Monday, October 31, 2005


Harold Gene Sullivan

Thanks for the rundown on Arsenic and Old Lace being put on by the Center on the Square. It reminded me that we put on that play when I was in high school; it may have been our Junior play. Maybe someone else remembers. I don’t even remember who was in the play or what part I had. My only memory is that the fellow who was murdered and put in the window seat really cracked up the person who went over to open the window seat and look at the body. There was the “body” laying there eating an apple. The “body” may have been Donald Johnson.

My, how times have changed from our high school days. Cliff Haislip was the drama teacher and we were putting on a play where one of the characters was pregnant. However, saying she was pregnant was a no-no. After going around with the powers that be, the compromise was saying that she “didn’t know from nothing” or some such phrase.

I’m trying to remember what plays we put on. Our Town was one. Another was a Minstrel Show, blackface and all. My part in the show was getting sent out by the Interlocutor to get him a drink of water. I returned, running back in, and the Interlocutor asked me where his water was. I replied “I saw a snake in that water and if I scared that snake half as much as he scared me, you don’t want a drink of that water!”

Tom Pry

I have a jumbled and, really, rather minimal set of memories of drama at SHS. When Cliff was still there, I remember there were a couple of upperclassmen who had kind of a deal for drama class assignments, in which one would do the writing for both, and the other would do the set design sketches for their creations.

The designer couldn’t resist temptation, however, and he turned in a last-minute set design directly to Cliff, with his buddy’s name on it. The title of the play, though, was inscribed as “Tiger’s Revenge, by Claude Balls.”

Fortunately, Cliff accepted the supposed true author’s protestation of “I DIDN’T DO THAT!”

Later, under Virginia Miller’s tutelage, we had a Night of One Act Plays. Virginia was a well-trained and knowledgeable teacher, but the one thing she’d never picked up was the necessity of comic relief. She had two dismal dramas, capped off by a self-described “tragedy:” a 1911 turkey called “A Night at An Inn” by a “Lord Dunsany.”

Well, by the time the audience got to the all-male cast in “Inn,” they were desperate for a laugh of any sort. The opportunity came when a window drapery on the back of the set fell to the ground, right on top of one of the cast members. That started it and, despite ourselves, we decided to go ahead and play it for laughs the rest of the way. Got a lot of applause.

We also got Virginia Miller totally livid, and she came roaring back to the classroom we were using as a dressing room. She started reading us a very vocal riot act. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get two thoughts strung together uninterrupted because some adult member of the audience would stick their head in the door to tell us how hilarious our play was.

Virginia finally threw in the towel and exited, never to mention that play again.

I thought, for some reason, the annual Minstrel show was done as a fund-raiser by one of the adult service clubs (i.e., Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.). Comments, anyone?

P.S. Just to be complete with the cast list for “Arsenic,” I make about a 3-minute appearance in the first act, and then do some phone and doorbell ringing. You already know how weird I am, so I won’t elaborate.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


A week from tonight, we’re breaking up a family. It’ll be the cast of our local production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which will have played its final weekend at Center On The Square, a non-profit dinner theatre right on the Searcy Courthouse Square.

Those who have never been in a theatrical production don’t quite understand what I’m talking about when I say “breaking up a family.” It’s an ad hoc family, sure but, nonetheless, we’ve become well-acquainted with the foibles and failings of our character, and the other characters and, just as importantly, gotten to know some people, in real life, we would probably never make the acquaintance of in the normal course of events.

Some of them are just as fascinating as the characters they portray on stage. Doubt that? Let me take you through some of them.

On the left, Nona Cheatham, as “Aunt Martha.” She’s retired from the Searcy School System. She was a choral director. In the middle, as wicked brother “Jonathan,” Bobby Pankey, a “Math Recovery” expert with the Newport School System, he does what we used to call “Remedial Math” with K-3 kids. On the right, dear old homicidal “Aunt Abby,” as portrayed by Brenda Fasulo. A Registered Nurse, she works as a housewife and mother, plus what she calls being a “professional volunteer.” As happened a year ago with a production of “The Nerd,” Brenda celebrated her birthday Friday night, with the cast singing the birthday song to her during Curtain Call.

Here’s a really fascinating guy, Dennis Bennett. You can call him “Colonel,” you can call him, “Doctor.” In the play, they call him “Dr. Harper,” father of the love interest, “Elaine,” and pastor of the local Episcopal Church. In real life, he’s a Presbyterian minister and pastor of Searcy’s First Presbyterian Church. As they say, he’s a man of many parts. A West Point graduate, he was a light Colonel in the Air Force when he decided he’d rather pastor for a living. He’s a Chaplain in the Army Reserve and I’ll bet a pretty good one, too. As many problems as I have with so-called “organized religion,” I’ll trust this man should I ever feel I need his professional services.

The part of the defrocked “Dr. Einstein,” a self-taught plastic surgeon, is being played by Sam Schultz. Well, to be proper, DOCTOR Sam Schultz, a staff doctor (pediatrics) at Arkansas Childrens Hospital. Sam’s played this role before – over 40 years ago, when he was still in high school. (And his wife is Dean of the School of Nursing at Harding University). They became grandparents again Friday.

The aforementioned love interest is provided by Beebe’s Stephanie Reynolds. A C.N.A. with the intent of going back to school for a degree in nursing and a specialty in pediatric nursing, she’s married to a Marine now doing his second tour in Iraq. While they were together out in California, she took the time to do a singing/dancing part in a local production of “Oklahoma.”

Brian Wolters is the “normal” member of the Brewster family, “Mortimer,” the nephew. Brian is a computer whiz (and maintains the Center On The Square website). I hadn’t realized he was in the production until I walked in and saw him; this is significant only because Brian and I worked together for several years at Alltel in Little Rock. It’s been about four years since we’d last seen each other. Nice reunion.

There are a lot more in the way of interesting people in this cast. Hahns Gaither (Left) is a student at Bradford High School making his first appearance on stage. David Goodman (Right) is a little difficult to understand at times, mainly because he’s from the northern part of London, England, and trying to lay an Irish accent on top of the one he already has. He’s a brand-new daddy.

And there’s Chip Braswell, who plays Teddy, and in real life is gathering the resources to open a B&B and a soda shop here in Searcy. And Bob Wilson, playing the superintendent of the nut house, Mr. Witherspoon. In real life, Bob is a retired teacher and, also, one of the Founding Volunteers of the Clinton Library.

And, in another typecasting move, let us not forget Nathan James, who plays a police lieutenant. In real life, he's an elected Constable. He's also an officer in the Searcy Police Department.

That’s our family. We’ll do a performance Friday night, another Saturday night, and cap it off with a Matinee on Sunday. Then, Sunday evening, we break up that family. It’s always both a relief and a sadness.

Just wanted to share it with you. In the meantime, if you catch this in time and want to see the show, call 501-368-0111, or go to .

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mom vs. “Flywheel” Price

(Run originally 4/23/04 on our old site)

Did “Flywheel” Price really exist, despite his unlikely (and unexplained) nickname? Yep, as per the following from ...

Ernie Simpson

There was an incident I recall faintly, regarding the place where we lived in the late ‘40’s, on old 67, that caused conflict for my parents, and brought out the color of my dad’s hair, from where he’d gotten his nickname, Red.

A man named Powell owned the property on which we lived (on what is now called Davis Drive). There was a house directly across the road, on the east side, also owned by this Mr. Powell. The conflict arose around a single source of water, and our jersey cow.

There was a well behind the house where we lived, and none across the road. The family who lived across the road was named .. well, let’s call them the Jukes family. Husband, wife Suky, grandfather, and granddaughter Wildy. Since they had no well, the agreement was they could come across the road, bring buckets or other containers, draw water, and carry it back across the road. The agreement was cordial, with no problems. The well bucket and rope belonged to the Jukes across the road.

We had one old jersey cow, which was a good milker. She provided enough milk for our little family, and my brother, Jim, who was just a baby.

Our old cow, though, was bad about getting a horn in the fence and then getting a head through it. We had repaired the fence two or three times, but she was persistent.

One day in late spring, she got through the fence again. My mom was at home, but did not realize the cow had gotten out. The cow had crossed the road, and was in the middle of the Jukes’ garden. A shot rang out, mom heard it, and she saw the cow run by our back window towards the barn, bawling, and with her udder bleeding. Mom chased her to the barn, inspected her, and found birdshot, with her milk sack bleeding profusely.

She waited till Dad came home, then they went for a vet. The vet said the cow’s udder had been shot with a shotgun.

The cow got well, but two quarters of the udder withered and did not produce milk as a result. Dad tried to talk to the Jukes about it, but they could not find a resolution, and there was only one other way to handle it, so dad decided to sue.

The defense attorney was a lawyer called ”Flywheel” Price. I never knew his real name. Until the trial, there had been no confrontation between my dad and the Jukes, other than dad asking them what happened and them denying any knowledge of anything at all taking place.

On the day of the trial, Flywheel Price convinced the jury that my mom could have heard a car backfire, and not a shotgun blast and, indeed, did not know for certain the Jukes shot the cow, since she was not a direct witness to the shooting. Everything, according to Flywheel, was circumstantial.

