Sunday, July 12, 2009
There it stands. Bright red-orange. A Phillips 66 sign out in the middle of the green, green southeast Arkansas boondocks, bigger’n Dallas. We’re talking a couple of miles or so down a gravel county road and all of a sudden you see a relatively new building with an ancient fillin’ station sign standing guard. It was immediately obvious that it was not a service station. The curiosity klaxon was resounding in my little pea brain.
Although there was a fine looking old, old house on the premises, there was a car in the driveway and a light on in the house across the road, so I decided my investigation would start there. To my pleasant surprise, the lady of the house exited the front door about the time I exited the truck. I stepped over her split-rail fence, mused that long legs ought to be good for something, and introduced myself. Fortunately she caught the humor in my observation and I made the acquaintance of Gail Lane.
I asked Gail about the building. She quickly explained. Her brother, Dr. Randy Barrett, superintendent of schools at Gentry, Arkansas, and his wife Regina took it upon themselves to put the building up as a gathering place for the family. Next question: Why the fillin’ station motif? Turns out Regina’s father operated a grocery store near Tarry, Arkansas, for a number of years. She wanted the building to emulate her father’s store, West Grocery.
Her father’s old store building (below) is still standing but vacant on US Highway 425 between Pine Bluff and Star City, Arkansas. As you can see, the windows and door arrangement of the new building follow the old building. The Conoco sign and old gas pump at the new building came from the old one.
The old, old house I mentioned earlier is indeed old. It was completed in 1895. The current occupant of the house is Gail’s mother, 85-year-old Laverne Lyle Barrett, who was born in the house. Laverne’s grandfather, William Henry Lyle, built the house. Laverne’s father, Cullen W. Lyle, was born on family property in 1887. At the time of Cullen Lyle's birth, the family was still residing in the original log house, which was constructed by her grandfather when the family first arrived in the area.
Laverne is not certain of the exact year of the family’s arrival. However, her father was the youngest of five Lyle boys, all of whom were born in the cabin, so it’s not beyond the imagination that the Lyles were residents of the area around the time of the War Between the States, otherwise known as the Civil War.
The Lyles, Barretts, Lanes, and their kin deserve our admiration. Here’s a family still headquartered where it all started well over 120 years ago. Here’s a family who, after that many years, believes that it’s important to have a special place for them to get together and celebrate. Remember it well.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.