metal, about the size of a truck bumper, laying up against the fence, apparently deposited there by the wind.

No fun, but we were quite lucky.

And, speaking of tornadoes and luck, yesterday received this note from Ann Shannon Snodgrass:

Tom, I came across this web site recently and thought I'd share. It's an account of the Judsonia tornado that we discussed a few months ago on the Searcy Journal site. Ann

An excellent, excellent piece; I’d recommend chasing the link. Thanks, Ann.

Have a calm day.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Marcella Pry

I enjoyed the piece on Doniphan so much so that I read the whole thing. (I can’t believe Dear Ole Mom read the whole thing! –tlp-) There was a complete town there, and the mill. The Doniphan mill was about a mile from Kensett. Daddy worked at Blytheville and, when my mother got sick, Aunt Ophelia, "Felly," who lived with her husband, Fred Bass, at Doniphan, came to Blytheville to take care of us two kids. Manuel (my little brother) was just crawling, ‘cause my job on the fishing trip was keeping him on the quilt. Daddy had a flat tire on his King, and that was the day my mother got sick. We were going to the Mississippi River to fish with Uncle Wyman (daddy’s older brother) and Aunt Mary.

I started to tell you about Doniphan. It was a busy place. Everything centered around the Mill.

We lived in a house just two houses from the corner, with Aunt Felly and her husband, Red Lake, and Daddy. The houses were all in a row, several rows of them. That's where Daddy met Mama. Her mother, Mrs. Fry, ran the hotel (a glorified boarding house); the only one in town. Mama worked for Mrs Fry, and did the washing for Mrs. Mills (Wilbur’s mom) and anyone else she got a chance to. After all, women who were widows and had 2 kids to raise would make money any way they could.

They eventually moved the original Doniphan mill to Oregon. Don't know how many towns it's stopped in after Glenwood but, when I saw it, it had been at Springfield. Now it is at Bend, OR, which is about 300 miles from Springfield. I know that because, when we went to a fancy restaurant while I was visiting up there a few months ago, we passed a place that says Doniphan Lumber Co. It was unloading something at the new place that they had made. They made the fancy restaurant out of the old mill.

For those interested in more of mom's memories of the 20s in Arkansas, go to: .

More memories from Harold Gene Sullivan

Tom, thanks for the background on Doniphan.

As I've have pointed out before, during the 1940s, my dad had a Pepsi route, delivering cases of drinks to small stores in White County. One store that I remember was at Doniphan. At that time, the town was really a going place with quite a few houses; it had a “company town” look with the houses all similar.

After arriving in the town, one took a right turn down to the store; the house one turned at was the home of Lonnie Glosson . For those of you who are less educated in the cultural things of life, he was a performer on the Grand Ole Opera, played a harmonica, if I remember correctly.

This reminds me of a story about how Kensett got its name, true or not, I don’t know. Supposedly, they were looking for a place to locate the railroad station after Searcy leaders declined to have the main tracks through their town. They had located a site but there was still a problem of some sort. One of the black workers said, “You can’t sit it there but you kin sit it here.” Don’t know why I really don’t believe the story.

Speaking of small towns that have all but disappeared. I had an aunt and uncle who lived in El Paso AR. He was the rural mail carrier out of there. In fact, I lived there in the late 1930s for part of a year. In the 1940s, it was a real going town with a service station, two general stores, a dry goods store, a movie theater, plus several other stores. Now it is all but gone.

The same thing is true with West Point. In the 1940s, it was a thriving town with wood sidewalks and several stores plus a good size school. There was an old house that had a cannon ball in the side from the Civil War (or should I say War Between The States). There was a dock there where commercial fishermen brought in their catch to sell. I remember my dad buying drum and buffalo fish there. One time they had an alligator gar hung up on a tree when we went by, it was over 7 feet long, looked like a whale to me.

Good roads, everyone owning a car, and chain stores have sure destroyed the small towns around White County. I’m sure most readers can think of similar small towns that have almost disappeared. It’s sad to see these little towns die.

Tom Pry

Talk about coincidence biting you in the butt …! Harold made the reference to Lonnie Glosson … who ended up as my mom’s companion during the last years of his life. (One of his grandkids runs a web site about him: ). Mom met him, the first time, in Doniphan, and he became a lifelong friend of my grandfather’s, before ending up in my mom’s life again, after my father died.

Lonnie and his buddy/partner, Wayne Raney (from Drasco, where his son still has a recording studio) sold harmonicas and instruction books on radio all over the U.S. Lonnie, besides doing the Grand Ole Opry, also hosted and/or appeared on such legendary shows as The Louisiana Hayride, The WLS Saturday Night Barn Dance, and the Renfro Valley Gang.

He died shortly after his Valentine’s Day 93rd Birthday in 2001. His last performing appearance had been at the White County Fair the preceding September.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Tom Pry

Those who’ve spent any time at all reading my burblings will realize that, among other things, I’m utterly fascinated with railroads, past and present. Besides being interesting, sometimes they’re the only thing left of some of our history.

For instance, at a few spots along EAST Pleasure Street, at street intersections, before you get to Harding, there are still a few pieces of railroad track set into the streets, all that remains of a branch line of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific that ran from Hazen to the corner of Pleasure and South Main, where there was a depot, about on the spot where McKinney Supply sits now, across from Spring Park. Later, after the CRI&P stopped running here, the depot became the office for Railway Express (later REA Express), the now-dead precursor to UPS.

Around South Main and Beebe-Capps, there’s still a little trackage of the long-gone Missouri & North Arkansas, later defaulted to the DK&S. Up until the curve before Pleasure Street, in fact, there is strong reason to suppose that Beebe-Capps itself is built on the abandoned MN&A (aka the May Not Arrive) right-of-way.

And speaking of the Doniphan, Kensett, and Searcy Railroad (said he, cleverly leading us into the point of this exercise in nostalgia), now a part of the Union Pacific, after having been absorbed by the Missouri Pacific which, in turn, was absorbed by the UP. (It gets worse than that, folks, since the MoPac began life as the Union Pacific Eastern Division – the UPED -- a line that, despite the name, had absolutely no relationship with the U. P. of Transcontinental Railway fame; they were, in fact, competitors).

My thinking on this went kinda “Okay, I’m in Searcy and I know where Kensett is .. but where’s Doniphan?” This is a question of more-than-passing interest to me, if for no other reason than the fact that my soon-to-be 85-year-old feisty mom lived there in her childhood. Doniphan, in fact, could be considered the prime mover in the founding of the DK&S.

Now, here I’m working on a shaky memory and without much in the way of information. I would welcome any clarifying knowledge but, as the very little available evidence has it, the story goes like this: Once-upon-a-time there was the Doniphan Lumber Company. That’s Doniphan, MISSOURI, not Arkansas. They specialized in hardwoods, both flooring and wheel spokes for them-there newfangled automobile things.

Unlike pine, hardwoods take a lllooonnnnnnggggg time to grow to maturity. Because of that, in the slash-and-burn business mentality of the day, as your lumber company had to reach out farther and farther for its lumber, you started up someplace else and, slowly, started putting more emphasis on the new location than the old. Exceeding a 50-mile radius seemed to be the magic number. Past that, it was uneconomical to run more railroad line to get the trees to the mills (there were no roads for semi’s to lug those trees; in fact, there were no semi’s in existence, period). Then you close the old plant.

So it was that the Doniphan Lumber Company in Missouri, for which my maternal grandfather, Tom Edwards, worked as a stationery steam engineer, founded an operation in Blytheville, AR, where he moved and where my maternal grandmother died, leaving him a widower with two small children, and then later to the newly-founded Doniphan, AR, where he met his second wife and married her. Eventually, they moved to Glenwood, AR, outside of Hot Springs, from whence they eventually emigrated to Chicago.

Doniphan was a bustling concern, according to my mom. There were several boarding houses (that was where Grandpaw met #2), including one involving Wilbur Mills’ mom, regular houses and, of course, the Plant, plus the railroad to haul all the raw wood in and finished product out.

But it’s kept nagging me ever since returning here some 13 years ago: where, exactly, in hell IS Doniphan? My questions on the subject would get me vague hand waves toward the east and the misty comment, “Over by Kensett.”

All this hand-waving finally led me to Whitney Lane. As you’re heading toward Kensett from Searcy, just after you cross 367 and just before you get to the John Deere dealership, there is a little paved road on your left and a sign pointing the way to the Whitney Lane RV Park.