The elder Jukes was acquitted. Dad decided at that point that the last straw of the good neighbor policy had been broken. He took down the bucket and rope, carried it across the road and threw it on the porch of the Jukes, told them they would have to get their water elsewhere. Of course, they were indignant, and said that Mr. Powell told them they could get water anytime they wanted. Dad said not from here, you’re not.

Dad went to town and picked up a new well bucket and rope, and was about to get in the car. He was with his sister, Ruby, on the corner by Moye and Young Mercantile. The two Jukes were in town and approached Dad and Aunt Ruby. One of them said something about the water and how Dad couldn’t keep them from getting water, when he turned and said, ‘Here, Ruby, hold this bucket.”

The Jukes beat a hasty retreat, as soon as they realized he was about to kick some serious ass. I am confident, to this day, that their decision was the smartest part of their valor. I think they figured that, with the two of them, he would not make a challenge at all. However, that’s where the redheaded part came in. Dad, and his brothers and a couple of uncles, were known to have engaged in fisticuffs many times as young men, at the drop of a hat. I recall Uncle Robert: when a man broke Uncle Robert’s arm with a baseball bat, he grabbed the man with his good hand by the throat, and had his ear in his teeth. It took two guys to get Uncle Robert off the victim, even with his broken arm.

Shades of Mike Tyson.

So much for the violent Simpsons, The Jukes had to get water from another source; the cow healed, but never gave milk except from the two quarters ever again.

It was an unfortunate incident, one of which my father was not proud, but that was also an honest time, and folks knew where you stood.

We soon moved over to Route 5, and from there moved to, and spent many years on, North Main. That was the last place my dad and mom lived, North Main, by Rocky Branch, a long time ago.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Dan E. Randle

I have put off writing about the chicken caper for a long time. Trying to remember everything and failing. Thanks for the travel down job memory lane. I still don't remember what they paid us. Whatever it was, it wasn't much. At least you weren't out in the boiling sun, dying of the heat and humidity. I remember the odors and other things left on the ground. You definitely didn't want to fall down while chasing the chickens down. I believe we made catching hooks from old coat hangers to catch chickens. Is that how you remember it Tom? (Yep. I’d forgotten the “catching hooks,” though. –tlp-)

Talking about jobs, I started mowing lawns when I was eleven. I remember going to Mr. James and talking him into selling me a push mower on time. I think it was sixteen or so dollars. I was able to pay it off in the first week. I decided that I could make more money if I had a power mower, so Mr. James allowed me to trade in the mower for the same price I had paid for it and sold me a power rotary lawnmower. It took me three weeks of hard work to pay the mower off.

I really felt I had accomplished something. I walked the town over mowing lawns. If anyone remembers where Dorothy and Billy Anderson lived, I walked out there and mowed a lawn close to them. Mowing lawns became my regular summer job for the next few summers. One summer, Jimmy Fortune and I teamed up to mow yards. He had an old ‘46 panel truck that we would travel around in, allowing us to cover more territory each day.

I remember one lawn in Kensett that we took on. The grass/weeds were at least three feet tall and took us most of the day to cut. We lost money on that job because we thought we could cut it much faster. We should have charged by the hour! After that experience, we never took on another tall grass job.

During my lawn mowing years I wore out three engines. As I got older, I gave up mowing and started working for Dr. Rogers' farms either hauling hay or cutting pasture with a bush-hog. I made the large sum of $4.00 a day six days a week. WOW! $24.00 a week, at least they didn't take taxes out.

(That’s called The American Way. I still say no one can top my collection of jobs in high school. They all had one thing in common: a lack of physical labor, except for hauling hay for my grandfather .. and, of course, “thievin’” chickens. –tlp-)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Reflections by a Nice Guy

(Run originally 4/22/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

The first part of this little think piece from Ernie is in reaction to a piece on my personal site about you never really knowing when you’re going to run into an old friend. -tlp-

Great stories, old friend.

Years ago, the family and I got off the plane in Orlando for a few days at Disney world, and I heard a voice in the terminal holler, "Hey, Mr. Simpson!" I turned, and it was Bobby Neal, lead guitar for Rick Nelson. Bobby was one of my students in the little town of Cooter, MO, back in 1962. It was great to see him. He was in town doing a concert with the Rick Nelson group.

Sadly, he also was on the plane that crashed some time later, killing those members of the Rick Nelson band.

I have always believed it's a good thing to behave yourself no matter where you are, since you may run into someone from home! Ha!

Coming back to work this noon, I turned on the industrial drive where our plant is located, and a lady was stopped in the street in front of me, waving at an oncoming service truck of some kind. The guy stopped, and she was talking to him very animatedly, and I thought it might have been a friend or her husband or boyfriend she had spotted coming back to work.

No, it was obvious when the guy leaned out the window and started pointing to a street and direction farther in front of her. The traffic started to back up behind each vehicle, people trying to get back to work after lunch. The discussion continued for a long moment until, finally, the lady drove on, seemingly understanding the directions she had just been given.

It occurred to me, as I sat waiting for the conversation/directions to be conveyed, that no one in the long line of cars behind each vehicle became impatient or honked or gestured. Everyone was calmly and patiently waiting in the middle of the street for the woman to understand where she was to go before she drove away.

As hustle and bustle we have become in our society, it was a nice thing I saw, all those folks with traffic backing up, still patient enough to allow help to be given to someone lost in that industrial area. I wonder, too, how it would have been somewhere else. That little gesture from those people reminded me somehow of a time long ago, maybe gentler, and kinder. And, too, truly that good manners have not been lost on everyone over the years. For that, I'm glad.

Reminded me of the White County of my youth.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

JOBS – 2

(Run originally 4/20/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

Reading Ernie’s piece Sunday on jobs, I’ve done the hay thing, too, on my grandfather’s farm. One of the two longest summers of my life was the summer of ’54, when there was just the old hired hand and me to take in about 50 acres of hay (the second longest summer was Basic Training in 1957 at Ft. Polk, LA, with the 1st Armored Division, a unit that had never trained recruits before, but that’s another story).

Probably the most unusual pair of summer jobs came in the summer of ’56, when Dan Randle and I became “chicken thieves.” Strangely enough, it’s a perfectly legal occupation, not at all related to the old hillbilly recipe for chicken and dumplings, the first line of which was, “First, steal two chickens …”

Late in the afternoon, you’d go over to the chicken plant, near what is now Beebe-Capps and Main, and help finish loading empty chicken crates on the back of a large truck. Exactly what time you went was determined by how far you had to go in order to do your thing, and then get back to the chicken plant by about 7 a.m. The farther the chicken house, the earlier we had to leave.

The entire crew would cram into the cab of the truck after it’d been through the certified scales, and off we’d go. Getting there in what was the middle of the night, we’d unload the empty crates, and then the fun began. Carrying the crates into the very, very fragrant chicken houses (air conditioned? Be real!) the chickens were awakened by the dim interior lights and, quick as we could, we’d scoop them up and try to get them into the crates before they could organize their pea-sized brains for an escape.

Then the crates went back on the truck and we (smelling a great deal like our cargo) went back in the truck’s cab (windows open, thank you). Back to Searcy, back to the scales; the farmers were paid by weight for their birds, so it was a case of subtracting the total weight of the truck without the birds from the same weight with the birds. Beat hell out of trying to count the little critters, since there was no set number of chickens in a crate.

Unload at the chicken plant. By then, we were truly torn but, if one of the flimsy wood and wire crates broke – which happened frequently -- then we had to chase chickens around the street and loading dock until we could catch ‘em and re-crate them.

Then we’d usually go over to Dan’s house – it was closest – clean up, eat, sleep … and do it all over again that evening.

I don’t remember how long we did that – I suspect not too long – and seemed like stepping into another world when I got the call to come fill in for a vacationing announcer at KICK Radio up in Springfield, MO.

My wife, Karen, has great difficulty believing ANY of what I’ve just written.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


(Run originally 4/19/04 on our old site)

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

Speaking of phone booth stuffing—

Does anyone remember our stuffing a phone booth with band members (probably 1956, 1957)?

Were we in Batesville?

How about arm wrestling, using the top of the tympani drums? You can tell that I remember the "important" things.

(Phone booth stuffing? No. Arm-wrestling on my kettledrums? YES, because I’d have to do a major league re-tuning every time they were used for that purpose, despite the cardboard and canvas covers protecting the stretchable heads. –tlp-)

Harold Gene Sullivan

I have loved reading about the memories of Latimer Grocery. His name was Lester, but I don’t remember hers: it was always Mr. and Mrs. Latimer to us.

The store was on the same block we lived on and I could go down there by cutting through several back yards and then going in their back door. The back yards I cut through were those of Charles Ward’s grandparents, James Louis Wyatt’s parents, Don Thompson’s grandparents, and Bobby Latimer’s parents. We, too, kept an account there, which Dad would pay off every time he delivered Pepsi to them. It was really convenient. When Mom would need a little something, she would just send me down to get it, it took only a few minutes. When I made these trips, I never really thought much about how it got paid for. Of course, I always asked mom if I could buy some candy. Had to ask because, any time I asked for candy at the store, Mrs. Latimer would always ask if my Mother told me I could have some. Boy, those Mothers really stuck together.

