Oldtimer's Notebook, September 6, 2023


The publishers of The Eagle Democrat have chosen to publish articles from the past Oldtimer’s Notebook in memory of Robert L. Newton. This article was first published July 25, 2001.

Funny how memories of childhood rise up as one gets ever-closer to age 72, to wit:

It had to be 60 years ago; perhaps more.

My mother and her sister were serving the Thursday night meal to the Y’s Mens Club, a now-defunct eatin’ meetin’ for young men that met each Thursday night on the third floor of the old wooden YMCA.

This was before “babysitting” existed: I tagged along and was usually given a dime with which to repair to Glasgow’s just north of Warren Printing’s current site on Main, for a hot dog and a Coke (five cents each).

A girl my age or younger came into Glasgow’s and nervously ordered a hamburger which was prepared and set before her as she sat at the counter.

“That’s ten-cents”, said the clerk.

But the girl only had a nickel: hurriedly, she got off the stool and all but ran from the place.

Not content with the kid’s embarrassment and consternation, the clerk twisted the knife as she fled: “I was afraid of that”, he said.

There are things one never forgets: like the girl with the nickel…I think she still makes her home in Warren town.


It’s hard for young folks of the current day and time to realize what the “hard times” of the 1930s were like.

As the historian Arthur Schlesinger, a friend of Jack Kennedy’s, recalls: When we went to bed at night, we had to wind our watches since the battery-powered ones were still to come. When we got dressed in the mornings, we first put on one-piece BVD underwear (remember when “the Kingfish” on “Amos and Andy”, the radio show, thought he had amnesia and was convinced his name was “Buster V. Davenport” since those were the initials on his underwear?)

BVD underwear has gone the way of all flesh, like “undershirts” which got suspended during World War II by what we now call “T-Shirts”.

Back then, when we bought a suit, it came with two pairs of trousers and a coat.

After putting on pants (no blue jeans, no khakis) we had to button our flies since zippers didn’t appear until the second administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president of the United States: zippers were not particularly dependable in those days which could cause acute embarrassment on dates. Garters held up socks; we tied our shoes (loafers were unknown).

When we wanted a sandwich, we had to get out a knife to slice the bread: sliced bread was still to come. When men went outdoors, those over 18 that is, they put on a hat…a wooly or felt one in the winter, straw one in the summer.

Nobody wore a baseball cap; not a single soul existed who wore a cap backward unless he was a catcher in a baseball game.

Hatless Jack Kennedy destroyed the hat business over 40 years ago.

Back then, when we had writing to do, we brandished a fountain pen we’d filled with ink with a bottle. The ballpoint pen was still to come. Nobody had any idea what a word processor might be and they wouldn’t find out for two generations.

Telephone calls a nickel: in many an area of Warren town, people would go to a neighbor’s to “use the phone”.

The late Eva Pennington Davis, a friend of the past, told about a neighbor coming to use her phone: the neighbor’s child had been bitten by a rabid dog. The child later died in unspeakable agony.

A Depression joke had it that President Herbert Hoover asked somebody to borrow five cents to call a friend. Somebody handed the hapless Hoover a dime and quipped: “Call both of ‘em”.

Back then, if we had a letter to mail, we licked a 2-cent stamp: Rufus Johnson and/or Stanton Bartram and/or Shelton Adams delivered mail to your house twice a day. If the message was urgent, you sent it “special delivery” which set you back 10 cents. If the message was profoundly-extreme, you’d got to the lobby of the Southerland Hotel where Mrs. Meek Singer, of Western Union, would put your message on the wire.

When it rained, we carried a black umbrella. When we traveled, men called “Red Caps” were there to handle our luggage. Suitcases had no wheels. When you were sick, doctors came to your house (in Warren town, at least one still makes this reassuring trek). Doctors had no penicillin to prescribe; people including the doctors smoked all the time. The Pastime had a balcony. Over half of it was reserved for minority patrons: uproarious laughter would erupt therefrom over what folks now would consider Profound Embarrassments like “Step and Fetchit”.

The remaining one third of the balcony at the Pastime was called “the passion pit” where teenagers would sit and grapple with one another as folk like Myrna Loy and Clark Gable did the same sort of thing on the silver screen.

The lamented “Arkansas Gazette” came out in the mornings, the “Arkansas Democrat” in the afternoons.

People knew little about “The Commercial” of Pine Bluff and absolutely nothing about the “Bradley Cleveland County Shoppers Guide”, now age 26 and maturing gracefully.

A haircut at Mr. Kenneth B. (Shorty) Montgomery’s establishment provided by Mr. Montgomery or by Messrs. Oscar Koehler, Senior, Horace Ashcraft, or “Slim” Offut cost 50 cents: you even got your back brushed with a long whisk broom brandished by Pat Patton, who also shined shoes, or by John Brunson, Thomas Brunson’s brother, who did the same thing (their dad was one of three minority physicians in town: Dr. John Brunson, Dr. John White, and H.H. Rhinehard, M.D., whose little office still stands on North Myrtle).

As noted above, cigarettes were very popular: their cost was 15 cents a pack; some folks bought cigarette papers and rolled their own, using brands like “Bugler” or “Bull Durham”.

Morgan and Linsey, on South Main, sold stuff for a nickel or a dime: Ruby Dickerson Garrison worked there (she later worked for years at Moseley Furniture and Hardware, then Ashcraft’s).

Charles Kelly Adams came to Warren seven decades and more ago as Morgan and Linsey manager. He married an area girl named Florine Ross: the named their eldest son, Charles Ross Adams.

Back then, we had no television, no air conditioning (we were fearful we’d get colds on infrequent trips to Little Rock by going into a cooled stores like Kempner Cohn’s, Blass, and Pfeiffers).

There were no electric blankets, women just didn’t wear pants or slacks often at all: double-knit very far into the future, as were “warm ups”, “sweats”, “headbands”.

When we drove, we shifted get and lowered windows by hand.

Cars had a choke and a running board; earlier ones had windshield that could be “cranked out”.

There were no directional signals, you stuck your arm out the window to tell folks behind you what you contemplated doing.

Gasoline cost under 20 cents a gallon at Rose Oil where Kentucky Fried now flourishes on South Main.

Lots of memories: they rest don’t bless and burn it all.


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