What you end up finding is another railroad line, over-and-above the one running from Kensett to the Harding Campus at Benton Street and the Bryce plant. This one runs from Kensett to the now-closed Armstrong Flooring plant … all that is left, apparently, of Doniphan, AR.

It’s really rather sad. As near as I could see, this rail line is intact, despite the weeds, until it gets to the Armstrong facility (successor to the original Doniphan Lumber), where some wood borders the parking lot, and lays across the tracks, which apparently end at the far side of the site.

Were I younger and full of vinegar, I think I would try to organize a group to get a locomotive and a railroad car. Think of the weekend excursions you could run from the Armstrong plant to Kensett, over the UP tracks for a short piece, and then into Searcy, possibly a last chance for today’s kids to ride on a real honest-to-God choo-choo train.

As it is, don’t worry about getting hit by a train on Whitney Lane: cattle seem to be the problem, leading to this rather unique sign.

Bottom line: of the 3 legs of the DK&S, only two are left.

Rather sad, especially to an old duck who actually rode the MoPac as a passenger, both to St. Louis, and from Memphis …. a pair of rides that no paying passenger will ever take again.

Thought you’d like to know.

Friday, September 23, 2005


(Run originally 3/29/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

“You don’t even know who I am, do you?” challenged the counter man who was processing my debit card.

“Sure I do,” I replied, “you’re Jimmy Don Jackson.” I’d seen him earlier, when I’d first come in, and thought that I SHOULD know him, but why had escaped me .. until he’d opened his mouth.

“You know this guy?” asked a youngish ex-colleague, who just coincidentally happened to be there at the same time as me.

“Oh, just for about …” I did some quick math in my head “… 52 years.” The counter man nodded his head in agreement, while the young man by me looked at us in some amazement. “Matter of fact,” I continued, “Jimmy Don and Elmer Dale Yancey were the first guys I ever partnered up with on a class assignment.”

“What was that?” the youngster wanted to know.

“It was our freshman year in high school, back in 1952, and our English teacher assigned us the task of selecting any scene from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ and then rewriting it in the language of teenagers. We picked Act 1, Scene 1, the one with the ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears’ speech.”

“Betcha Shakespeare wouldn’t have thought too much of it,” said my young friend. Jimmy Don and I both agreed with him.

You just never know where or when you’ll run into someone who shares a small piece of your history, and your memories, with you.

As for my youngish friend, he just stared at us in amazement, realizing he himself hadn’t been alive as long as our shared experience.

You just never know ….

Thursday, September 22, 2005


(May, a year ago, Becca Sue Van Patten Smith, “baby sister” of Mary Kay VP James, sent me the following piece. Well, it got lost in electronic wonderland and never got edited. I herewith apologize, and present this marvelous recollection of the sort of which I wish I had more. –tlp-)

In the South, one thing you do is to take food to someone’s house. My mother was always taking dishes to these affairs: Church dinners, deaths, parties, wedding receptions. If you wanted your dish back, it better have your name on it. My mother always put her initials, KVP, in really RED finger nail polish on anything she took out of the house. We called it KVP Red.

This would turn up on just about anything from lawn chairs to spoons; if it was going to leave the house, it was going to have her initials on it. Even some clothes had Red rick-rack with a big KVP on them; we are still finding old army blankets and camp sheets with that in the corner.

When my mother passed away in 2003, the family all gathered back home in Searcy, Arkansas. My brother and his wife stayed at dad’s, and my husband and I stayed next door at my sisters' house. The grandkids all stayed together at one of their homes. My daughter, Deana, was painting her nails when Marcus walked in and said “That looks like KVP Red you’re putting on.” They all had a laugh and then joked about all the things that had shown up on. Christopher said what we should do is put KVP on grandmother’s casket. Well, the boys said their mother might not like it and that they should ask grandad what he thinks.

Deana said something to me and I spoke with my brother, Irvin, and the two of us said something to Mary Kay (the first child, not saying she is the oldest, even though she is and we usually do what she thinks is best). Well, she thought it was funny, too, and Grandaddy thought that Kathryn would like it, since the grand kids had thought of it.

We were going to do it at visitation, but the friends started coming when we got there and stayed so late, we would do it before the funeral started to next morning.

At the grave site after the service Deana said I have the polish and each grandchild put an initial on the end of her casket, it looked like a bumper sticker with a big KVP in really Red polish. Mary Kay took a picture of Deana, Marcus and his wife Tea, Christopher and his wife Lori, all together at the foot of grandmother’s casket.

Later the preacher said he noticed that the grandchildren were having a final prayer for their grandmother and thought that was so nice; yes, we did that, too, but little did he know that we were also putting graffiti on her casket.

Now, if her casket ever gets lost, it will be returned to her: it has her initials on it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


(Run originally 3/26/04 on our old site)

Anita Hart Fuller

Thanks to all who gave directions and drew maps, etc. Bob and I - with friends from Illinois - hope to drive out there tomorrow (Thursday) so, hopefully, we'll be able to give a first hand report and send pictures from Bob's trusty digital camera (eat your heart out, Don). We also hope to eat catfish for lunch at the "cafe" in Georgetown: surely everyone in miles radius of Searcy knows about it and has eaten there. Best catfish we've EVER eaten, and we've eaten a lot of catfish, as my figure will attest.

(Next day:)

To Dan E: sorry if you might have been expecting the pictures I promised of Echo Dell today. Due to circumstances beyond our control we weren't able to go to Searcy. Will try again asap.

To Ernie: I make my family listen to Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" all day on July 4th. I'd love to hear you bleat “To the Colors;” maybe if I turn off Kate and listen real hard I may hear you.

Everyone: let's talk a little bit about The Poor Farm. I remember it.

(Is it still in operation? If so, I may soon be living in it. –tlp-)

Paula Anne Windsor Thompson

Camp Wyldewood - 1948

I do not remember how I came to go to Camp Wyldewood, but I'm sure that my parents thought it would be a neat thing to do. So, after completing the 7th grade, I got ready to attend my first summer camp. It was 1948 and the camp had just opened, so I was a charter camper. I did not realize until later what a wonderful experience it was. The good news was that it was not too far away, so it was a short trip. And you know another thing was that we did not have a car at the time so, again, I do not know how I got there. But my good friends Pat and Johnice Young, were going, and I have an idea that was one of the selling points.

As I recall, there were not too many campers that first year. There was only one cabin for the girls, and one or two for the boys. I do believe that some did sleep in the lodge hall. The cabins had the smell of newly milled wood (almost as good as new car leather) and the bunk beds were a new experience. I slept on the top bunk.

The lodge hall was the dining area and some other activities were performed there.. Of course we had Bible classes, lots of singing and swimming. With all the woods around, it was a great nature place, and it was so peaceful..... Since there was no pool, we were bused to Harding's pool for the activity. However, there was a lot of concern about Polio and, after the first or second day, we started swimming in the Little Red River, just a hop, skip and a jump from camp. It was really fun.

Wonder if there were polio bugs in the river??? Being new and out in the woods, it meant that there were a few changes from home, like no indoor plumbing, so we had outdoor potties and showers. Man, was that water cold! I do believe if we had to take showers with cold water these days that folks would not use so much.

I am sure you remember some camp experiences and how you make new friends and then, when it is time to leave, you had to go, and you cry and promise to write. The picture shows Pat and Johnice Young. Johnice is top left, Pat is top center and I'm lower right in the picture, taken by our camp counselor. The rest of the girls were from other towns and I don't remember their names.

Camp Wyldewood is a Christian camp sponsored by the Church of Christ. Read about it at

Don Thompson

Note about today's journal. I sent the piece to F.B. Canfield and his reply was:
“Interesting story, but not accurate. I was a passenger. Can't remember who was driving, but my head cracked the windshield. Had lots of tiny pieces of glass embedded in my forehead. One of the Johnson kids was thrown completely through the windshield on the passenger side of their Model A. No one was seriously injured. Amazing.”


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


(Run originally 3/24 and 3/25/04)

Ernest Simpson

Oh my goodness, what great stories about "Echo Dell" and, hey, there are some great stories about Bee Rock, too! Early on it belonged to the county, and was sold to Harding. From that point, it was fenced, posted, and Camp Wyldewood was constructed. Maybe you remember, Bee Rock was a gravel quarry, and the county mined 'blue granite' gravel from there. It was absolutely the hardest rock for gravel roads, with a gray/blue tint to the stone.