After Lester died, and long after they had closed the grocery, my Mom and Dad would still stop by and visit with Mrs. Latimer. I remember Bobby Latimer’s dad bringing home a bobcat kitten. It was really cute and they kept it around for several weeks. However, even though it was friendly, it could never learn to play with its claws retracted, and so it kept everybody all scratched up. Finally, Bobby’s dad took it back out to their farm.

Another store I remember … after Bobby Scott’s dad left Kroger, he opened a store at West Race and Hwy 16. I loved to watch him cut meat; it always amazed me how he knew what to cut. I loved the minute steaks from there. Mom would buy them every once in a while. If I remember right, they were put through some sort of machine that really made them tender. They cooked real fast, and were great on a sandwich.

I usually rode to school with my Mom, since she was teaching and going the same time I was. Often, we would pick up Mary Beth Cook and Carthal Mac Angel, who were walking. However, I always walked home, since Mom would stay after school to do some work.

Those are some great memories, walking up Vine or Academy Streets with neighborhood kids. Seems like we always found something interesting to do, often getting home long after my Mom did. But, as you remember, in those days kids were free to wander anywhere in town: no one ever worried about them.

I think one of the biggest changes in society from those days is that kids’ misbehavior is taken care of much differently. When growing up, if someone caught you doing something you shouldn’t, they just called your folks.

I remember one Halloween, several of us had been all over town causing mischief. When I got home, Dick Hart (the policeman, not Anita’s dad) had already called my Dad and told him about it. Dad was waiting for me and, believe me, I would have rather been arrested than face my Dad. That was sure more effective that all the juvenile courts.

Tom Pry

The minute steak machines more-or-less punched pinhole-sized holes through the otherwise rather tough meat. My mother and grandmother accomplished roughly the same thing by pounding it with the edge of saucers, although they were never quite as tender as those minute steaks.

As for mischief .. it and “teenager” seem to be different parts of the same word. Biggest difference, I suppose, is that we didn’t use Uzis and, what we did do was merely annoying or inconveniencing, not deadly or even particularly malicious.

The thing that most sticks out in my mind, though, was our relationship with the local police: we regarded them, at worst, as acquaintances and, at best, as friends. We spent more than one Friday or Saturday night, too broke to go anywhere but the armory at Race and Main, then stand around the parking lot watching our bumpers rust while we discussed, usually, physical attributes of various of our classmates .. female. If it was a quiet night (always), invariably the night shift cop would stop by, get out of his car and join us. He was NOT “checking us out,” he was just doing what we were doing: visiting.

Wouldst cops today get their butts out of their RPCs and get to know the kids a bit better, too, and let themselves be known to the young people (equally important). Our relationship with the night shift cops kept OUR butts out of trouble more than once.

Of course, this relationship had its drawbacks: you couldn’t get away with a thing. One bunch, one boring night, went out in a pickup truck and raided someone’s watermelon patch. They filled the truck so full that, on the drive back to town, their low beams were shining into the treetops. That was borderline enough but, to add insult to injury, after they and various kids had gorged themselves on watermelon hearts, they decorated the square with the leftovers. I saw the mess, and it WAS a mess.

I was not around for the denouement, though. As it was given to me, right or wrong, the police bided their time for a few hours (it hadn’t taken them long, apparently, to identify the culprits) and then, when the perps had had a chance to go to sleep, they were rather rudely awakened by the Boys In Blue, who stood and supervised while, in the wee small hours, the guys who MADE the mess were made to clean up the mess.

I love it when the punishment exactly matches the crime.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Jobs, Great and Small

(Run originally 4/18/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

The work ethic certainly has come full circle in some ways in our society and, although many believe luck has a lot to do with success, I believe the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Of course, everything I say here may be wrong, don’t forget.

In high school days, anywhere in the 50s, it was an accepted fact that school and jobs were what you did. This defined the essence of most kids, and brought many to the same level, not from the money earned or station in life, but from the togetherness that doing a job caused by just knowing you had paid your part to society by doing what was right by having a job.

Early on, I reached out for a “real” job: picking strawberries and chopping cotton were killers. Everyone should have to pick strawberries, and chop or pick cotton. That’s a real motivator to improve your place in life.

The old ladies who ran the Mayfair were both no-nonsense sisters and nieces, and not much smiling went on between them. I don’t know why I asked for the job, but it started first as a bellboy, then waiting tables. Most fun I had was recharging the fire extinguishers in the back parking lot: turn them upside down, and the little jar of acid inside reacted with the bicarbonate and, wow!, they could shoot fifty feet, at least.

Miss Phyllis Smith never called me Ernest, she always said, “Misto”… not mister, just misto, an abbreviation like, “I need you to carry these bags, Misto’.” She reminded me of a grumpy Olive Oyl, or a cheerful Mady Armstrong. I compare them because of her stride. I’d set on Grandma’s porch on Rock Branch Road, and watch as Mady and her dogs strode north, her with her long black dress, black shoes, black hat, and hiking pole. She had a five-foot stride, and covered ground like an old lady truly on a mission. Get there quick, and cut off some teen age girl’s shorts, I guess.

Soon tiring of the Mayfair, I asked Mr. Troy Haile about pumping gas at his station on the corner of Main and Race, and sure enough, pumping gas, doing windshields, checking the customer’s oil (“You’re ‘bout half a quart low, Mr. Baker”), and washing cars became a solid job. Conversations from customers went, “Gimme a dollar’s worth of regular.” It was truly a high roller who came in and said, “Fill ‘er up with high-test.” That’s premium, right?

I also learned the dangers of that work, when Mr. Haile had cleaned the inner part of a truck tire with solvent, probably gas and, when he put air in the tire (they took about 100 pounds of pressure, over 3 times what you put in your car tires today), the retaining rim on the wheel blew off, almost taking his arm. That arm was crippled the rest of his life. Lucky he wasn’t bending over the tire looking at it. The rim went almost telephone pole high.

Messed up once, though, with a little grit on the wash towel, and I rubbed a little too hard on this guy’s new ’55 Chevy coupe. We were able to get it out with polish, and the guy went away happy … thankfully.

I learned about customer service from Mr. Haile. His partner Spud Pearson, though, was the service station grinch, but that was fine, I liked him. Spud and Mr. Haile were a good balance.

A short summer job doing night clerk work at the Rose-Ann Motel was interesting. Mr. and Mrs. Morris were fine people, and my high school naiveté kept me out of trouble. Of course, that is a whole ‘nother story. The motel was new then, and one of few places besides the Mayfair to stay in Searcy.

Mr. K.K. (Deacon) King was one of the toughest we faced as a boss, for those who worked at the Rialto. He fired me at least twice. Don Boggs didn’t give me a clue as to what to expect when I started. Carolyn (Reed) Hill was a true friend, and could turn out popcorn that was unparalled in the movie business, before or since. When I worked the Sunday matinees, there were a few girls from Harding who always came to the door early, and asked to be let in the lobby, since they had walked from their dorm, skipping on Sunday afternoon quiet hours. They didn’t ride in cars, and they appreciated getting in the theatre early to avoid dorm supervisors who might see them out.

Black patrons entered the side door of the theatre and went upstairs. Those were the rules laid down by Mr. King. I often wished I could sit up there: I really think they had the best seats.

Bonnie and Clyde’s car came to Searcy in the mid fifties when I was working at the Rialto. It was making a tour on a flat bed truck. It parked in front of the Rialto, and everyone gawked, of course. It was a beige ’34 Ford, shot full of holes. It was a part of a promotion for a black and white movie about Bonnie and Clyde. Later, around 1995, I saw the car again at the Texas State Fair in Dallas. It was exactly as I remembered it. At that time, the car was on loan from the State Prison Museum at Huntsville.

The hardest, most physical job of them all was hauling hay. No quarter asked, no quarter given, and no prisoners taken. Dan Randle, Robin Moore, Norman Richards, sometimes George Payne. We started after the dew was off, about 10:00 A.M., and kept going until about 2:00 A.M. We averaged picking up and putting in the barns about one hundred bales an hour, typically. We were paid 5 cents a bale: a penny each for the team and a penny for the truck. We generally made $10-$12 a night each. That’s probably the toughest ten dollars I ever made for a day’s work. You had to avoid the snakes that were sometimes baled in the hay, too, especially if they stuck their head out while you were trying to lift the bale.

Summer jobs were enough to buy a couple pair of Levi’s from Morris and Son -- $4.75 a pair -- a little gas for the ’52 GMC and, maybe, take Elois to a movie once in a while, down at the Rialto.

Those jobs gave us all a sense of direction, good or ill, and set us on a good path, in my opinion. I wouldn’t trade the memory for anything … now. Then, however, some of those jobs were simply to be endured, your place in life for being a teen.

Tom Pry

Ernie, “premium” gas is what we call it today; then, we usually called the good stuff “Ethyl,” after the additive that determined octane, even though it was also in the “Regular,” just in lesser quantities. This was the brand name for “lead” that is supposedly not in gas today. If you wanted “lead-free,” you had to buy it at an Amoco station: they had the corner on that market – and charged a slightly higher price for it, too. It took a real sport to fork out that extra nickel a gallon for Ethyl™, although some of the cars of that day wouldn’t run well at all without it.

