Several weeks ago, Roby Brock, the Little Rock business journalist and entrepreneur, asked me if I would take on a delightful assignment.
Roby was wanting to add a regular feature to his excellent magazine, Talk Business Quarterly. He would call it “Arkansas Institutions.”
He told me that he wanted to focus on “things, people, places that make Arkansas what it is — things you need to do or experience to really get your Arkansas bona fides. These could be well-known places like McClard’s, Cotham’s, a Razorback football game or floating the Buffalo, or they could be more obscure gems.”
How could I resist the invitation to be a part of a project such as that?
The most recent issue of Talk Business Quarterly can now be found at www.talkbusiness.net. It includes my story on the first Arkansas Institution we chose, Pine Bluff’s Sno-White Grill.
Across this state, there are restaurants where the locals gather to drink coffee, catch up on the town’s gossip, discuss the previous day’s sports events and talk politics. But few of those gathering spots have the longevity of Sno-White, which was founded in 1936, one year before Walt Disney produced his first full-length animated classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Bobby Garner, who purchased the Sno-White Grill in February 1970, is still there six mornings a week at 5:30 a.m. to open up. At age 73, Garner shows no signs of slowing down.
I hope you will read the story and let me know what you think.
We’re already getting nominations for future installments of “Arkansas Institutions.” For instance, I heard from Brian Crowne, the owner of George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. George’s has been around since 1927 and is indeed an institution.
Please send me a couple of things:
1. Your nominations for future institutions I should write about. These could be stores, streams, restaurants, sports rivalries, you name it.
2. Your memories of restaurants like the Sno-White Grill that are no longer with us. Bobby lamented the loss of places in Pine Bluff such as John Noah’s Restaruant over by the Norton Lumber Mill and the Wonderland.
You have the floor.
Whataburger in Russellville, the Ravine in Arkadelphia, the Gurdon Light and Cotham’s in Scott come to mind…too bad Peck’s is no longer around.
Cook’s Ice Cream in Hot Springs.
Pancake House (still going strong in Hot Springs).
Minute Man restaurants
Got one more…how about the AQ Chicken House in Fayetteville?
I fondly remember Emmy’s German Restaurant in Fort Smith. Back when Big Al was still back in the kitchen drinking Gin and cooking masterpieces of heavy German fare, and his lovely bride Emmy, whom he met and married in Germany when he was a young serviceman. Emmy would wander from table to table to visit, always remembered you, and after hours would bring out the gin and walk next door to their house to bring their beloved German Shepherd in for petting and snacking (glad the Health Department never caught on). They have both passed on, but their memory and legacy do continue with a new Emmy’s in a new location. Great food and ambience, but it just isn’t the same as it used to be.
Speaking of Cotham’s – The Travel Channel’s “Man Versus Food” attempted the Hubcap Burger out there yesterday. My source wasn’t sure who won.
I think it was called the Tupip Country Club in Amy. Back in the day they hosted an OBU / HSU night.
Bluedog and Paul: State Rep. Robert Moore bought all of the interior furnishings of Peck’s and has them on his farm in Arkansas City. He calls his place Peck’s Southeast. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is not a public facility. It’s Robert’s private hunting club. If Rep. Moore ever invites you to come down, though, do not turn down that invitation! — Rex
Oaklawn. Pancho’s in West Memphis (although the food isn’t so great now, but Pancho’s is still an institution). Southland. The Arlington. Fred’s Hickory Inn in Bentonville. The Coon Supper in Gillett.
The one I miss more than anything, hands down, no contest, is Bill’s Grill in Marion, on Hwy. 77 just across the city limits line. It was the best barbecue in three states, and they had beans and slaw and fried dill pickles that would make you cry. Building’s still there, restaurant’s been closed since the late 80s when Bill had a bad spell with his health. I won my first feature-writing prize with my story on that.
Klappenbach Bakery in Fordyce is an Arkansas landmark. Norm and Lee and their son, Paul, bake up those “outta this world” sweet treats and also feed us those healthy – – and delicious – – sandwiches and soups. Known in Fordyce and around Arkansas as “The Bakery,” it is a must visit! They are currently closed because of a fire in June. HOWEVER, they will be re-opening SOON!!! Come to Fordyce to the Bakery! Call the Chamber of Commerce (870-352-3520) for info on the date when they will re-open. As Fordyce native the late Mr. Louis Ramsey would say, “Fordyce, Fordyce – Twice as nice as Paradise!” Come see us!
Kilgore Brothers General Store was on the Southside of Fordyce by the old Cotton Belt Depot. I’m not sure when it opened, but I do know that Bear Bryant worked there as a stock boy. There was a long bench that ran across the front porch of the store, and men would sit there year round, drinking–my Momma would say, and often you could see a brown paper sack being passed around.