I think the words, "Bee Rock" and "Camp Wildwood" (Camp Wyldewood?) have been transposed on the map. More about that later....

Don sent a great map! Note the road ends on the map before turning back east from North Main. Now, in the early 50's, that road continued north (actually a narrow dirt road) and back slightly northwest across the small creek noted on the map, then opened up into a cleared field. There was a huge old house close to the river in the cleared field (maybe part of the Thompson farm?). It was another 300 yards after crossing the creek to the edge of the woods, where you stopped your car. Echo Dell is located at the bend of the river where the Thompson Farm Area is located. At one point, the county constructed concrete steps going down to the river, during the time the dam was under construction (I wonder if they're still there?).

Thanks for this map, Don, good going.

Mary Kathryn Van Patten James

OK, We drove all the way out North Main Street, past Clara Nell's house on the right, on past Rocky Branch on the right, on up the hill past the "city dump" on the left and paused at the very top of the hill to look back at the great view of the city. Finally the dirt and gravel road came to a narrow overgrown crossroad. A Right turn would lead to Camp Wildwood. Traveling straight ahead on a rutted, overgrown trail led to Little Red River and the area which was called "Echo Dell."

I have no idea who named it! I will drive out there and yell and see if there is an echo ..... Really, I guess I will drive out there one day and take a picture .... report back, if anyone cares. I know the road is blacktop now. I may not even be able to get to the river's edge like before.

You yell, you write, you take picture .. we’ll follow. –tlp-

Dan E. Randle

As I remember it, Echo Dell was out past Ernest's house, past the city dump, straight out the road until you ran into Echo Dell. Somewhere along the way, if you made a right turn, you ended up at Bee Rock. One summer, Jimmy Fortune, my sister Nancy, and I went out to Echo Dell for a cool-off. We took a watermelon with us, with the thought that we could cool it down in the river while we were swimming. Not so! The water was low and so hot it was almost like being in a present-day hot tub. Needless to say, the melon was hot when we got around to eating it. All in all, it was still an enjoyable outing. As simple as times were in those days, it didn't take much to keep us entertained.

Cutting school in the spring to go there with your girlfriend was the thing to do. The only problem was the ever-present ticks. There were a few of us that would be the first to go swimming in the spring, regardless of how cold the water was.

One time Walter Redman and I were out at Echo Dell on a hot summer day, no swim suits, no one else was there, what the heck lets go skinny dipping. We did and, you’re right: Georgia Allen and her cousin (can't remember her name) showed up. Naturally we had to keep our distance and couldn't come out of the water until the girls left. A little embarrassing at that time, but we got over it.

Before the dam was built at Heber Springs, the Little Red was unpredictable. I don't remember the exact year, but it was the late 40's when it flooded. Mom took us out to see it. The water had come up over the old bridge and was almost up to the old Poor Farm (any one remember the Poor Farm?). As far as fishing went, you never caught trout, just mostly Drum, Buffalo, Catfish, Bream and Perch. I hear that, since the big dam was built, the water now is very cold and they are catching trout along the river. I wonder if Echo Dell is still a swimming hole, since the water temperature has been lowered so much. Some of you still living in Searcy might want to check it out and send the rest of us AT's (Arkansas Travelers) some pictures so we can see the changes that have occurred over the years.

Yep, there’s trout: somebody put a trout hatchery up in Heber, just below the dam. –tlp-

Ernest Simpson

Dan, this is a great story. I have a desire to take a back pack and some good hiking shoes and walk back to that place on a sentimental journey. Yep, the river flooded in the 40's, around 48 or 49, and Highway 67 was under water. I have a story about that, you just jogged my memory.

The city dump was affectionately called "The Junk Pile" and the hill coming towards Searcy was called "Junk Pile Hill" (snicker here). Dwayne and Ronnie Holleman lived out that way, and the Clay brothers, Julius and Orbin, remember them? Great football players. And there were F.B. Canfield, and his brother, also.

I remember F.B. and Maggie Johnson once had a head-collision on the first bridge a mile north of East Moore on North Main. Why, I don't know, because you could see traffic coming for a long way ... I never knew why that happened. Old friend, you have gotten me going on that old stuff, I hope I can put something down before I forget it all ...

Yep, there is an echo at Echo Dell. When I was about 13, I had gained enough technique on the trumpet to play "To the Colors." I loved to stand on the porch of our little farmhouse and point the horn north, and see if I could hear the sounds coming back. On a crisp autumn morning, with the fog coming off the river, you could get great feedback.

Times haven't changed .... now at sixty something, each July 4th, I still get out my old horn, raise the flag at the end of the pool and give it, "To The Colors," in my loudest, most raucous tones. Wonder what all the folks in the subdivisions around us think. Well, frankly, my dear, I don't give ... (you know the rest.)

Monday, September 19, 2005


Harold Gene Sullivan

I don’t know why none of the others in my class, ’53, don’t remember Echo Dell, I remember it well. It was a great, isolated place on Little Red River where one could go to swim. I’m sure the roads have changed so much it would be difficult for me to find anymore but, when in we were in high school, it wasn’t too hard to find. One would take Main Street north just about as far as it would go, maybe it was to the end, well past the turn off the B-Rock and Camp Wildwood.

Then you had to walk a short ways across a field.

If I remember, they finally put one of the low-water dams, used to guarantee Searcy water in dry years, right at Echo Dell, which improved the swimming.

I may have started going there with my brother, A.,J., who is 6 years older, and Mom would make him take me along sometimes. Getting there did take a car, at least I never remember riding my bicycle out there.

This reminds me of several other swimming holes around Searcy. We did walk or ride our bikes to them. One was down on Deener Creek or Gin Creek, I never knew for sure what the name of the creek was. This creek ran just north of Searcy. The hole is not far from where the new high school is built. It wasn’t much of swimming hole, less than waist deep and muddy, but one could get wet in it. On that creek I spent many a summer day fishing and catching sunfish about 3” long.

Another swimming hole was one we called Ridge Hole. It was on the Cut, just north of Searcy on Hwy 16, east of the highway. It was almost head deep and fairly clear, except after a rain.

South of Searcy. on the Pumping Station road, there were two holes, one on Carbide Creek, just off the road. I’ve looked at it in recent years and cannot believe we swam in it. The other was on Des Arc Creek back of the Caldwell place (grandparents of “Cotton” Fuller). It was a very good hole, deep with rocks around it to dive off , and usually very clear.

The best of all was Bluff Hole out at Latonia, as I recall one had to drive through the West farm to get to it. We only went there after we had access to cars. It had a high bluff on one side so you could climb as high as you dared to before jumping off. The creek was very clear and deep. Bluff Hole is still my ideal when I think of swimming holes ... not that I think of swimming holes often.

I enjoyed Don Thompson’s trot line fishing story. I have some memories along that line that I’ll share later. Right now I’m recovering from having my right shoulder joint replaced and having to type with one finger on my left hand, it is very slow going. The healing is going fine and I looking forward to regaining full use of my right arm. I had the left shoulder joint replaced 4 years ago and it has turned out great.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


(Run originally 3/23/04 on our old site)

Don Thompson

We're back from Californy and the insane traffic. I'm trying to place Echo Dell also. I can't remember going there, but my grandfather Thompson had a farm that bordered Little Red River at the area shown on the attached map.

I enjoyed floating down the river on a truck inner tube and climbing into trees along the river bank to get Muscadine Grapes to eat. I think Echo Dell must be somewhere between that farm area and Camp Wildewood. It was probably close to Wildewood. I might coax Paula into writing a story about roughing it at Camp Wildewood. She has a picture.

Another fun activity was trot line fishing on the Little Red. My father and I would start out early in the afternoon collecting crawdads in branches along the road to the river. The trot line was stretched across the river and weighted down with rocks. We made our way across the river by boat while pulling up the line and baiting the hooks with mud bugs. Pretty easy fishing.

The fun part was checking the line next day. What excitement, going across the river again and pulling up the line to see what had been snagged during the night. As we got near a hook point, the line might quiver with the pull of some denizen from the deep. What will be on that hook? We didn't want to see a snapping turtle or alligator gar. The preferred catch of the day was Buffalo, Drum, or Catfish. We removed the fish and re-baited the hooks for another time.