Of course, there were a lot of cars on the road that could’ve run on tractor fuel, which was a strange mixture of gas and kerosene (does anyone remember kerosene, or “coal oil”?)

I think most of the latter were driven by us.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


(Run originally 4/17/04 on our old site)

Anita Hart Fuller

I remember picking strawberries for about 2-3 days - that was all I could take. Talk about back-breaking work! Judy Deener and I picked for a Mr. Martindale, who was the father of a boy in our class early on (he didn't graduate with us), Leon Martindale was his name. His "patch" was on highway l6, the road to Pangburn. With my earnings, I bought a ukulele and I learned to play it, and kept it with me even through college and beyond. But don't have it any more; wish I did. I remember actually being very reluctant to part with the money I made, it being so hard earned. What were we making? 5 cents a quart?

JoAnn: I remember that store. Jolene Abboud had a charge account there (I really thought that was something), and we'd go get baloney, bread and dill pickles and go back to her house and eat ... we thought that was a feast.

Do you remember walking to school? You would go by for Jolene, then you'd get me, we'd then get Marlene Garrison and when we got to the corner we'd yell down at Mildred Taylor, who would "lope" off her front porch and join us. That was the five of us walking to school each morning and, most times we also walked back for lunch, which was an hour. You were the last to get home, and therefore the first to have to leave - so you had the shortest lunchtime. Those were indeed good old days, and I think there is some of the original sidewalk still there on Arch Street.

Tom Pry

When I think of a gaggle of girls heading to Searcy High of a morning, I remember redheaded Draxie Jean Horn, whose father, Postmaster Louie Horn, had from somewhere procured for her, by her sophomore year, a used Anglia, an English Ford product, probably one of the first made after WW II.

It was small and really fit one of my father’s favorite descriptions: “So ugly it’s cute.” It was also rather underpowered, and some mornings had problems making it up the little hill towards the Band Room.

I always, in my mind referred to it as The Clown Car. NOT, mind you, because of the looks of the passengers but, rather, because like the little car in the circus, sometimes when the doors opened, you lost count of the number of attractive young ladies who appeared out of the magically capacious back seat, far beyond any capacity the Anglia people would’ve cared to advertise. It preceded phone booth stuffing by quite a few years.

At least, that’s how I remember it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


(Run originally 4/16/04 on our old site)

Jo Ann Roth Cooper

I remember Madie Armstrong, I really thought it was Sadie. She was dressed just like everyone said. I was afraid of her too. However, she never chased me. What I remember most is she walked the railroad tracks picking poke salad. I wouldn't eat it for years and, finally, had an aunt that had it for lunch one day and I thought it was greens and really liked it. Later she told me it was poke.

I also remember picking strawberries. I lived close to Molly Gillian, the Kelso girls and Bobby Latimer. The Latimers had a little store were we bought bread, milk and others things we needed between going to Kroger or Safeway.

We would meet at the store, a wagon pulled, I think, by a truck, would come by and pick us up and take us to the strawberry fields and we would pick. I can't remember how many hours we stayed. I can't remember how many caught the wagon. Seems like I remember taking a sack lunch. It was hard work on your hands and knees.

I was glad to get to go to work at Rodgers Hospital in the office. I worked there my last two years in high school, everyday after school until 6:30, every other Saturday all day and one Sunday a month, full time in the summer.

There was a lady that worked in the kitchen that had worked for us when I was a little girl. At the hospital, when they were having something she knew I really liked for dinner at night, she would come to the office and tell me so I would be sure and eat before I went home. I believe her name was Martha. Dan E. might remember.

Anita Hart Fuller

The Yarnell Ernie mentioned was Richard Yarnell, and he did, indeed, drown in his pond out by their house. His wife was Sarah and they had a daughter, Carmen, who married Bob Choate - a "boy" who was in Bob's high school choir in Jonesboro. I add that just to illustrate what a small world it is. I think Richard was Albert's first cousin, his father being Ray's brother ... but correct me if I'm wrong"

This came from my mother, who remembers, too, "Flywheel" Price. She said he was a lawyer in Searcy, but not very ambitious. He had a sister who worked at Roberson's Drugstore...She told me who it was on the phone but now I've forgotten her name!!!!

Dan E. Randle

If you could get in touch with the people that set up the reunions for their class, you might be able to talk them into putting our site in their news letter they send out to announce their reunion. That would be one way to increase the hits the site gets each day, and increase the input also.

Tom Pry

My most outstanding memory of strawberries (other than the day I pigged out and ate the entire supper dessert preparation of them … then had to go out to a hot henhouse to pick eggs; the smell had a dire effect on the strawberries I was, as it turned out, briefly lugging internally) is the neat way my grandparents kept them weeded: they got geese.

Geese? Yep. They put a goose-proof fence around the strawberry patch and put some really ornery geese in there. Simple truth is that geese HATE strawberries: the fruit and the plant, so they ate all the weeds. Maintenance then became a case of picking and, every four years, carefully digging up the plants and replanting them, after cultivating the ground.

Now, to another subject: your memories and photos.

This site, I’m happy to report, is averaging 40 “hits” or visits a day; it’s gone as high as 56 on a really good day. That’s not bad for a site like this. But our contributors list is much, much shorter than that. Now, I’m grateful to all of them, but I could use more. Where are YOURS? You don’t have to be a good writer, or a great punctuator or speller: that’s what editors are for, and that’s what I am, primarily.

I’ll make you look good and literate, trust me; besides, alongside some of the product coming even out of colleges these days, I’ll bet your writing and affiliated skills are better than the youngsters’. We were fortunate to have some pretty dedicated teachers.

As for photos, we can always use them, and then also post them on Dan E. Randle’s site, (or use the link on the left).

If you’ve got the photos, but not the other resources necessary to convert them to digital format, let me know. I can handle prints, slides, even negatives. E-mail me and we’ll figure out how to get them to me and then back to you, unharmed, after processing.

PLEASE … this site is maintained for you. We don’t ask that you contribute money. What we want is much, much more valuable than that: your memories and knowledge.

Have a memorable day.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Anita Hart Fuller

I will be able to tell the rest of the story about the Yarnell man having a heart attack after I see Mother in Searcy tomorrow. His wife's name was Sara and she was a good friend of Mother's and Virginia Bradberry, wife of County Judge Floyd Bradberry. They had a daughter, Carmen Yarnell, that's all the names I can remember. Tell Ernie not to hold his breath, since he posed this question in April 2004 - but I'll have the scoop in a day or two.

Good job AND I am glad I was proven wrong (about only Don or Harold Gene contributing to Halloween thoughts), and glad no one called my offer of a sizable bet! I'm sure Don Thompson will get cranked up in a few days, and surely Paula can contribute some of her memories of Halloween past. I'll get Bill(y) Fuller to send something.

Where would the annual Halloween carnival have been held? All I can remember is going into a dark room and feeling eyeballs rolling around in a saucer (peeled grapes, of course). Now that was virtual reality, although we didn't understand the term back then.

Bob and I had a conversation about the Halloween carnivals: he thinks they were either at the Armory (now buried under the Walgreen's Drugstore, never to rise again) or maybe the Legion Hut, or at a sort of "warehouse" thing at the Fairgrounds, or by the football field.

I've emailed Bill Fuller to help us out, so maybe he'll come thru.

Thank you, Ann Shannon.....

Tom, one of these days we need to get together, for I have some real good photos that would be great to be on SearcyYesteryear.

Tom Pry

The next meeting of the White County Historical Society will be next Monday, 10/24, 7 pm at Harding Place. Be there. Give me the photos, and I’ll give you your Christmas present I’ve been lugging around since last November.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

Jim Bost's dad and my dad were close friends, but I, too, lost track of Jim after high school. Eventually, his mother moved across the street from my mother and through them, I heard bits and pieces of his life -- that he became an M.D. and then was in the Air Force -- but I never saw him.

Then, early in 1996 when my husband and I were teaching in southern Germany, I read an article in the "Stars and Stripes" that identified some changes in Col. James W. Bost's medical command. Bost is not a common last name; the middle initial was correct; and my curiosity took over.

I called the military office and identified myself as Dr. Snodgrass who wanted to speak with Dr. Bost. Luckily, the secretary assumed I was an M.D., made the phone connection for me, and in moments, I heard Jim's voice.

We made a date for lunch and met in the foyer of the Ramstein Officers' Club. We shared a monster hug -- tears and laughter -- observers probably thought we were family. While all of us were stationed in southern Germany, my husband, Jim, and I enjoyed several get-togethers with Jim and his wonderful wife, Emily.

When you read in the newspaper about troops being evacuated to Landsthul Regional Medical Center near Kaiserslautern, Germany, then before he retired you would be reading about Jim's responsibility for MedEvac in Europe and Asia. Good man!

