Collection: James Whitlow
Scanned by James Whitlow
Main Street Looking East
As the photographer steps out on West Main Street on this cold, cloudy and windy day in the late 1950’s, one of his thoughts is not to get hit by one of the vehicles that is traveling on the very busy Highway 67. Before the Interstate Highway System, US Highway 67 was the major road between St. Louis and the Midwest area to the State of Texas. Motels, gas stations, cafes and other businesses sprang up along Highway 67 to serve the traveling public. Most of the business were small “mom and pop” places that were locally owned and were scattered in small towns and rural areas along the highway. Most of the major brands of gasoline were sold in Walnut Ridge such as Gulf, Esso, Lion, Phillip 66, Texaco and Pure as well as the independent dealers. It seems that they all kept an eye on each others gas prices and when one gas dealer would drop his price, the others would follow. There would be times when a “gas war” would occur. Gas prices would get down in the teens for a gallon of gas. How many motels or hotels can you name that were in Walnut Ridge? The Lawrence Hotel, The Alamo Courts, Walridge Motel and Johnson Courts are some that come to mind. What about eating places? McDonald’s, Sonic, Subway. I don’t think so. Some that come to mind are the Davy Crockett, the Salad Bowl, Hob Nob, The Grill and the long lasting fixture in Walnut Ridge, Jack Allison’s Polar Freeze.
Businesses on the right-side of the street
When the photographer gets his camera in focus, the businesses he views on the right side of the street are Kroger Grocery and Burrow Hardware where bicycles are on display outside of the business. I wonder if R. D. Burrow was making up any “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” sale signs that day? Next is the Arkansas-Missouri Power Company office where customers could go and pay their electric bill and complain about it being five dollars. “Way to high” they would say. The business next to Ark-Mo is the Citizens Bank and down on the corner is The Grill where Grover Gent’s motto was “Where You Meet, Greet and Eat.” Across the street, Frankie Wilcoxson and staff had all the clothing merchandise that a family would need. The next two stores were our Five and Dime Stores with the Howards having the Sterlings Store and the Henry Family owning the Ben Franklin store. A few years later after this photo was taken, all the young guys would like to go to Ben Franklins and see that pretty little red headed Henry girl. Warner’s Pharmacy is the next business, which today is the new home of The Hotel Rhea and the Venue. More information about the Hotel Rhea can be found at thehotelrhea.com. Down the street and across the railroad tracks is a sign for Pure gas.
Businesses on the left-side of the street
On the left side the photographer can see that next Tuesday, “The Curse of Frankenstein” Will Haunt You Forever will be showing at the Sharum Theater and R. S. Choate was next door selling real estate. The oldest business in Walnut Ridge is Sexton’s Drug which was started in 1886 and next is Sloan’s Department Store where they sold Tuf-Nut Jeans. They were good Arkansas made jeans, but the best thing about them – you got a free pocket knife with a purchase of jeans. The Children’s Center and Robb’s Gifts are the next stores followed by Robert’s Shoe. Carl Maloy’s Hardware is next with First National Bank on the corner. Crossing the street, Moore Brothers has a feed and seed store and you can see the Van-Atkins sign in the distance. There are more stores on that end of Main Street which will be covered in a future article. As the photographer steps back on the sidewalk, he looks up and gives thanks for his safety. He was glad that Roger Waddell or some of his buddies weren’t driving down main street that day.