Usually the line was left unattended for several days. I don't know if there were other folks that checked the line. The tie points were pretty well concealed and the line went deep into the river.

Back to Echo Dell. I don't know if Bobby Scott Fuller plans to mention his plans for a book but he told me this yesterday: "When I write my mystery novel (novel noir?), one of the female protagonists will be named 'Echo Dell.' Isn't that a great name? When the movie is made of the novel, a very young Anne Baxter will play the part. Unfortunately, I never made it to our local Echo Dell; or at least not yet."

I think Echo Dell will be an intriguing name, and look forward to the story.


Tom Pry

Frankly, I never even heard of Echo Dell until Mary Kay sent me those photos. According to Ernie, it’s somewhere around the “upper dam” on the Little Red (the “lower dam” is that one just above the VFW).

I did, once, hear about a swimming/partying spot somewhere around here, unnamed, where on a sunny summer’s day, it was fun for a bunch of SHS’ers to go down there with a chilled watermelon. A plug would be carefully cut out of the end, and the heart eaten out of the melon. When that was done, it was buried in the damp sand so that only the open end was sticking out. A largish hole was bored in the plug, the watermelon poured full of gin, the plug put carefully into place, and then everyone pulled out their straws.

Of course, no one WE knew would ever do that … would they?

I suggested a few additional names for Bobby’s book: Higginson McRae, Augusta McCrory, B. B. Capps, Rosebud Hill, Joy Pleasure (the local hooker), good ole “Baldie” Knob, etc.

Betcha can come up with a few of your own.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


(MOST of this ran originally 3/22/04 on our old site)

NEWS FLASH! For those who live out of town, White County Memorial Hospital is buying Central Hospital ‘long ‘bout November. Sales price around $15 million. I hate to see this. We’re going back to being a one hospital town, and that is not good. –tlp-

Anita Hart Fuller

Why didn't any of our classmates go to Echo Dell? Or did they, but unbeknownst to me? I was jealous when I saw Mildred with Peggy, but then later the correction that it WASN"T Echo Dell. So...when was it discovered, and come on, Class of '54 and '53: did y'all know about it and go there? I don't remember our going to any place like that. And yes, I do remember girls bleaching their hair - usually just a streak in the front - with peroxide and sunshine. I did! Really thought I was "cool".

Tom Pry (9/17/05)

Has anyone been in touch with Anita and Bobby Scott lately? Have not heard from them and can’t get a reply to my e-mails. What’d I do wrong?

Dan E. Randle

It's funny how reading the many stories on your site triggers memories I have forgotten over the years. While reading Harold Sullivan's recollections of his experiences at John Davis' TV repair shop, it jogged my dusty memory channels.

My introduction into the realm of TV repair started one Saturday in 1956. I had reported for my first day of work. Upon entering the backroom, I noticed a number of TVs in various stages of repair. "What do you want me to do?" was my first question. Mr. Davis was not there at the time, only two of the repairmen. One of them (their names are lost to my memory, perhaps because they weren't worth remembering) pointed to a TV with the back off and said, "That one needs the picture tube replaced; go ahead and remove the old tube and put that new picture tube in." They gave me the tools required to remove and replace the picture tube.

The set was on at the time, so I turned it off and unplugged the power cord from the back of the set. I next looked inside the cabinet to determine where to start. I noticed a thick wire connected to the side of the picture tube, with a big rubber boot on the end going into the tube, which would have to be removed before you could take the tube out. Unknowingly, I reached in and grabbed the point of contact with the picture tube. Star Trek had another 23 years before they came out with teleportating around but, that day, I invented Teleportation. One second, I was reaching into the back of a TV set and, the next second, I found myself across the room. It took a few seconds for my eyes to quit spinning and my brain and hearing to start functioning again. When I could hear and see again, the first sight and sound I perceived were of two people laughing their heads off. When they could stop laughing, they showed me how to discharge the picture tube using a long screwdriver against a ground point of the TV and then placing the tip under the rubber jacket covering the point of entry into the tube.

Why? Well, I also found out that the picture tube acts as a capacitor, a kind of high class battery. It stores an electrical charge of between 30,000 and 50,000 volts when the set has been running and has just been turned off. It packs a wallop when done the way I did it, but is harmless when discharged properly. Believe me when I tell you I never made that mistake again!

I think that was their way they weeded out the wannabes from the ones who’d make it. It you did the same dumb thing over and over again, you’d never make it as a TV repairman: you probably wouldn’t live long enough.

I went on to study electronics in the Navy, became an amateur radio operator and, in 1974, one of the businesses I owned was a full line electronics repair shop. I didn't do the repair work, only managed it, along with a full line Music store I purchased in 1974. This also ties in with Tom's piece (03/21/04) on why this site is composed mostly of band members. If not for the experiences and training received while attending SHS, I would never have thought of having those businesses. The training received from Al English enabled me to help and work with the band directors from the many towns located up and down the Oregon Coast. Band directors are a different breed, and are a joy to be around.

My statement to those schools that have removed the teaching of music from their grammar, junior and high schools: Shame on you! Music develops manual dexterity, hand/eye coordination, timing, and an ear for being in tune. Playing in the band gives you the thrill of being a small part of producing beautiful music and being part of an exclusive team.

The trips you get to go on are a plus, also. Having made many trips while playing football in the 9th grade, track and FFA, the band trips win hands-down, because we had girls in the band. Much more fun, especially if one of the girls just happened to be your girlfriend!

Those were trips you never forget.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass (9/17/05)

In Ann, we get it all wrapped in one package: educator, musician, and a father who was probably the best TV repairman in town, back in the 50s. She wrote, just the other day:

Just read your account of talking with Suzie regarding the preponderance of former band students who write to the site. Very interesting.

I read a newspaper account on a recent piece of research that identified a portion of the brain which triggers emotional response to classical music.This helps account for the shiver, or physical thrill, or eyes' tearing that some of us experience when listening to a symphony.

The research itself examined a brain that had suffered strokes and pair edits damaged areas with a lack of response to classical music. Fascinating reading. Wish I'd kept a copy.

So, do you think band kids experienced a shared emotion? And, we also solved a puzzle together by working toward a common goal--playing the pieceboth beautifully AND correctly?It's hard to beat the combination of visceral and mental satisfaction. That's a tool used by the really good teachers.

Friday, September 16, 2005


(Run originally 3/21/04 in our old site)

Tom Pry

In having a pleasant conversation with Susie Hoffman Boyett the other day, she made a passing remark that set my pea-brain to thinking (no small feat, these days). Her remark was to the effect that a preponderance of this site’s fans were “band kids.” Implicit in that statement was a question: why?

It’s a fair question, and not answered simply by saying that Dan E., Ernie, and I “just happened” to be in the SHS Band. The more I think about it, it seems to be as much about what we were and what we became than just coincidence.

If that convoluted sentence hasn’t chased you off then, please, continue on.

As education money has gotten tighter over the past few decades, there are those (mainly, I suspect, Assistant Superintendents who are wondering from whence their next raise is going to come) who have screamed that band/chorus is one of those “frills” that should be gotten rid of so that what money there is can be concentrated on the “core curriculum:” readin’, ritin’, and ‘rithmetic (and their salaries, of course).

Studies over the past ten years or so, however, have discovered that kids who are involved in music are better disciplined students, both socially and in terms of their studies. This is NOT hot news. As recently as my tenure at ASTC (now UCA) back in the latter fifties, anyone wanting an elementary education major had, as part of the requirements for the degree, to demonstrate that they knew how to play a piano well enough to sight-read a hymnal. No kidding, a hymnal.

I was a late-comer to outside music instruction: I was 11 when I started accordion lessons in Chicago. Yet, when I did, it was assumed (correctly) that I already knew how to read music, because it was a core subject for grammar school students. A circulating teacher would come in every couple of weeks, and she taught us what the treble and bass clefs were, and what the lines and spaces on the staff stood for (Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE, respectively). We learned about time signatures. We even learned a little solfeggio, simplified.

We knew about sharps, and we knew about flats. It was part of our Basic Education, for pete’s sake!

(Random memory that just popped up: aforesaid music teacher had a neat gadget. It was a piece of wood with five wire holders in it that held chalk. With that doo-dad, she could draw a staff on the blackboard in nothing flat. I thought it was neat).