These are the kind of stories I absolutely love. Loose ends wrapped up, complete with happy endings. Thank you SO much, Ann! And, now, what’s YOUR story? -tlp-

Thursday, October 20, 2005


(Run originally 4/15/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

One of the clan of Yarnells lived on North Bypass Road years ago and, after he had retired, he was feeding his fish in the pond, had a heart attack and fell in the water and drowned. Now this is really faulty, so I would feel silly even putting out the question of anyone remembering....I think it was Ray? Yarnell? The house is gone now, burned. There are one or two blue feed silos at the location where the house was. You have an idea where I'm talking about?

Dan E. Randle

Harold's mentioning of rain water collection sparked the memory again. I had forgotten that my grandmother had barrels at strategic locations around the house and barn to collect rain water. The water from her well was so high in iron content it would turn the clothes a rusty color. I remember seeing about a quarter of an inch of rusty buildup on the spout of the kettles (not rust but boiled out iron particles) she used to boil water in. The kettles had to have been used since the early 1900's. By the time I came along, that had to be around 45 years of boiling water. Since I'm on the subject of water, I wonder if anyone remembers the water fountain in the park. Nothing like a good drink of sulfur water, right? I tried it once and that was enough.

Tom Pry


White County was once known as “Strawberry Capital of the World.’ Pickers … found plenty of work and a ready market for the fruit, which was shipped by rail throughout the U.S. But today the strawberries are gone. Only a few area farmers raise them and sell them any more. … The White County Historical Society will spotlight the rise and fall of strawberry farming at the meeting April 26. Johnny Hubach, whose family was a leader in the strawberry industry, and past president Paul Miller, who saw strawberry heydays, will present this unique program. (The meeting) is open to the public.

This blurb was lifted from the Historical Society’s monthly newsletter, edited by the always-excellent Eddie Best. Dues and newsletter subscription are a measly $16 a year and, beside the monthly newsletter, includes a major publication of historical White County info at year's end. Join up by sending check or money order to White County Historical Society, P.O. Box 537, Searcy, AR 72143.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

I remember Mady Armstrong, too. She lived on Vine Street, just a couple of blocks west of my grandparents', O.D. and Verna Rogers. I was wary of her, too, but then my mother told me that Mady carried an old broken knife to dig herbs and roots. Much of the under-growth around her house was herbs and medicinal plants which she dried and shared, as needed

Anita Hart Fuller

I wish I had a personal memory of Madie Armstrong - although at the time I was growing up and wearing shorts around town, I was darn glad I didn't. I THINK I have a memory of her standing outside the Rialto before the show started, "hopefully" to catch some girls entering in shorts. I do have a couple of "stories" about her, don't know if they are true but they are fun to think about. First: she wore a pedometer around her leg, and was written up in Ripley's Believe It or Not as having walked the number of miles to make it around the world but never left White County.

Second: she was crossing the street in Searcy - and was hit by a car, knocking her down and breaking an arm. With the broken arm "dangling" she shook her fist with the "good" arm at the poor motorist who had hit her, and walked on. Now that I'm on the subject, I've remembered another one: this was told to Bob and I a few years ago by Jean and Jim Robbins and Dr. John Stotts, when they were visiting us in Greers Ferry: Madie walked about town early in the morning. As she passed by the Robbins home, she saw "Boney" Robbins and his wife, Lillian Robbins, asleep in their bed, which was by a window. The hose was hooked up to the faucet under the window and she turned on the water and sprayed them thru the window, telling them "you should be up by now".......

Tom, you probably need to edit some of this, I do tend to get a little carried away or long-winded when relating stories. Everyone: keep up the good work.

Thank you for the funny stories and the kind words, Anita. I wouldn’t touch a hair on its chinny-chin-chin.

That, incidentally, would make the second time I know of when White County showed up in Ripley’s “Believe it or Not.” The other one was a short blurb saying that, “In Searcy, Arkansas, Pleasure Street leads to Joy and Romance.” I guess the opening of the Beebe-Capps highway killed that one. –tlp-

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Anita Hart Fuller

I'm willing to make a sizable wager that, aside from Don Thompson and maybe Harold Gene (Sullivan), NOT ONE SOUL will respond to our Halloween posting.

That's the pessimist in me.

Tom Pry

Anita, you were wrong.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

I remember one Halloween, around twilight, when Mary Kay (Van Patten James) was responsible for me. Don’t know how she got stuck with me on Halloween, since I’m only two years younger. I never felt like the nuisance I must have been because she and her friends were always kind to me.

Anyway, I remember standing in the street in front of Jim Bost’s house with Mary Kay, Draxie Jean, and Patsy Sutherlin. Jim remains a good friend; maybe I’d been at his house? Did Patsy live across the street from Jim?

Jim came out to see what we were doing, and I remember his laughing -- he thought it was so funny that Draxie had a bar of soap. I didn’t know why she had it, but Jim seemed “in the know.”

When we left, a car parked across from Jim’s house had nicely-decorated windows. Don’t know who gets the credit for creativity, but the soap bar was in several pieces by then. Maybe all of us were inspired? We went to Donna Hunt’s house and got some more soap.

Tom Pry

Ann added a note that she would e-mail Jim and find out what he remembered of it.

I was glad to hear, albeit indirectly, that Jim was still alive and kicking, and that the nice kid I remember from high school grew up to be a nice guy. I’ve long wondered.

After the quite untimely and unexpected death of Jim’s father when Jim was in about the 8th grade (???), several of us in the band kind of became like big brothers, because Jim (understandably) took his dad’s death very, very hard. We took as our self-appointed task getting him out of the doldrums.

The first thing we had to attack was his thumb. When he’d start getting morose, that thumb would slide into his mouth. When that happened, we’d sneak up behind him and bop him in the chin hard enough to make him bite that appendage. He finally stopped that before he lost the thumb totally.

This may’ve been a unique application of the principle now called “tough love.”

That’s how I remember it, anyway. I make no guarantees on the worth of my memory.

Since, though, I’m running a bit short this morning, I’ll bore you with another of my choo-choo train pictures, this one called “Incoming from Memphis.” Why? (a) Because I like trains and (b) Because I can.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Anita Hart Fuller

With Halloween coming up, would anyone like to comment on stuff we did on Halloween night? In Searcy, when we were young? I'd like to hear from the guys; us bunch of girls were pretty wimpy as I recall. In fact, I really don't remember doing anything destructive - maybe soaped a few downtown business windows, but I really don't actually remember doing even that.

Did we go to the Halloween Carnival in late high school?

I do remember one event: a group of us girls had been out, but had gone back to my house on Arch Street for something. Marilyn Pate was one of the gang. A group came to our door, trick or treating, she answered the door and in a very reverent voice said, "There's been a death in the family"...... they very quietly backed away and sort of tiptoed off the porch and went on their way.

I remember the older boys, like Jody Taylor and his group, would put an outhouse on the courthouse lawn and a favorite trick was to put porch swings high off the porch - know what I mean? Lots of folks had porch swings in those days.

I do remember going to the Rialto to the "midnight" show that started about 11:00 p.m. It was usually a Dracula or The Mummy, wasn't it? I remember going several times with Billy Davis, but that would have been real early on, 6th or 7th grade?

Tom Pry

You know, it’s strange, but I do not remember a single Halloween during high school? Of course, living out in the country made a considerable difference to the hoopla, but this is one subject to which I can’t contribute anything except a photo I took at my favoritest all-time Halloween.

It’s going to be up to the rest of you on this one, folk!

Monday, October 17, 2005


Tom Pry

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon … oops, that’s the Ballad of Dan McGrew. Let’s start that again.

A bunch of the members of the SHS Class of 1956 gathered this last Saturday afternoon to start putting together the necessary organizational touches for next year’s landmark 50th Class Reunion.

Despite putting down an unforgivable number of home-baked sugar cookies that came out of Marge (Mrs. Dr. Robert) Miller’s talented oven, work WAS accomplished. Date set is Saturday, July 1st, 2006. The location chosen is, like the Class of 55’s, Eagleview, which is right outside of town, off Hwy 16.

As has become the custom, there’ll be an informal get-together that afternoon, a gathering to which members and friends from other classes are welcome – encouraged, even – to come visit while we’re all together.

Then, that night, dinner and a program.

We even cranked up the Reunion’s official e-mail address: . All the members of the Reunion Committee have access to the mailbox, so feel free to use it for anything having to do with the class, the reunion, or class members, past and present.

NEEDED: current e-mail addresses and/or mailing addresses for members of the class. We have almost none. Either you can send them to the SHS1956 e-mailbox or send that address to them and let them tell us where they are. Whether you think we have an e-mail and/or mailing address for them or not, please get that info to us. We’d appreciate it. Better to get it twice than not get it at all.

Now, let me tell you who was there. No, first I’ll tell you who WASN’T there: Mary Kathryn Van Patten James, who got promoted at work to head the Golden Age Travel Program. She’s been to Africa and Alaska, and I think that today, she’s taking off for New Zealand, or someplace like that. Tough job, with few benefits, I guess.

Present were:

(Dr.) Robin “Chirp” Moore and (Dr.) Robert “Bob” Miller. (Marge said once that she can always tell whether a phone caller was a high school classmate of his or not. If classmate, they ask for “Robert.” If not, they ask for “Bob”).

Pat Merritt Barger, complete with a brand-new knee.

