A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Walk Down Main Street

In a previous post, I talked about the wonderful Parsley’s Store, Waldron’s five and dime. Let’s take a little stroll along the rest of Main Street, shall we? I don’t remember every store, circa 1965, but certain ones stand out in my memory. I may have some of the locations mixed up, and not all of them may have been in operation at the same time, but I’ll get as close as I can.

Walking on the west side of Main, heading north, a little past Parsley’s, was Plemmons’ Store. Some of you young folks will remember it as Bethel’s, but in my childhood it was Plemmons’. I always thought of it as kind of upscale; we bought some things there but not a lot. It was kind of Waldron’s Dillard’s. But every summer, they had a huge sale, and there was quite often a line on the first day of the sale to get a door prize. I made it in the line one time and got a trash can as a prize. A little past Plemmons’ was a door that led upstairs to Hazel’s Beauty Shop. Mama didn’t treat herself to a beauty shop appointment very often, and normally when she did she went to Sybil Cabe’s Beauty Shop which was actually part of her house on Featherston just a short distance from our house. My sister and I always went with her, and we loved it because Sybil kept Highlights Magazine; a real treat for a kid. Anyway, Hazel’s was upstairs, and since there weren’t many things in Waldron that required stairs, it was an adventure.

Past Plemmons’ was The Ladies and Mens Shop, which I seem to recall, had a lot more ladies clothes than men’s. It also seemed kind of upscale to me. Next to The Ladies and Mens Shop was Otasco, short for Oklahoma Tire and Supply. I believe that Mr. Crutchfield owned Otasco when I was a kid, and then later it was purchased by John Evans. It was a wondrous place. My sister and I once got brand new 26-inch bikes from Otasco. They were beautiful; hers was blue and mine red, complete with headlights and those little platforms above the rear tire for carrying a passenger. I remember we picked them up from some kind of storage area near the telephone office, but I don’t remember where exactly. They were great bikes.

Past Otasco was Marsh Dry Goods. Marsh’s was our clothing store of choice. Walking in to Marsh’s, you were immediately hit with the incredibly wonderful smell of leather and denim. Marsh’s had everything; shoes and boots, men’s clothing, women’s, and kids’. The Yates boys got our Wrangler jeans at Marsh’s. Not only did you get a pair of jeans, but inside the pocket was a half-sized comic book about cowboys and rodeos. I wish I’d kept those!

At the end of Main were the two drug stores, Owens Drug and B&B. Our family always used Owens Drug, and we trusted Renee as much as we did Dr. Wright. Usually we were just there for medicine, but on occasion we got to stop at the counter and get something from the fountain. The only time I remember going to B&B was one time when there was a big encephalitis scare, and the whole town was taking sulpha drugs. Owen’s was out, so we got ours at B&B. Later on, when I was in high school, I got a job at B&B as janitor, delivery boy and occasional soda jerk.

Crossing Main, and now walking on the east side of the highway heading south, we can look back toward the north and see a couple of interesting places. I’m just looking, because I wasn’t really allowed to go there. The first place is the Pool Hall. If we were on that part of the block, we usually just hurried past, although I did occasionally steal a glance just to see what it looked like in there. Mama didn’t intend for any of the Yates boys to grow up and become pool players. A little farther north, in a little storefront that didn’t even have a sign, was an establishment known to all as Frankie’s Clip Joint. It was owned by Frankie Dean. I always heard that Frankie was a former boxer, and that he had photos of famous boxers on the walls of the Clip Joint. I never knew exactly what Frankie sold; I heard he had a little lunch counter in there but never having set foot in the place, I don’t know that for sure. One of my classmates, Terry Nichols, had a paper route and Frankie’s was where he picked up the papers for delivery each morning. One day he came to school with one of those whistle rings, the kind you blow on and get a sound like a siren. He got it at Frankie’s for a dime. Needless to say, we all turned in our orders and, dutifully, Terry came back to school with whistle rings for all of us.

Frankie Dean was truly a Waldron Original. I came across his and his wife’s headstone at Duncan Cemetery one time, and I noticed that the headstone had the simple inscription, “Show People.” I imagined Frankie and his wife as vaudeville comedians, or perhaps working in Hollywood during the Golden Age of movies. I asked my dad about the “Show People” inscription one time, and he kind of burst my bubble. He said he thought they had always worked with the carnival.

Oliver’s Jewelry was another Waldron institution. My most significant memory of there was the watch that Mama gave me on my 11th birthday. My first watch; I was so proud of it. It came from Oliver’s, as did the initial ring that I got the next year. Crutchfield’s Restaurant was next. We didn’t get to eat there often, but when we did it was a real treat. I remember that they kept a little basket near the cash register filled with what appeared to be little pills, and each one had “DOPE” imprinted on it. When you pulled the sections of the capsule apart, you found a little piece of paper with a fact about Waldron or Scott County. You were getting the “dope” on Waldron.

The Ben Franklin Store was next, built on what used to be the Buzzard’s Roost. I loved that store; you can read more about it on my previous “Back to School” post. Somewhere in this area of Main was, briefly, United Dollar Store. That store didn’t last long, but it was a really neat place. I remember buying a bunch of fishing stuff there. Waldron Hardware located in the next block south. It’s another place I didn’t visit often. It was owned by Thurman Jones. The Scott Theater was nearby. Although my dad had worked as a projectionist for the theater back in the 1940’s, the “moving picture shows” were preached against strongly at Waldron Assembly of God, so I was banned from the theater. I once asked my dad what went on there, and he said they showed a movie on a big screen up in front. The only screen I knew anything about was the screen on our screen door, so I could never figure out how anyone could watch a movie on something that had that many holes in it.

Next to the theater was Cagle’s Barber Shop. I was a regular customer of Cagle, after graduating from my dad’s haircuts as a small kid. I always got a crew cut, which was perfect for my active childhood. A crew cut doesn’t take much preparation in the morning. My hair was a little longer when my dad cut it, and I always wanted it parted. I didn’t know the word for part, so I just told Mama that I wanted a road in my hair like Pat Boone. Oh, the power of TV.

Once when I was about 7, Cagle was out of cigarettes, so he sent me over to the Seamon Store to get a pack of Camels. The Seamon store was somewhere in that same block, and it was run by Robert Craig. I was very fearful that someone from church would see me buying a pack of Camels, and assume that I intended them for my own use. “Smoking!” they would think. “What’s next, going to the movies?” But I would not disappoint Cagle, so I gristled up and got those Camels. But I was sure glad to get back to the barber shop and get rid of them!

At the end of the block, across from Parsley’s was Rice Furniture and Appliance. As I’ve posted before, I was less interested in the merchandise inside the store than I was in the empty refrigerator boxes outside. You could have a lot of fun with a good refrigerator box. However, shortly before they moved to the bypass, Mama bought a coppertone colored electric range there, and it still works today.

Mama used to tell me how, on a Saturday, there would be so many people on Main Street that you could barely make your way down the sidewalk.