All my accordion teacher (a guy by the name of Hugo Dell, a name that reappeared when Echo Dell came up for discussion) had to do was point out to me where middle C was, and that the black keys were sharps and flats, and we could get around to technique.

We had this basic knowledge in public school by the sixth grade. When we “graduated” from the 8th grade, our class songs were in four-part harmony, and not done too damn badly, either.

I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the pattern here in Searcy was roughly the same. If not, it became so quickly when you went into Beginner’s Band. If the pattern was NOT the same, then here is where the dichotomy between the “band kids” and Everyone Else started.

There are going to be a largish number of you to whom most of the musical terms I’ve used in the past several paragraphs might as well have been Greek. That’s the point: we were learning a second language, although we never thought of it in those terms. Right there gave us a common ground for our relationship. We could hear Bill Laas or Al English talk about glissandos without our eyes crossing in confusion: you couldn’t. You don’t learn a second language by being stupid, giving us another piece of common ground.

Besides, kids LOVE being the exclusive holders of esoteric information not held by all their peers.

Moving on …

Unless you’re into acid rock, you can’t imagine the cacophony that would result from 100 kids and their musical instruments, each playing from their own music, in their own key, at their personal-best tempo. So, as the phrase goes, we learned to play well with other kids, all of us united in plowing through some piece of music we otherwise couldn’t care less about. (The first piece of concert music I remember being thrown in front of us was The Eroica Symphony. Left to myself, I’d never have touched it, which would’ve been my loss, not Beethoven’s).

No one’s suggested getting rid of football, soccer, or basketball: why get rid of band and chorus? They all teach the same thing: Teamwork, without which we wouldn’t have this country of ours.

We also had the opportunity to explore, an opportunity denied to most of our peers. A sports team went to a game, suited up, played, and came home. Period. We’d go the games, play, and come home. BUT .. we were also off to festivals, to concerts, to parades, to competitions, almost all of them with the opportunity to explore our surroundings and, frequently, to make new friends.

For instance, Ernie knows a guy up in Jonesboro named Tom Trevathan. Tommy and I were buddies in high school. More often than not, it seems, we’d end up at the same event at the same time, and we gravitated to each other. One night in Hot Springs (state band festival), we were cruising the main drag on foot, rather late in the evening, and we both got hungry at about the same time, for about the same thing: a hamburger made to our liking.

Nothing would do but that we went into a hamburger shop and started describing to the cook/counterman what we wanted: a half pound of meat, grilled onions, raw onion … at this point, the guy said, “Look, kids, if that’s what you want, YOU cook it!”

So we did.

We marched behind the counter, put on aprons, and proceeded to cook our Ideal Hamburgers while the counterman and the few other customers watched us, bemused.

They were delicious, and the counterman didn’t charge us near enough for what we consumed, but I suppose there was an entertainment discount in there somewhere.

The point of recounting this tale was that the memory has stuck. Tommy and I were never in contact again after we graduated but, a couple of years ago, I did a Yahoo!™ people search for him and found his e-mail address. When I first e-mailed him, he couldn’t quite place me .. but when I mentioned the great Hamburger Cook-out, he had me nailed immediately.

It was a memory we shared, exclusive to us (I mean, can you see doing that today at a McDonald’s?).

Now, Tommy’s up in Jonesboro and so’s Ernie … and they know each other, and they both know me: instant friendship, instant common ground.

Thanks to our Band Days.

In social categories, we ranged all over the map: well-heeled financially, dirt poor, city kids and (censored)-kickers, good students and average students, who grew up to be teachers, shoe salesmen, TV personalities, dentists, geologists, secretaries – and all with a wealth of shared, common experiences.

If that ain’t Education, I don’t know what is.

I apologize for rambling to what is probably no good end here, but I have to admit that us band kids are kind of a sub-group within the SearcyYesteryear club. It’s not intentional, but you don’t spend hours and hours and hours together without forming some kind of a bond.

Nice to know it endured.

The next time the purists suggest dropping dramatics and music, suggest to them that group activities toward a common goal are just as important as are the “Three R’s,” and of just as much use.

Now, here’s your soap box back. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Diane’s Writing Class

(Run originally 6/17/04 on my old site)

Ernie Simpson

The Pemiscot County Memorial Hospital in Hayti, MO, was a good one, and I suppose still is. We had need of its use, and the talents of the medical staff there in 1964. Scott was a baby, and had come down with a bad cold, we thought, and it only got worse.

We took him there, and the doctor said he had tracheal bronchitis. That was a scary thing to me, and I really didn’t know what or how it would affect him as a child, just that it was pretty serious, serious enough to be admitted, and put in a croup tent, with a cold moisturizing fog pumped into the plastic tent over the bed. They gave him a strong antibiotic, tetracycline. This caused his permanent teeth to be slightly off-white when they came in as he was older, and as a young man he always wanted to have wonderful white teeth. We didn’t know that would be a side affect of the drug, but it wouldn’t have mattered, he needed it.

I took time off work at my teaching job in Cooter to sit with him, and Diane continued in school, driving back and forth to Arkansas State. Arkansas State was sixty-four miles from Cooter. She came in after classes and sat with him, while I went home and changed and got ready to come back to the hospital. The few days it took to get him well was a stressful time, and she was trying to do well in her major, English, and was at the time enrolled in a creative writing class as a part of her degree.

The class had just been given an assignment, write a short story, fiction, and submit it for a final grade. We talked about it, and as I recall, the idea for the story was partly one of my ideas, but she put the touch to it that won a first prize in a short story contest, and earned an A in the class, and the admiration of her teacher. I will try to tell it as I remember it, because it still has some interest after all these years. The story isn’t as professionally or technically well told as she wrote it, but contains the idea. The story came out of the stress and anxiety we as twenty-something- year -old young parents faced with this illness of our first son.


It was cold, and I was lonely, as I had been for a long time. Loneliness was with me every day. Where were all the friends? It seems I couldn’t make friends, and whenever I had a chance, something always happened to drive them away. I couldn’t figure it out, I did my best to be friendly, and to show the good side of my personality whenever I had the chance. I constantly asked the question of myself about why was I not able to have the friends others always seemed to have.

Days were long and routine for me, nothing out of the ordinary ever seemed to happen, as much as I wished for it. It seems I always wished for a life that constantly eluded me.

She appeared one morning on the path directly in front of me as I was going for my daily jog. She had long blond hair, done in a pony tail to keep it neat while she ran. Her blue jogging shorts accented her long legs as she ran effortlessly along the path.

I stopped and looked directly at her, hoping she would notice me, or at least look my way. I couldn’t help wonder if I looked O.K. because to make any impression at all would have been tough, with the way she looked. She was beautiful. To my surprise, she stopped and spoke to me. Her greeting was friendly and she seemed to be glad to chat with me.

It didn’t take long before we discovered there were lots of things we had in common. We both liked to exercise in the mornings, we had few friends, but those we had were close. She seemed to have a really outgoing personality, and I was surprised to find she really was shy inside. I suppose that was one of the things that I found so endearing about her.

At first, we met each morning for our jog, and afterwards stopped for a drink at the fountain in the park towards the end of the path. I enjoyed the chance to catch my breath, and visit and rest. At the same time, this gave us an opportunity to get to know each other better. I thought it wouldn’t take long for us to become good friends.

I was right, we became fast friends, and as the weeks passed, it didn’t take long for our relationship to become more than just friendship. I spent as much time with her as I could, sharing things I had never shared with anyone. She was very open with me, and made me believe she was not only a caring person, but that she truly cared for me. To please her became the most important thing in my life. Until now, I had been lonely, and now my life seemed to have a sense of purpose, some meaning, and a true direction. I was grateful to have her in my life, and she meant more than anything to me.

One morning, as I stepped out on our jogging path, she was nowhere to be seen. I usually began my jog just past the bench and plantings of azaleas at the south end of the park, and before I had gone very far, she always fell in stride with me the rest of the way. I didn’t know where she was, she had not mentioned she wouldn’t be here today. Well, no matter, I’ll see her later, so I didn’t really become too concerned.

She wasn’t at her apartment later that day when I went by and checked, I guess she had not come in from work just yet. I waited around until later, and she still didn’t show up. I began to wonder, because this was not like her just to not be around or to tell me she was not going to be coming home.

I left, and decided she must have been busy, doing errands or otherwise occupied, so I thought to myself, no bother, I’ll see her tomorrow morning at our regular time.