Patsy Ruth Norman Pryor – still 4’11” tall.

Carolyn Reed Hill.

Our hostess, Marge, shows off some of Robert’s prize-winning wood-turning pieces.

More news on the reunion as it becomes available.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


In one way or another, I stumbled into a treasure trove in my old e-mail account with SBC. Instead of bouncing things, those wonderful people at Yahoo just kept storing them. I found 93 – count ‘em, 7 less than a hundred – NINETY-THREE non-spam e-mails that had been sitting there for months (including ones from Anita Hart Fuller and husband Bobby Scott).

Among them was one from Carl Wilson, who’d answered my plea for more pictures from the Class of ‘55’s 50th Class Reunion (which I had to miss).

Carl’s pix were a Godsend! I’ve already posted them on but, since there’s always a problem with identifying the players on there, I’ll identify them all here. Then, if you want a bigger shot, you can go out to the memories site and download from there.

For those of you who, like me, need a scorecard, here we go, back to last June out at EagleView:

Here’s Bernes Abbott

(L-R) Betty Merritt Harris, Jane Huntsman Walton, Lucy McNeese Wilson.

(L-R) Bill Emerson, Jim Joyner, Betty Merritt Harris & her husband, Lucy McNeese Wilson.

The formal shot of the Class of 55’s Fiftieth Birthday.

Close-ups of the group shot.

Don and Pat Russell

Jim and Jo Ann Manning

Jim and Pat Jordan

(L-R) Jim & Pat Jordan, Pat & Donald Russell

Lucy McNeese Wilson & Carl Wilson

(The authors of this foto feast)

Margaret Owens, Betty Taylor Emerson, Sylvia Tompkins Kays

(L-R) Tom Brown, Mary Ann Burguess, Peggy Baugh Brown, Jessie Smith Rayburn, Patsy Baugh Shourd.

My apologies to the Class of ’55 for the long delay in getting these up, and my sincere thanks to Carl for getting these to us.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Don (and Paula Anne Windsor) Thompson

You said in last journal: When we hold our 50th sometime next June or so, I will have concocted/edited between 250 and 300 distinct columns for this blog, not to mention my personal site. I think that, sometime shortly after that reunion, and I get things from it posted, it should be time to move out into the sixties, and find a new editor for this site. Those interested please inquire within (Billy Fuller, where are you?).

Tom, you have done a very good job with the journal. I'm sure many readers feel the same but have paralysis of the writing hand. The current format is very pleasant to read compared to the increasing number of blogs out there in Internet land.

I'm glad the chitlins' and cracklins' have stirred up some interest. My plan worked! We saw packages of both chitlins and cracklins in Krogers yesterday. I think it's funny that some said they would never eat chitterlings. In the good ole days, there's a good chance that sausages were encased in hog's intestines and when the whole mess was fried up, it was delicious! The best known cracklins are surely the by-product of rendering chunks of pork with skin (with hair singed off) for lard.

Here are some culinary dictionary definitions:

cracklin, cracklings
Also called gratons or grattons by the Cajuns. Cracklings are bits of roasted or deep-fried pork skins. You can make your own, or you may be able to find them at groceries. History: During slavery, after the slave-owner had rendered his pork fat, the skin was given to the servants. They would then deep-fry this skin and eat them plain or stirred into cornbread batter, which baked delicious cracklin' bread.

Delicious, crunchy pieces of either pork or poultry fat after it has been rendered, or the crisp, brown skin of fried or roasted pork. Cracklings are sold packaged in some supermarkets and specialty markets. "Cracklin' bread" is cornbread with bits of cracklings scattered throughout.

I'm obviously on a writing kick in the early morning hours.

Last night, Paula and I attended the 9th UAMS retirement dinner that was held in the Clinton Library. We were wined and dined by Cafe 42, the caterer for the library. The 42 honors Clinton as the 42nd president AND the 42nd governor of Arkansas. We had not visited the library before and the evening was very memorable.

The area where the meal was served is probably a multipurpose room, with a ceiling that is at least 3 stories high. Lots of glass, so the river and downtown could be seen as a panorama. and the sunset made the scene very dramatic. There was an hour to tour the library before dinner. We didn't do it because we're waiting to spend more time at it. We just sipped wine and talked with folks.

Paula worked at UAMS for 41 years and she retired in 1998.

Keep up the good work!

Tom Pry

Thank you so much for the kind words.

I, too, remember the link sausages in the “natural” casings. And, too, there were hot dogs, knackwurst, etc., in “natural” casings. Just exactly what do people think those casings were? And I, for one, think the natural casings tasted better than whatever replaced them. “Skinless” is a slight improvement, but not much.

The problem with chitlins is that they look kind of “dead” after they’ve been rendered, boiled, and whatever else people do to them. “Soul food” (concocted out of necessity, folks, not choice) is an acquired taste and is in no way visually appealing.

As for UAMS … Paula, you shouldn’t have left. Our experience with that joint a couple of years ago left Karen and I pegging it one step above a pest house of the Victorian age.

One couple’s opinion. See, it just went to hell when you left.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Tom Pry

The elusive Anita Hart Fuller has reappeared. The problem was a couple of misspelled e-mail addresses and, fortunately, Don Thompson sorted it out and, Ouila!, connection reestablished.

(Incidentally, gmail invitations are still available free for you just by e-mailing me at .. never worry about changing e-mail addresses again!).

Anita Hart Fuller

I really enjoyed reading about the Judsonia tornado, so tell Anne Shannon thanks for the website. Bob printed it out for me to take to mother, which I did Thursday. Mom was the director of food service at Harding College at the time, and that night went out and opened the cafeteria and they made coffee and sandwiches for those working there at the college. She thinks they kept it open for about 2 weeks . I was spending the night with Judy Rice Yates and we went down to the parking lot across from Hawkins Hospital and watched the victims being brought in.

On a lighter note, whenever Bob and I see a certain type of black and white movie on Turner Classic Movies, we always say "Plaza"... by certain type I mean pretty bad plot-wise or cast-wise. This morning he recalled that the Plaza didn't have a popcorn machine, but sold popcorn that had been popped at the Rialto and brought down there. I can't verify this. Also, does anyone remember about when the popcorn went from being sold in a small bag to a box? And how much did both cost? We may have rehashed this before on SearcyYesteryear....if so, forgive my memory.

Good job, keep it up. I really like the new - very up-to-date format you're using.....I haven't found any website any more professional.

Tom Pry (again)

Thanks for the very kind words. I like being able to fold photos into the pieces. You’re one of the few to comment on it, one way or the other.

That’s the first time I’ve heard the popcorn thing. Carolyn Reed Hill was considered the Rialto’s popcorn virtuoso, so she ought know.

And for whatever you know that we don’t (Liz Capps, tell us about the mini-reunion recently at the Midnight Oil), scribble it up and send it in.

Or your ears will fall off, leaving your bifocals to slide off the nose.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Cliff Wiggs

That's an interesting piece about the cracklin bread (from Don Thompson). However, being an old farm boy, it's news to me that the cracklins are made from the small intestines of the hog. Maybe we "misscalled' our cracklins. What we called cracklins were this: You cut the pieces of fat up and put them into a large washpot, under which there is a rip roaring hot fire. It was my job to keep the pot filled and stirred, which I did with an ax handle. When all of the lard was rendered out of the pieces, they would be sorta brown and curled up, and crackled. Thus, cracklins.

It made the best aroma when you first started rendering the lard but. after a couple of hours, it began to not smell so good.

Anyway, that's what we called cracklins. We never saved the intestines, and I never tasted chitterlings in my life. (And don't intend to).

Tom Pry

When I first received the crackling bread piece Don Thompson sent, I shared it with my wife (who’s from Nebraska), Karen, whose response was the same as Cliff’s: cracklins are a byproduct of lard-making, not chitterling cooking.

Obviously, as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is also more than one way to get cracklins.

For those of you who occasionally indulge yourself at fish & chip joints (a la Captain D’s, Arthur Treacher’s, etc.), one could wonder where they get THEIR cracklins. Myself, I’m afraid to ask.

Now, other miscellany from my basket …

Got an e-mail the other day from a fellow named Jim Shelton, now living in Henderson, Tennessee, who said, “I just found your site and it is very interesting. My hometown is Kensett. Yes, the story about how Kensett got its name is one I have heard many times. However, I don't believe it is true. It may be in Ray Muncy's book on the history of Searcy (or another book, I'm not sure) where it tells that Kensett was actually named for a railroad man named Kensett.”

When I asked Jim for a little info on himself, he replied: “My dad is Glenn Shelton and he still lives in Kensett. He is 83 and would probably remember much of what you write about. He has lived in and around Kensett and the Searcy area most of his life.”

I invited Jim in to play with us.

Now ….

After 22 years, I’m going back on stage (“There’s one leaving in half and hour; be on it”). I’ll be doing a bit part in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” opening 10/21/05 at Center on the Square in Searcy.

I find it’s just something else to do. After some of the productions in which I’ve been privileged to participate over the years, the “zing” just ain’t there any more. Sorry if that sounds like egotism run amuck, but this’ll probably be my last stage appearance, too.

