Sweet Memories of Little Rock

It’s only fitting a blog titled “Little Rock Love” should have a loving Valentine’s Day post about its namesake.

1940s-era post card showing Main Street, Little Rock, AR

I didn’t grow up in Little Rock, but my family made frequent trips from Stuttgart, in southeastern Arkansas, to the capital city. It was a treat to go to Little Rock, and treats usually awaited me there.

By the time I came along, the retail center of Little Rock had shifted away from Main Street. The place to shop was the new McCain Mall in North Little Rock and the open-air Park Plaza mall on University Avenue. The neighboring University Mall was within a block of Park Plaza; I never understood why two shopping centers were built so close together.

I regret not getting to experience the hustle and bustle of Little Rock’s Main Street as it existed until the early 1970s. I was born in 1969 and by the time I was old enough to remember our family’s shopping trips, that era had passed. I have seen photos of the crowded sidewalks, the “vintage” automobiles parked along the busy street and families dressed up to do their Saturday “trading” in department stores such as MM Cohn and Pfeiffer-Blass. I’ve heard my husband and family members relay memories of seeing movies in one of the four downtown movie theaters.

Even so, I have fond memories of shopping trips to McCain Mall, the shiny new retail center of my youth. We’d shop at JC Penney and Dillard’s, and visit the mall Santa Claus at Christmastime. We’d often see movies at the theater inside. On many trips we’d have along my grandparents or one of my great-great aunts who loved having lunch at Franke’s Cafeteria there. My mother was a big fan of Franke’s tomato aspic salad, which to this child, was the most unappetizing form of Jello I could imagine. (I’ve made peace with it now.)

What my childhood dreams were made of - the candy store inside Farrell's

To a child, nothing was as sweet as a birthday party at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, which included an ice cream sundae with a candle on top and a serenade by one of the waiters in a straw-brimmed hat. No trip to Farrell’s was complete – for me – without a visit to the world’s greatest candy store just inside its doors. Surely I wasn’t the only child who bought the most enormous piece of jaw breaker candy they offered, simply because it was too tempting to resist – despite there being absolutely no way it would ever fit in my mouth. Sometimes my mother would intervene and insist I get a jaw breaker of more reasonable size.

I recall many night-time rides back to Stuttgart, lying in the back seat of my family’s Oldsmobile watching the moon and the stars through the back window, seeing the power lines and street lights pass above. I often slept on the way home, though it was only about an hour’s drive. I can see myself now, drifting in and out of consciousness while my chin grows sticky from the jaw-breaker-laced-saliva escaping from my mouth.

Sweet memories indeed!

9 thoughts on “Sweet Memories of Little Rock

  1. Ashli,
    ahh…Farrell’s. What I remember most is the player piano, and of course, their signature dessert – the Zoo. It could feed an army! And I guess there’s one other thing I remember about that place – that’s where I met my wife…about 33 years ago.
    We were in 8th or 9th grade, and a friend’s cousin was having her birthday party at Farrell’s. It was a boy/girl thing, so it was kind of a big deal from what I remember. Anyway, I also remember this strawberry blonde girl. Braces, a little loud, but what girl isn’t at that age? So we were introduced and I thought nothing of it.
    Until sometime during our sophomore year in high school. So that would have been about 1979? She asked me to her Mt. St. Mary prom. I didn’t have a baseball game, so I said “yep”. We dated about 7 years beyond that, and have been married now for 25 years. So Farrell’s does bring back fond memories for me as well.
    And life hasbeen a Zoo ever since!

  2. Ahhh, I loved Farrell’s too. I had my 13th birthday there with a bunch of girls with a bunk n party planned after….we were so hyped up on sugar I don’t think we slept the entire night. I loved something I think was a ‘pig trough’ ice cream menagerie with everything but the kitchen sink that we would all share. I also had the best time ever with my little red haired sister, especially when she was trying to get that baseball sized jaw breaker in her mouth!

  3. Jerry Dean here. Worked with KB 1980s at the Gaz. I was reared in LR, 1945-65 and well remember all in that photo, from Sears at 7th & Main past the Boyle Bldg., to the Grady Manning Hotel on the river in the distance. My aunt lived in DeWitt. She came to visit for holidays. Downtown LR was a holiday wonderland then. Shoppers at Pfeifer Bros., where my Dad worked, at Blass, Cohn’s, Moses Melody Shop, Kempner’s, and all 3 major theaters. There was actual Bustle, window displays, electric train layouts, music literally in the air! The big green KTHS radio letters floated on a facade above Main Street. Walgreen’s at Capitol and Main was THE gathering place beneath its huge red, white and blue Capital Pride, Finkbeiner’s meat packing neon sign. Wish I could revisit all that just once. But Thom Wolfe was right. Cannot go home again! Cheers from East Tennessee.

    • Thank you for sharing your vivid and happy memories, Jerry! I’m so encouraged by recent redevelopment announcements and efforts already underway downtown. It’ll never be like it was in your childhood but I hope it becomes more than it has been the last few decades. Cheers from Little Rock.

  4. Loved your blog…I grew up in Mabelvale right out of Little Rock and spent a lot of time downtown. My mother worked in the Bargain Basement at Pfeifer’s, and then Pfeifer-Blass. We would ride the bus into town with her and spend time on Main Street and at the Library. Wonderful times, especially at Christmas. It was a winter wonderland. We would go to the lunch counter at Walgreens and pop a balloon for the price of our banana split. If we were lucky we got to go to the movies too!!!!! Best memories of Little Rock……

    • My grandmother used to take me to the Bargain Basement back around 1973 or so. She worked part time in a nearby business. I don’t remember the business, just that it had a lot of desks with phones with lots of buttons that I loved. My grandmother was a bit of a character that carried a pistol and drove fast cars. My young self loved to tag along with her wherever she went. She hung out downtown a lot back then and seemed to know everyone. I have tried in vain to remember where the Bargain Basement was. I once got on a tricycle and sped down a ramp in that store. Do you remember where that store was? Thanks.

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