The next morning, I anticipated seeing her, but to no avail. Where could she be? This was beginning to worry me. I knew we had spent too much time together for this to be just a superficial relationship, and I knew she must have felt as I did about being together. Surely she had reasons not to be there or let me know something was keeping her away. I went back to her apartment and waited.

Dusk turned to darkness, and she still didn’t come. I was really becoming worried. How could she just disappear without a word to me? Well, she would certainly realize how inconsiderate this was, when I had a chance to see her again. I continued to wait, surely she would be home soon.

It seemed like hours had passed in the darkness before the car came down the street, slowing in front of her apartment. The lights were bright, and I didn’t want to be seen. As the car stopped at the curb in front of her place, I moved quickly to the shadows of the shrubs beside the door, and waited in the darkness.

She got out of the car when he opened the door for her, graceful and beautiful in the dim lights of the street. She was smiling at him, as he closed the door of the car and she took his arm and walked up to the door. Could this be the reason she had been avoiding me? Why didn’t she tell me there was someone else, didn’t she know this would break my heart?

I was beginning to feel a jealous rage welling up in me as they stopped in front of the door, and smiled and put their arms around each other. I was not becoming angry with her, but him. How dare he take away the one good thing in my life that kept me going each day, that had given me a feeling in my heart besides the loneliness that I had felt for such a long time.

He touched her cheek with the tips of his fingers and kissed her gently. How can I stand this any further? The anger continued to build, and I could feel my blood beginning to rush to my brain. My heart was racing with the rage I was feeling, and I knew I could not bear to see him touch her any longer.

She kissed him one last time, and turned and opened the door, looked over her shoulder at him once more, and went in, closing the door behind her. He hesitated a moment, as if wanting to remember how she looked as she turned and walked away.

This was too much. He turned and started down the walk towards the car, and I made my move. I lunged from the darkness of the shrubs, and caught him by surprise. He didn’t know what hit him. I grabbed his throat and with all my strength, I was determined not to let go. I was totally blinded by rage and anger, and nothing would stop me from my revenge.

This was a fight to the death, and I held on with a vengeance. Finally, he was still. Good. Justice has been done, and this would be the last time he would take advantage of any situation like this or anyone. It served him right, I thought, to meet an end like this. She would understand why I did it, if she ever found out, and I certainly would not tell her it was I who had taken my revenge on this lowlife.

I stood over him as my anger subsided, and soon I was able to catch my breath, and some sense of calm came over me. I decided I’d better not be here when he was discovered on the sidewalk. I wondered how she would react, surely she would know this was for the best, all around. I knew she would be all right with it once she knew the truth.

I was confident and in good spirits as I headed back to my place, and was calm enough, that I only barked once and didn’t have the slightest desire to chase the scrawny cat that jumped out of the shadows by the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Dan E. Randle

I was doing some re-arranging and ran across a couple of photos taken in 1981. I was a whole lot skinner, and was during my mustache period. You might be able to tell I still had some hair! Any way thought you might get a kick out of them.

One, of course, you will recognize as the Redwood tree in California you can drive through, and the other one with Paul Bunyon, also in the Redwoods. I weighed in at 175 then, now 255. 80 pounds is about 55% of what I weighed in high school. I know I have to lose it, but just can't seem to get started. I've put on 40 pounds of it since I started working at an ACS call center. If I could just run it off like I did when I was in school, it would be easy. Just trying to run is more like power walking. I know things would get better if I would just take the time and put out the effort to make it happen. But I sit down to the computer and waste hours instead.

I saw a show on TV about some type of secretion that makes you feel as though you are still hungry. They made a study with mice that eaten to their fill, and gave them some of the refined secretion. The mice started eating again. Eventually they became obese. The are experimenting with another substance the counteracts the secretion. Only trouble is they won't be putting it on the market for another ten years. Will I survive that long? I would willing be a test subject for the stuff.

I guess you can call me a FOF (Fat old Fart).

Tom Pry

If that’s the case, old chum, you have a lot of company from past schoolmates and, now, Friends.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Life and Times of Larry and Ernest

(Run originally 3/20/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

The following is a short excerpt from some thoughts I put down some time ago, and was brought to mind by our friend, Tom, when he posted Mary Kay’s wonderful pictures of lovely ladies in the summer of ’54 at Echo Dell. This is really about that place, Echo Dell.

Chapter Three -Graduation Day

May 17, 1957, was a nice warm Friday. For me it was a strongly profound day, and somehow surreal.

We had our day off, but we had commencement practice that morning at Lion Stadium and, after that, had only to report that evening for the ceremony. Those who were speaking in the program were required to stay a while after the processional rehearsal. Verna was doing the opening prayer, and turned to leave. Jo Ann asked, “Verna, aren’t you going to stay and practice?” This is where Verna issued her famous admonition: “Jo Ann, you don’t practice the prayer.”

I think only three people heard that statement; I was lucky enough to be one of those.

We were not in the band to play at graduation; funny, somehow, that we weren’t there. We had passed the torch to the juniors to play the graduation march, but we had been there so many times before, it seemed for some of us as though we should still have a duty to do that one last thing at Searcy High.

After the rehearsal, Larry and I took my ’49 Ford and went out to my house on North Main, by Rocky Branch, past the little Ballew community church, had a snack, and headed to the river. Little Red River is where Echo Dell is located. It’s sometimes called Flat Rock, where the ‘upper dam’ is, with rocks so flat and huge, you could wade across the river, where the water is low in some spots. I had spent many an hour here as my brother, Jim, and I grew up on the farm. I always loved it in the summer, when dad came in from work at the shoe factory, so we could ask him to take us swimming in the river.

That day, it was just Larry and Ernest, winding it up after twelve years at the same school. So, we just visited and talked and waited for the evening.

Larry and I had great conversation that afternoon about a lot of things, just young men/brotherhood kind of stuff, what was fun and how far we had come, and how far yet we had to go. Little did we know.

We even decided to go swimming, it was warm enough, so what the heck. Let’s go.

We laughed about it many times in years later that on our graduation day, Larry and Ernest went skinny-dipping in the Little Red River at Echo Dell.

We got back to my house, where Mom had made dinner for us: spring foods, with cornbread, and it still gave us enough time to get ready for the ceremony that evening.

The greatest remembrance of that day was not of the great ceremony and receiving the long-awaited diploma, but our time together as friends. I believe the value of that day carried our friendship forward for many years.

I learned to swim in that river, at that place, as a teenager growing up. It was a great swimming hole, and was even a great place before the Municipal Pool on East Moore. It was a sanctuary for many who wanted a cool respite from town, at a wading and swimming place that was peaceful and cool. Echo Dell, not easily forgotten by those who had a chance to go there.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Dan E. Randle

My daughter, Susan, moved to Nashville four years ago hoping to break into Country Music. During the time she has lived there. She has struggled to keep ahead of her bills, while being mother to two growing boys. She has performed in numerous benefits, free programs and cutting demos for other song writers who also are trying to get established in the music field.

Now, after four years, she was thinking about moving back to Coos Bay and the family circle she has here: mom, dad, uncles, aunts and cousins. Then, one day, she signed up for a new TV program CMT is putting on, one featuring the people who have come to Nashville to break into Country Music, so far unsuccessfully.

She had gone through a couple of interviews just before she and her two boys flew out for a visit the twelfth of July. I was on vacation starting the fourteenth through the twenty-second of July.

The evening of the twenty-second, we were having a get-together at Sean's house, (youngest son) for a Salmon barbecue. Susan (known professionally as Suzanne) received a call from Deanna, the person in charge of the TV program, informing her that she needed to be back in Nashville for an interview Tuesday morning, the nineteenth.

Since this was an unexpected call, she had to get back to Nashville. The big problem, she didn't have the extra funds available, so dear old dad stepped up to the plate and purchased her a round trip ticket back to Nashville. Her flight was on the redeye Sunday night out of Portland. This would give her a day to rest and get ready for the interview. Then she would fly back to Portland on the redeye Tuesday night, where she would meet up with her boys and fly back to Nashville on Thursday.

Saturday, the family went crabbing out in Coos Bay. We had to drive a couple of miles through the sand to get to the area where we were making out picnic area and where Scott ( my oldest) would meet us in his boat. About half of the trip was across the beach next to the Bay. which is only accessible by four wheel drive. We had three such vehicles, two of which were pulling trailers. One had three Polaris four wheelers, and the other was pulling the boat trailer.