Actually, you should’ve seen me a few weeks ago when we did an arts weekend on the Square. Representing The Crooked Man, they had me telling stories to children. There were a number of us scattered around the Courthouse grounds. My “next door neighbor” on the square was Mayor Belinda LaForce, playing The Queen of Hearts. She shouted “Off with their heads!” very convincingly. Probably a job qualification.

This Saturday, a group of us from the SHS Class of ’56 will be gathering at Dr. Robert Miller’s house to discuss next year’s 50th Class Reunion. I’ll fill you in. Under the heading of “What the …?” in my entire roll of readers to this blog, I only have TWO members of the Class of ’56. That’s rather discouraging.

And speaking of that …. When we hold our 50th sometime next June or so, I will have concocted/edited between 250 and 300 distinct columns for this blog, not to mention my personal site. I think that, sometime shortly after that reunion, and I get things from it posted, it should be time to move out into the sixties, and find a new editor for this site. Those interested please inquire within (Billy Fuller, where are you?).

And, finally, folks … you can watch for me to start appearing in the pages of the Searcy Sun, White County Record, etc. A certain amount of what will appear you will have already read someplace in this site, but publisher Barth Grayson wants me to share memories with his readers and, since my unemployment just ran out, I was happy to say yes.

But Barth says I have to go over to Georgetown with him sometime and get “redemption.” This is vis-à-vis, Ernie, regarding my remarks about the Georgetown Café. It always comes back to haunt you, doesn’t it?

In parting, here’s another train picture for you. Taken at Bald Knob yesterday, I call it “Inbound from Memphis #2.”

Have a good day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


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

Tom Pry

A few days before this first ran, I wrote a piece of near-morose philosophizing on my personal website, and it drew a couple of responses I’d like to share with you.

Ernie Simpson

Hi old bud:

I had to sit back from the keyboard after reading this and just ponder for a minute. It gave me pause, as we both have had at least a couple of careers, good or bad, fair or foul, that we've completed. Now, I wonder --as I approach the 196th day, 12 hours before my last day of work -- and wonder how I’ll handle it. Shall I be morose, bored; will I have feelings of a lack of self-worth? I think not, in either case.

It doesn't take a whole lot to please me, which is a good thing, ‘cause I don't have much. I have really adjusted a lot over the years and, as I recall, I think my elementary report card from Mrs. Christian commented, "plays well alone.” I do plan to exercise my mind, which you are doing, and adjust my goals to other arenas, and probably not look for a 'job'; not sure about that, we'll see. I DO think if piddling and pondering were ever made an Olympic Sport, I would take at least a bronze.

I think we will stay in touch as friends, and you will keep me going in some sense, which I appreciate. So you may add me to your long list of friends who depend on you for guidance, encouragement, support, and enlightenment.

That now having been said, I loved Fried Green Tomatoes, and yes, Driving Miss Daisy. So count me in, old friend, till the bitter or happy end. I'm there with you and for you.

I never doubted it, Ern – and that, among other things, makes me a damn lucky man! -tlp-

Does anyone remember a lawyer in Searcy named Price, in the late '40s? His nickname was "Flywheel", as in "Flywheel" Price. Dr. Muncy doesn't mention him, and I haven't written Eddie Best, but thought some of our fellow searcyyesterers might remember....

I loved your tag on Field's Farm, it just made the piece! I read it to Shelia over coffee, and she had a great laugh!

I understand Mr. Field's wife, and Judge Davenport's wife were sisters.

Judge Davenport was a prominent judge in White County, and had a mentally challenged son in the 40's that rode around Searcy on his bike with a pet chicken balancing on the handlebars. An uncle of mine commented to me once, while in the European Theatre, WW II, they were shown some newsreels of home life around the US, and they saw the video of Judge Davenport's boy on his bike....that was the most homesick he ever became during the war.

I hope today is a good day, old bud....I hope we get some comments from "Field's Farm".....

Anita Hart Fuller

I, too, think of Fried Green Tomatoes as one of my top 10 movies. I own it, plus the book, plus the cookbook. Now if there is EVER a good old southern recipe you want, it's in that cookbook! The pecan pie is to die for....and every time I serve it, folks rave at how good it is. The "secret" actually is just using brown sugar instead of white.

Tom, if you can find it, rent a never-heard-of movie, "The Legend of 1900" starring Tim Roth. Trust me, both you and Ernie would LOVE it. It's a sleeper Bob and I happened on years ago, and we see it periodically and have shown it to all our friends who overnight here - they love it, too. I'm sure Ernie can get it in the metropolis of Jon'boro. He'll like it 'cause it's narrated by a trumpet player.

To Harold Gene: has anyone ever noticed the resemblance of your Dad, early on, and Gary Cooper? It's very noticeable in that picture you sent from Bee Rock.

Tom Pry

I don’t intend turning this into a media review but, of late, my wife, Karen, and I have become quite enamored of a series on The Travel Channel (Channel 277, for those of you on DirecTV). Running Tuesday nights at 8 (Central), it’s called “John Ratzenberger’s Made In America,” two half-hour episodes run back-to-back.

Produced in cooperation with the Readers’ Digest Association, some would call it jingoistic, since it celebrates American businesses in a totally unashamed manner, but it’s unspectacularly lighthearted and illuminating. Each 30 minute segment looks at 3 American businesses, what they make, how, and a quick glimpse of the people who work there. At about 8 minutes per segment, it doesn’t have time to get draggy, and Cheers alumnus Ratzenberger keeps it moving right along – even if it appears as if he were stealing a forklift full of ice cream.

Just one of this week’s segments featured the Purity Dairy in Nashville, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, and the Louisville Slugger company.

It’s heartwarming and fun, blatantly middle America. Try it.

2005 FOOTNOTE: Yes, Ernie and I are still the best of friends; that said, I must say that Bob and Anita Fuller, for some reason, have dropped off my radar, and I don’t know why. I hope it’s just that I’ve irritated them, and not because one of them is sick.

Anita ended up make copies of “The Legend of 1900” for both Ernie and me. Very good film, very haunting … very weird.

Should you go to the library looking for a copy of the book behind “Fried Green Tomatoes,” the full and proper name is “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Don Thompson

Yesterday (Sunday, 10/9/05) was another Family Reunion at the Carter Homestead in Quickman. This is a Humble cousin reunion, and my great grandmother -- Mary Elizabeth Humble Wootten -- was the basis of the cousin connection.

This reunion is really a fun event. There's a hay ride around the farm, rides on Honda ATVs, and lots of good food, potluck style. I pondered what dish to take and I had an inspiration based on some fond memories of growing up in Searcy. I remember one cold November day when I was about 9. I rode the bus out to Steprock to spend some time with my mother and stepfather, Boyce Bryant, and his parents. Granny Bryant had just baked some cracklin’ bread and I got a piece of the warm, wonderful smelling, cornbread chock full of crunchy cracklin’s. I remember sitting by a wood burning potbellied stove and munching that bread. Oh my, what a tasty morsel!

So cracklin’ bread it was. I had never made the bread before so the Internet came through again with several recipes. Now, cracklings are the crisp residue left after the roasting of chitlins, which are the small intestines of hogs. Chitlins are usually prepared by boiling until tender. Fortunately I found a package of prepared chitlins at Krogers. I didn't want to bake them in the oven so I treated them like bacon and crisped them in the microwave. Ah, modern conveniences.

Now there is no way to prepare cornbread except with soda and buttermilk IMHO. Here's a pic of the finished results.

The dish really impressed the seniors like Paula and me. The younger set had never heard of cracklin bread and weren't about to experiment when they heard about the ingredients. Their loss, to be sure!

At the reunion, we all wore T-shirts with the family tree emblazoned on the front. Here's a group of us taking one of the hay rides around the farm.

The Carters have a garden there, but most of the 50 acres is leased out to sorghum cane cattle feed farmers. There is a grape arbor which is fairly productive.

Much fun was had by all.

Don & Paula Anne

Tom Pry

Just a couple of quick translations. “IMHO” is webtalk for “In My Humble Opinion.”

So far as chitlin’s go … Don’s spelling it phonetically. You can always tell a yankee ‘cause he or she will pronounce it as it’s properly spelled: “chitterlings.”

“Prepared chitlins at Krogers?!?” Surely, you jest!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Field’s Farm and Beyond

(Run originally 4/9/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

I drove by Field’s Farm the other day, and the housing additions in that subdivision are neat, nice and well done. North Main all the way to Echo Dell has had a lot done in the last fifty years, and I believe for the good.

Lots of history on that road. In the late forties, and early fifties, Mr. Fields owned eighty acres or more just north of Deener Creek on Rocky Branch Road. I understand some of his relatives still live across from Field’s Farm on that street.

During these years, and exactly a quarter mile south of 1701 North Main, on the west side of the road sat an old house occupied by a nice old man named only Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas was friendly to everyone who traveled that road, and waved as he saw folks passing. He loved growing a truck garden, and sharing with neighbors and friends.

His wife passed away in the early fifties, and he was lonely, as one might imagine. He was approaching his eighties, but still had spirit and an outgoing personality. I was only maybe ten, but I remember his good attitude and friendly way.