Before I could make change, my Momma sent me in with money for items like pickling lime and salt pork. Sometimes, my Momma would buy her weekly groceries there, and I might be able to get a treat like a Hershey bar that had cherries in the middle (a short-lived experiment in the early 60’s).
Sometimes when Momma was shopping, I would sneak away and roam the store to the “other” side where they had horse saddles, chicken feed and hardware. I can still smell the leather and stale feed. There was an upstairs somewhere on that side, and I remember seeing people going up there sometimes, but I never knew what was up there.
When I was a teenager Kilgore’s started making the best hamburgers Fordyce has ever had, except for maybe my great aunt’s stand, Lela’s, that once stood across from Kilgore’s. Even the country club folks would come pick up a bag of hamburgers in what had become a run-down building on the wrong side of town.
Kilgore’s closed in the 1970’s. I sometimes drive past the lot where it once stood. I see a portable barbecue stand about the spot where the bench-load of men once sat. I have never stopped to get one of the sandwiches from stand, but I know it would never be as good as the hamburger’s that Kilgore Brothers made.
THE CATTLEMAN’S in Texarkana.
Lots ‘o good (& bad) politics there- along with the
Here are a few ideas, Rex:
Ed Walker’s Drive-In, Fort Smith (only curbside beer service in AR)
Bulldog Drive-In, Bald Knob
Gone But Not Forgotten:
Roy Fisher’s, North Little Rock
Pete’s Place, Fort Smith (there is still a “Re-Pete’s, but Martine Bercher and the original location on South A are history)
Burns Gables Restaurant, Winslow (a childhood stop to/from Razorback games and on Sunday trips)
Milton: I do indeed love the Bulldog in Bald Knob, especially in May when it is strawberry shortcake season. That is the best strawberry shortcake you can find in a restaurant — Rex
I appreciate Barbara Dalby’s glowing memories of Kilgore Brothers on Main Street in Fordyce because my family owned it. I worked there as a kid in the 1960s and 1970s until it closed in the late 70s and subsequently burned in a suspicious fire. My grandmother, Fern Kilgore Nutt, managed it during its latter years; she was Paul “Bear” Bryant’s first cousin and married to Harry “Sadie” Nutt, who played end on the Redbug championship team with Paul and whose people owned Nutt’s Cash Store, also on Main Street.
In addition to the fine burgers, the best cook in Fordyce, Rosie–who cooked behind the counter at Boco Grocery for my uncle Deen Kilgore for many years–cooked a tremendous lunch buffet and several kinds of pies each day. My uncle Roy Kilgore, who operated the old Kilgore Hotel, would take money from the buffet customers, but he couldn’t see that many were taking enough pork chops, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and greens to feed their whole families in to-go boxes intended for one person.
Uncle Deen also baked wonderful hams in the same oven Rosie used for pies, decorating each one with canned pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. He also made beef, pork, and chicken barbecue sandwiches, hot links, and barbecued chickens that were wrapped and sold under heat lamps near the back of the store. He innovated all these ideas long before it was common for grocery stores to offer deli sections with freshly-cooked food and prepared sandwiches to grab and go.
Like Barbara, I remember the warehouses that held livestock feed, a huge coal oil dispenser, saddles and tack. rolls of linoleum, cases of groceries, and more. The upstairs she remembers was used for storage by the time I was old enough to remember it; originally, Dale Kilgore had an office up there, and there was a tiny little bathroom up there for the employees. I don’t know about the lady customers, but the old men who congregated on the converted church pews on the front porch and sipped from pints of wine in paper sacks usually relieved themselves behind the store (or behind Blann Dry Cleaners, which was next door), around the incinerator, or in the weeds along the nearby railroad tracks.
I just discovered this web site, and I’m wondering if anyone knows whatever happened to the incredibly-splendid Fern Kilgore. I’m trying to sort out…I think her parents ran a motel in Fordyce, maybe with a restaurant? Fern was a great friend of my Mother, Ruth Ellis. At one point, Fern married Jimmy Anthony of the Anthony Motels in Hot Springs. They eventually divorced. One story I remember is that Fern had a Lincoln Continental custom painted to match a gorgeous suit she owned. She was not just a great beauty either. She was smart, witty, and hilarious, not to mention a crack shot. She and my Mother used to take me with them to shoot tin cans off fences, and to shoot mistletoe out of trees in the winter. The last time I spoke with her was 1978 upon the death of my Mother. She was some sort of a deputy over in Little Rock. Does anybody know if she’s still alive, and if so, where? I remember her with tremendous affection.
Cherie, as far as I know, Fern Kilgore, who we in the family called “Fern Deen,” is still living in Little Rock and is a court reporter. She was always kind to me when I was a little fellow, even when I was embarassed to go to Fern Deen’s cosmetics store on Main Street in Fordyce to pick up makeup for my mother.