We got a later start than we should have since the tide had turned by the time we got there.

The sun was shining, the wind was a little high, the waves were a little bigger than we would have liked. but we stayed anyway. because Susan doesn't get to experience this in Nashville. She always enjoyed a day on the water fishing or crabbing.

We built a nice bonfire and started enjoying ourselves. While the boys rode the four wheelers, the adults sat around enjoying each other's company and catching up on everything.

Since the water and wind were so rough, the crabbing was almost non-existent. This forced us to use our back-up plan of steaks, hamburgers and wieners, then marshmallows. We waited so long the tide had come in and we were stranded out on the beach. We had to stay where we were , enjoying a little wine, beer and conversation until the tide went out far enough for us to leave. We were finally able to leave at eleven thirty, giving me another story to tell in later years.

Sunday, a friend of Susan's mother drove her to Portland for her flight back home. About nine pm Sunday, Susan's mom called and informed me that Susan had already won the competition. At this point, my whole being hit one of the highest levels I have ever experienced. My ex- received a call from Deanna informing her about the win and that she wasn't to tell anyone. Naturally this changed my plans for a Seattle trip. See, with a whole week of vacation left, I had told Susan that I would be going to Seattle to shop at Boeing's surplus store and look for some woodworking equipment that I wanted to get. Something I had wanted to do for a long time, but just kept putting off.

I called Deanna to find out where the performance would be held and what hotel I should get reservations in. She wanted to know how I found out about the win. After I told her, she told me that she was going into a meeting and would have to get back to me. Ten minutes later, my ex called and informed me that, since she had told me about the win, it was off.

Can you imagine the drop from a high elation to a heart wrenching low so low I could have crawled under the belly of a slug? To think I had just blown my daughter's chance to get a start in something she had wanted for a long time was more than I could bear. Then, an hour later, I received the call letting me know that the win was still on. What a relief!

I immediately went on the Internet and started getting my trip together. By three am Monday morning, I had my trip planned and reserved.

The airline I had looked at had flights leaving at six am, nine am and twelve on Tuesday. I picked the twelve o'clock. Monday morning, I went in to work and informed them that I needed another week of vacation. They wanted to know what for; my explanation was that I'd tell them when I got back. I then went back home and started getting ready for the trip to Portland and on to Nashville.

Now, Portland is a four hour-plus drive from Coos Bay. After getting everything packed, I reviewed my itinerary ... only to find that I had made a big mistake in my flight. Instead of twelve noon, it was twelve midnight.

Fortunately, I could leave my car parked at the motel in Portland for the length of my trip. So, I went to the room, jumped in bed and, for some reason, started going over in my mind what I had packed. Then it hit me: I had packed the breather I need to keep breathing at night, but had forgotten to pack the power cord.

By then, it was almost eight pm and all the stores were closing. I made some calls around to Radio Shacks, and finally found one that would stay open for the time it would take for me to drive there. It was eight thirty before I got there, to find the employee patiently waiting, happy to help me get a necessary item for my health. You don't find that very often.

During the flight, I was unable to sleep because my knees were pressed into the seat in front of me, seats that were too close to each other to begin with. This meant that, by the time I got to Nashville, I'd had only had about two hours sleep since Sunday.

One of the requirements from Deanna was I had to stay in the hotel until the program on Thursday night, since they were filming Susan around Nashville. Wednesday afternoon, Susan called my cellular to tell me that she had won the contest. to which I replied, "That's great. Darn, I wish I hadn't made the trip to Seattle now. I would rather have come there to watch you, but it's too late to get a flight now. Good Luck, I know you will knock them dead!"

They bought the outfit she would wear and, Thursday, they had her face and hair done.

Thursday evening, they came and escorted us the three blocks to the Wild Horse Saloon where the performance would be. When we arrived, they ushered us to the foot of the stage. We waited for a few minutes and then Blake Shelton (young upcoming Country Music singer) came out on stage and introduced Susan as Suzanne Randle (her stage name). He explained a little of what she had gone through to get there, and then brought Susan on stage.

Well, when she saw us, she almost lost it. But she came over and kissed me while explaining to the audience who we were, and then went on to sing four songs, one of which she had written.

After the performance, we went backstage to her dressing room and were able to talk a little. Deanna interviewed us about Susan's life. Afterwards, we were able to talk with Blake, his manager, and various other people responsible for putting the show together.

Deanna and her team spent the month of August editing all the footage they had shot around town, the show itself, and then in Susan's apartment Friday.

I still haven't received a date when the show will air but, as soon as I do, I will inform let you know, just in case any of you wants to catch the performance CMT (Country Music Television).

All in all, this was one of the high points of my life. I never mentioned that we had planned Susan as a girl from the start. When she was born, this was another high point. Also, Susan was named after a friend I really liked: Susan Jones.

I thought you'd like to know, though.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


(Run originally 3/19/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

This has nothing to do with memories and everything to do with coping with today’s internet. I like to pass this on every once-in-a-while, to nag the hell out of those who’ve seen it before, and to serve as hot news for you later arrivals.

TIP #1 I’m sure you go bonkers with the pop-up ads here on the Journal, plus those on other web pages. Here’s how to eliminate them, both here and other such ad-laden sites. Go to and do the quick download and automatic install. It’s got a great pop-up ad stopper, plus helps you get quick answers when someone says, “Honey, quick: who was the 7th Avatar of Vishnu?”

I’ve been using the Google toolbar since it was first introduced about 10 months ago, and love it! Right now, mine shows over 1400* pop-ups stopped – and I had to re-install it at the beginning of the year.

TIP #2 Most popular anti-virus programs – Norton, etc. – are equally effective. The big problem comes in keeping the virus/worm definitions up to date. One of the editors of PC World, no less, was telling this week how, contrary to his usual way of working, he did NOT start the day with an update. The result? An infected PC from an e-mail.

Let me introduce you to Panda Titanium. It’s less expensive than The Big Boys (Symantec and such), about $40 a year. It gets high marks from all users, corporate and individual. Why? Because it UPDATES AUTOMATICALLY, everytime you go on the ‘net, not just daily: I’ve seen the cute little Panda on the taskbar indicate an update taking place as many as 3 times a day lately as new definitions are added (there’s over 65,000 of those little suckers in the database right now).

You can download it for free here--
(does not include automatic updates, but IS current) and then, if you like it, order it online and they’ll give you the codes to insert that start the thereafter-automatic update process. We’re now on our second year with it and wouldn’t have anything else.

Any questions?

Have a great – and annoyance-free -- weekend!

*UPDATE: Now ready to renew for our fourth year. Pop-ups Blocked count is now at 5158. Google also has – free! – tools available for cataloging your images, sharing them with friends, AND sharing your writings with the world via Word. Details on request.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


(Run originally 3/18/04 on our old site)

Mary Kay VP James

The snapshot of Peggy, Marlene and Milly (3/16 “Trio”) ... was taken on a band outing at Petit Jean or some such place, where the stream was dammed at several levels by rocks that could be walked on. We were on a picnic, for some reason.

Peggy was bleaching a streak in the front of her hair with peroxide and lemon juice, I think. Remember when we did that in the summer, and sat in the sun for our hair to lighten?

Tom Pry

Well, I never did but, if that’s your thing ….

Thanks for the correction.

And you, reading this: what’s your excuse for not contributing your memories?

Now .. as a followup to my totally forgettable piece about my father’s privy answer to the Taj Mahal .. my mom forwarded this to me and, since this feels like the kind of a day that could use a little whimsy, I herewith unfold it for you, so latch the door and enjoy …


The service station trade was slow.
The owner sat around,
With sharpened knife and cedar stick.
Piled shavings on the ground.

No modern facilities had they,
The log across the rill
Led to a shack, marked His and Hers
That sat against the hill.

"Where is the ladies restroom, sir?"
The owner leaning back,
Said not a word but whittled on,
And nodded toward the shack.

With quickened step she entered there
but only stayed a minute,
Until she screamed,
just like a snake Or spider might be in it.

With startled look and beet red face
She bounded through the door,
And headed quickly for the car.
Just like three gals before.

She missed the foot log -- jumped the stream
The owner gave a shout,
As her silk stockings, down at her knees
Caught on a sassafras sprout.