Mr. Thomas decided that life was shorter for some than others, and he should remarry. So, he found a delightful lady who shared his sentiments, and proposed. She accepted.

Everyone who lived on North Main and Johnson Road knew of or knew personally Mr. Thomas, and a group got together and decided to honor Mr. Thomas and his bride on their wedding night with a chivaree. In those days, there were very few honeymoon cruises to Acapulco and, in fact, any kind of ‘going away’ honeymoon was rare.

Now friends, you may have heard from your parents, or may have heard stories that, years ago, when a couple was married, the neighbors had license to perform a certain southern country ceremony. This ceremony or celebration was called a “chivaree,” which consisted of disturbing the newlyweds on their wedding night, at an inappropriate hour, generally around midnight, with fireworks, banging pots and pans, shouting, shooting off guns in the air, and other such raucous carryings on. I apprised my bride, Shelia, of this old tradition and, as she laughed at my description, she allowed as to how she thought this was the most awful and scurrilous dirty deed that ever could be perpetrated on two newlyweds, regardless of their age.

Mr. Thomas had married a nice lady named Lou Deaton, who was a widow, and had lived nearby. Several of the Bennett and Simpson clan, along with other assorted neighbors and friends, met and quietly sneaked up to the house at the appointed hour. The house was dark, presumably because the newlyweds were in bed, and most likely by this hour, asleep.

In retrospect, I think the Thomas’ expected this to take place since, when the lights came on later, they were both fully dressed, in anticipation of the group’s arrival. I believe they would have been disappointed not to be honored by this chivaree. It was an off-the-wall way to honor and give recognition to their wedding.

The commotion began, banging, shouting and carrying on, that would awaken the dead, much less two newlyweds. I think it was about this time too, that one of the young neighbors, in unbridled enthusiasm, hoping to create a real disturbance, stuck his single barrel 12 gauge under the house to shoot it off and, when he stuck it under the house, he inadvertently dug the muzzle in the dirt. When he pulled the trigger, it made a big bang, all right. The end of the barrel split, and curled back about two inches from the muzzle.

Fortunately that was all the damage that was done: he was lucky not to have been killed with a stunt like that. The Thomas’ had the lights on by this time, and came out and invited everyone in for refreshment, and to share a laugh at their own expense, and receive the congratulations of everyone who had a part in the chivaree.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas came to church several times later at the little Ballew Community Union church at the crossroads of Johnson Road and North Main. It was a pleasure to remember when Mrs. Thomas would stand up between Sunday school and the preaching service, and announce, “I’d like to sing a song.”

The preacher always said, “Well, O.K., Miz Thomas, tear loose, then.” So, Mrs. Thomas always cut into an enthusiastic rendition of, “I’ll be a Methodist Till I Die.”

And of chivarees, that’s the one and only time I recall ever being a part of such a thing, and the tradition has since long gone by the wayside, fortunately for newlyweds. For some I can think of, this would still be a fun-type celebration to perform today.

And indeed, like Shelia says, a low-down dirty, but fun, rotten trick to play on newlyweds.

Tom Pry

Tell Shelia that it reminds me of Mark Twain’s story of the guy who’d somehow run afoul of the residents of a small town, who rewarded his malfeasance by tarring and feathering him. Then, as they were getting ready to cap the performance by riding him out of town on a rail, someone asked the guy his opinion of the whole process.

Said he, according to Mr. Clemens, “If it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I think I’d just as soon walk.”

2005 FOOTNOTE: Guns seem to be dangerous things to tote to a chivaree or shivaree (I’ve seen it spelled both ways). I recently heard the story of a shivaree up around Heber Springs that was to have been triggered off (sorry about the pun) by a shotgun blast after everyone had stealthily assembled. Not all the participants had been clued in so, when the shotgun went off, one of the women in the crowd screamed and then proceeded to faint, so the party consisted of trying to bring the fainthearted back to conciousness.

Refreshments were still served, although somewhat quieter than originally planned.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


(Run originally 4/8/04 on our old site)

Dan E. Randle

When Ramona mentioned strawberry country it sparked some memories.

I think it was around the summer of 1949 that I got my first taste of picking strawberries. They paid us five cents a quart for picking them. It was tedious, backbreaking work for little pay. Mother would take my sister and me out to the strawberry fields early in the morning and pick us up later in the day. Nancy and I did this so we could make money for some little extras for ourselves. I'm sure you remember how little they paid women in those days. Even though mom had a college degree and was working as a dietician, she was still only making about a third of what a man was making. So, if we wanted anything other than the basics, we had to earn it. At ten years of age, there wasn't much you could do to earn money. So it was the strawberry fields for us.

After working the day in the fields, mom, Nancy and I would go to place on the Old Little Rock Highway (it was then the only one) where we would cap and cull the strawberries. Here again, they paid you five cents a quart to cap them, and you could keep the culls. Mom would make strawberry jam out of them. Those were the days you could buy a 48 quart case of strawberries for four dollars. Since we ate all our meals at the hospital, I got all the strawberries and shortcake I wanted. When I was a little older, I would make my shortcake in a big vegetable bowl and use one of the big cans of whipped cream over it. Why I didn't weigh two hundred pounds I don't know. If you remember I was so skinny that, if I turned sideways and stuck out my tongue, I looked like a zipper!

The strawberries produced in White County were the best I have ever eaten. They had just the right acid and sugar content to make your jaws tingle. The strawberries being produced now are huge, tasteless and mostly water. I grow them but I have never gotten the correct soil mix to have them taste like the ones I use to get. Someone told me that they had stopped raising strawberries where they used to; that’s too bad. Another part of the past fades away!

Now, to other things …

"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." -- Dave Barry

Goes along with my bumper sticker:

I may be getting older, but I refuse to grow up!

However, it no longer applies, since I have stopped drag racing with the young kids. The PPF couldn't last forever. If you're trying to figure out what "PPF" stands for, that’s Peter Pan Factor! Another indicator is that I no longer drive 80 or 90 mph on the freeway. Now I just set the cruise control at 70 and let the cars pass me.

It just popped into my head, Ernie, you should write something about some of the cars you have built. Especially your Corvette. Would be interesting reading.

Concerning Bee Rock, I remember that there was a dirt boat ramp down to the water sometime in the late 40's or early 50's. Mom used to take us there on picnics. In those days, it was so much fun; we didn't have all the electronic games or malls to occupy our spare time. With so many things for kids to do today, I don't understand why they are always complaining that "there's nothing to do.” They would really complain if they were somehow transported back to the days of our youth.

Of course, we were inventive and good at entertaining ourselves. I can remember a game we played with knives. You started with your legs spread facing your opponent. You each would throw the knife between your opponents feet trying for the half-way point each throw. If the knife didn't stick up in the ground, it didn't count. When it did, your opponent would have to bring one foot up to the knife. The object of the game was to see who could get their opponents feet together first. This game was never played with sandals on. If your opponent wasn't very good, you ended up with a few nicks in your shoes. What do you think they would do to kids today if they played this game? You’re right: off to detention.

One last Quote: "If you go through a day without learning something new, you have wasted a day" -- Dan Randle

Learning and doing keeps the mind fresh and young!

Tom Pry

The way I heard it was, “Growing older is mandatory; growing up is optional.”

Dan, I’d never argue with your memory, but my mind recalls a game called “Stretch” that worked just the opposite. Two of you faced each other and took turns throwing a knife towards the outside of the other’s feet. The rule here was that your successful stick had to be no farther from the foot than a hand spread ‘way out – like from the thumb to the end of the little finger. If it exceeded that, it didn’t count. Once the throw was adjudged “legal,” though, the person on the receiving end had to stretch their foot out to the knife. Then it was their turn to throw.

The game continued until one or the other was stretched out so far that they fell on their butt.

I remember this in particular because, one day during lunch, it was being played out in front of the high school (can you see knives in high schools today? Can you see a guy going to school WITHOUT a knife in OUR day?). Involved were a guy and, unusually, a gal. The lady shall remain nameless; let it suffice to say that (a) she felt she was the equal of any boy in school at anything, and didn’t mind telling you so; (b) she was of comfortably padded construction, especially below the waist; and (c) she was wearing one of those ultra-tight, long “pencil” skirts. She was of generous enough proportions that she shouldn’t’ve been wearing that skirt and, if she did, she shouldn’t have been playing “Stretch.”

But playing she was, and holding her own pretty well. It didn’t take too long before she and her opponent were at the point where it was obvious the next toss or two was going to take at least one of them out of play.

I’ll confess that I just couldn’t resist. I pulled out a piece of notebook paper and, as the young lady started the penultimate stretch, I put the sheet of paper up behind her ear … and tore it.

I never, before or since, saw a woman move that fast: together came the feet while, simultaneously, her hands moved to her rump to cover what she was just sure was an enormous rip in her overstretched skirt.

All of us onlookers enjoyed that.

Growing older is mandatory, growing up is – in some cases – impossible.

2005 Footnote: Ernie, re Dan’s suggestion about the Corvette. Since you’ve just returned from a couple-or-three days in Eureka Springs with all your Corvette buddies, can we get at least a photo of your marvelous macho machine? The car, I mean.