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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Beta Club Convention

One of the highlights of my high school years was the annual trip to Little Rock for the state Beta Club convention.  It was held the last weekend in January, and Waldron would send a bus full of excited 10th - 12th graders each year.  In the early 70's, our superintendent, L.R. Sawyer, was on the state board of directors for the Beta Club and Eddie Harrison, our sponsor, was state chairman.  So Waldron was always well represented at the convention.

Trips to even Fort Smith were somewhat rare for us, so a trip to the thriving state capitol city of Little Rock was a sheer delight.  We marveled at the huge buildings and crowds of people.  One year, our bus ran out of fuel in the middle of Markham Avenue, so we got an extended view of downtown Little Rock until help arrived.
 We always stayed at the Sam Peck Hotel in downtown Little Rock.  We stayed four to a room usually, and we found the accommodations there quite luxurious.  The hotel staff must have been quite patient with a hotel full of high school students, and I recall that they all treated us with great respect.  After unpacking our luggage, we were eager to hit the streets of the Big City before the convention got under way later that evening.  One of our first stops was always a wondrous place called Woolworth's.
Woolworth's was downtown, within walking distance
 of the Sam Peck.  It was a true five and dime store, similar to our beloved Parsley's back home but many, many times larger.  We would spend hours looking through the rows of novelties, or maybe get our pictures taken in the little booth that took three pictures for a quarter.  They also had a lunch counter that was always quite busy with businessmen and women who where grabbing a quick bite for lunch. 
 I don't remember exactly what I bought there, but for some reason I saved my sack, along with my cash register receipt.  Always frugal, I bought two items that were thirty-nine cents each.  Whatever they were, they have been lost to time, but not the sack they came in.  The slogan on their sack is quite accurate; Woolworth was a fun place to shop!  After wandering around Woolworth for a while, we would then stroll back toward the hotel, but we had one more stop to make.  The drive to Little Rock had left us hungry, and the greatest burger joint on the planet was right on our way.

The last remaining Minute Man on the planet, located in Pine Bluff.  Looks just like I remember the one in Little Rock looking.

Still on the menu, my favorite, the Number 5.  I always got mine without onions.(Previous two photos from Kat Robinson's excellent blog TieDyeTravels.com)

 Yes, I seem to have saved a napkin as a memento.  Perhaps I knew that 38 years later, I would still be talking about the great hamburgers we got at Minute Man.  Minute Man was a chain of hamburger places throughout the south, and their burgers were something to look forward to.  I always ordered the Number 5 without onions.  This was a traditional cheeseburger that was topped with chili.  It was so delicious, I can almost taste it now!  In all my many travels in the past 38 years, I've never had a hamburger that tasted better than a Number 5 without onions.  (However, the Rooster Burger from The Red Rooster in Alma is a close, close second!)  I can remember how sad it felt on the last day of the convention when I had my last Number 5 without onions and knew it would be a year before I could have another one.
 Life back at the Sam Peck was exciting.  Our school bus carried us to the meetings that were held in Robinson Auditorium, but in the time we were not at the convention we got to hang out, usually in the hall, and visit.  In this picture, it looks like John York, Lisa Davis, Terry Plummer, and several others are doing something productive like playing cards.  The sessions of the convention consisted of a lot of speeches, but there was also a talent competition that was pretty entertaining.  There was also elections for state officers, and one year one of our classmates, Argie Franklin, ran for a state office (Vice-President, I think).  That was exciting, because we all got to participate in a short skit that we performed on stage after her speech.  I portrayed The Devil in the skit, and had to wear a pair of long underwear that had been dyed red, along with a pitchfork and a set of horns.  I have a picture, but I chose not to share.
Terry Plummer contemplates a phone call
Mr. Harrison, our long-suffering sponsor, kept us out of trouble.  But we were pretty good kids, and nobody was really trying to cause any problems.  Nothing major, at least.  I remember one year when Terry Plummer called the front desk and informed them, "Hello, my name is Eddie Harrison in room 304.  I'd like a wake-up call in the morning at 3:30 a.m."  The tolerant front desk attendant, recognizing that the call had not come from room 304, called Mr. Harrison and asked him to please encourage the students not to be making prank calls to the front desk.

Me, Eddie Saucier, and Paul Frazier play a game of cards
in our room at the Sam Peck
Finally, Sunday Morning would roll around, and it
would be time to load back up on the bus and head back to Waldron.  The noise and excitement of the trip to the convention would be replaced by tired young people who preferred sleeping to talking.  When we arrived back at the gym, we would tote our luggage and our tired bodies over to our parents' cars.  But, although we were tired, we knew we had seen some sights, and shared some laughs, and made some memories.  Now, just 12 more months, and it will be time to do it all over again!


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