She tripped and fell -- got up, and then
In obvious disgust,
Ran to the car, stepped on the gas,
And faded in the dust.

Of course we all desired to know
What made the gals all do
The things they did, and then we found
The whittling owner knew.

A speaking system he'd devised
To make the thing complete,
He tied a speaker on the wall
Beneath the toilet seat.

He'd wait until the gals got set
And then the devilish guy,
Would stop his whittling long enough,
To speak into the mike.

And as she sat, a voice below
Struck terror, fright and fear
"Will you please use the other hole,
We're painting under here!

Friday, September 09, 2005


(Run originally 3/17/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

First, sadly, this news item from the Searcy Daily Citizen:

Donald D. Boggs

Donald D. Boggs, 67, of Searcy died Thursday, March 11, 2004. Don was born Sept. 15, 1936, at home in Searcy. He was the only son of the late Achel and Lydia Boggs. He was formerly married to Peggy Goree Boggs Young of Wooster.


Now, on a more cheerful note, a few more photos from Mary Kay Van Patten James’ sock drawer, these of more recent vintage. Pictured:

The Planning Committee for the Class of 56’s 40th Reunion (check the back row, third from the left, for your Fat Daddy Editor-In-Chief).

Then the reunion’s attendees, as a group, 6/8/96.

Finally, just a group of The Girls having lunch at Colton’s, sometime during the summer of 1998.


Thursday, September 08, 2005


(Originally run 3/16/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

All I know about Echo Dell is that it was/is somewhere on the Little Red River.

Mary Kathryn Van Patten James knows more, and has the pictures to prove it.

For instance, on July 4, 1954, a bunch of The Girls were whoopin’ it up down there. Here are (L-R) Patsy Sutherlin, Draxie Jean Horn, Peggy Byrd, Patsy’s cousin from LR, Judy Owens, Pat Merritt, Rita Jo Dunn, and Martha Faye Quattlebaum.

And there’s Mary Kathryn and Pat Sutherlin.

Then this tidy little trio of (L-R) Peggy Killough, Marlene Garrison’s back (oh, come on, it’s very recognizable), and Milly Taylor.

Finally, on this group … you’re on your own.

More to come.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


(Originally run 3/15/04 on our old site)

Derrel Max Palmer

Ramona Palmer Riddle

I just wanted to say what a delight it was to see my brother's photo on this site. He died suddenly two years ago in August, from a heart attack. It was a terrible shock to my family, as he has just gotten a clean bill of health from his doctor. Derrel and his wife, Judy Owen, and two daughters, Debbie and Julie, all lived in Texarkana, Texas. He was planning to retire in a few months and do some traveling and enjoy life.

He was well respected in his community and very active in his church. Judy continues to live in Texarkana, which was her home. Thanks again for posting the photo.

Tom Pry

That’s what we’re here for, Ramona: Remembering. As I said in my reply to you, I’m of the opinion that, so long as we remember them, they’re not truly dead.

Speaking of remembering … Mary Kay Van Patten James has been cleaning out her drawers again, and found a veritable treasure trove of photos. So many, in fact, that we will not be able to deal with them in one or two clumps.

And, bless her heart, meticulous lass that she is, she was smart enough to write notes on the back of most of the photos so that, years later, when our Teflon™-coated brains slide details off to one side, we still have clues as to identities.

For instance, a Saturday night at the Legion Hut Youth Center back in 1953 or 1954. Left to Right, you’re taking a look at Mary Ann Bennett, Sharron Dowell, Rebecca Cox, Rita Jo Dunn.

Or do you remember when Polly Hayes was the Queen of the PTA .. or, at least, selected to ride in their convertible in a parade in 1956?

The 1955 Homecoming Float featured (L-R) Jerry Price, Camellia Chambless, Pat Merritt, Draxie Jean Horn, Mary Kay Van Patten, and Homecoming Queen Clara Nell Rackley.

And, finally, a group picture taken 4/6/56 at the Roosevelt Hotel in ritzy old New Orleans: the Pilgramage Club.

Stay tuned for more. Oh, Mary Kay adds (1) a greeting to Anita Hart Fuller and, (2), “It was NOT me at the Library asking for ‘The Naked and the Dead’ – HA – that was some GUY!!!”

That’s her story, and she’s going to stick to it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


(Run originally 3/14/04 on our old site)

Many, many moons ago, the legendary A. P. Strother put together a book called “The Searcy Centennial 1837-1937.” In it, he compiled stories from a number of sources.

The Searcy Public Library is fortunate enough to have a copy of that book and, thanks to Susie Hoffman Boyett, we have a story from it.

The original ran in the long-defunct Searcy Record. A gentleman named Howell Bradley was the typesetter, which’ll explain the salutation to the piece, which was written by a Judge Fielding.

Another word of explanation: when the DK&S (Doniphan, Kensett & Searcy) first came into town, running down what is now Park Street, it ran on WOODEN rails, with the passenger cars pulled by mules. Carry that it mind, as we present this little slice of an earlier time, verbatim.

Colonel Howell:

If you have nothing better to set up, let me tell you a tale of what happened the other night on the Through Express train of our branch railroad from Searcy to Kensett. Whether my story is a tragedy or a comedy, you can say for yourself when you have read it.

The energetic Yarnells, as you are aware, have already gone to work and ironed two miles of the track, commencing at Kensett; the other half of it the Searcy end is not yet constructed. Over these two miles of old wooden track the cars still jolt as of old, but when they strike the iron rails they glide along as smoothly as if they’d “struck ‘ile’” and run away with themselves if not watched.

On the night of my story they were running two trains. One consisting of a small skeleton car and the other of the old heavy passenger car with a flat car attached; the former being drawn by the old reliable sorrel engine, Sal, and the latter by a new, vicious bay engine named Beck. The little skeleton car with Ed Faucett conductor and Dick Sherman fireman and engineer pulled out first from the station at Searcy, followed at a distance of about two hundred yards by the passenger train with Aaron Yarnell conductor, fireman and engineer. There was one passenger with Aaron – an English sailor, lately G. B. Greer’s gardener.

All went well until they struck the iron rails and a down grade, when the law of gravitation got hold of the car and commenced running it upon Beck and bumping against her heels, whereas she began to kick. Presently both she and car, being of the same mind, joined forces and ran away together and down the road they rushed like an Alpine avalanche. On the rear of the foremost car sat Conductor Faucett, peacefully dreaming of passengers and half dollars. Hearing the noise behind him, he started up, cast one frightened glance that way and fetched a shrill scream of fear and warning; whereupon Dick turned too, saw the “earthquake” coming and seizing the steering pole, and with one might blow he lifted the astonished Sal out of her tracks and when she lit, she lit running, and off they went down the grade – at the rate of “ninety-five miles” an hour.

Now it was a race for life or death, for if the heavy rear car struck foremost it would be smashed into egg-shells; and on account of its great momentum was rapidly gaining ground.

Luckily the mules were hitched with long traces. Fright lent them wings – they had to fly to keep ahead of the cars. Dick’s flail was like a thrashing machine. Aaron was holding on for dear life to the lines, trying to hold Beck on the track, for he was afraid she would switch the car off into the woods. On they sped like a hurricane behind time: Ed’s cap flew off in Aaron’s face, they were going so fast. The rear car was rapidly closing up. Ed seemed to be doomed. He could feel the hot breath of Beck behind him but he could not get out of her way, and she could not stop. Presently, whether out of pure devilment or because she was crazed with fear, she bit him. Black Hawk never raised such a yell as did Ed – it fairly lifted the owls off their roost. He knew it was destruction to be overcome and soon got busy holding on to the car, kicking back at the mule and exhorting Dick to drive faster. “Git Dick, Hip bay, that mule’s eating me up – the lord have mercy on our souls.”

The sailor in the rear car now awoke and after taking an observation and determining the longitude, shifted his quid, and roared out to Aaron, “Port your helm, you lubber, port your helm.” With that he seized the tiller, jammed the helm hard a-port and. like a flash. over went the mule into the ditch, cutting asunder the trace chains as she went. The sailor then thrust a marlin spike into the capstan, turned down the brakes and steered the craft safely into port at Kensett, where they all landed, officers and crew, devoutly returning thanks for their miraculous escape.

Robert Owen says that they afterward held a meeting and passed a resolution condemning Bob Ingersoll’s religious theory asserting that they knew there was a Hell and that mules were proof of it.