Saturday, April 12, 2014

Those wonderful people out there in the dark

As Yorkshire Pudding and maybe Pat (an Arkansas stamper) know,
I grew up in the little town of Mansfield, Texas, when it boasted fewer than a thousand residents and a one-block-long business district with a traffic signal at either end. Today Mansfield has more than 60,000 residents and lots of traffic signals, but never mind.

There wasn’t much to do in Mansfield when I lived there. There were high school football games on Friday nights during autumn. For a while there was a popular teen-age hangout/burger joint/dance venue called Curry’s on the north edge of town. It’s been gone for decades, but I worked behind the counter there in 1958, serving up burgers and fries and milk shakes right beside Mrs. Curry and her daughters Wanda and Suzy. In 1959 a local boy, Billy Hogg, built the Kow-Bell Indoor Rodeo Arena just down the road, and it drew folks from all over, but it’s gone now, too, torn down in 2004 to be replaced with the town’s fourth high school, Legacy High School, which welcomed 2,100 students on its opening day in 2007. But I digress.

The only steady entertainment in Mansfield in the old days was the Farr Best Theater, which had been run by the Farr family since 1917. In the years I sat before its silver screen it was run by Roy Farr, Mary Ann’s father. Mary Ann was a couple of years ahead of me in school and we took piano lessons from the same teacher. (Historical note: Mansfield had only two piano teachers in those days, Miss Clara Malone and Mrs. Alyne Eagan. Mary Ann and I, along with Loretta Turner and Butch Evans and Barbara Pigg and a few others, took lessons from Mrs. Eagan until she married a Mr. Cyrus and moved away to Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’m digressing again.)

Tickets to the Farr Best Theater were 25 cents for students -- this was in the days when a haircut at C.B. Gilstrap’s barber shop cost 75 cents -- and I remember sitting at the Farr Best and watching such unforgettable classics (it is to laugh) as Golden Earrings starring Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich, and Destry Rides Again starring Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich (I think Mr. Farr had a thing for Marlene Dietrich) , and Repeat Performance starring nobody I ever heard of except Richard Basehart, and even Them, a science fiction thriller starring a nest of gigantic irradiated ants. Next door to the theater was the Farr Best Cafe, which was also run by Mr. Farr and his wife. I downed many a sweet iced tea there, and many a fried peach pie.

Click here to see a photograph of the Farr Best Theater. It is not as opulent as Royal Albert Hall or as grand as Radio City Music Hall, of course, but it was ours. We could go there and shut out the outside world for a couple of hours each week. The Farr Best Cafe occupied the building with the green awning in the photograph.

Lo and behold, I have learned that the Farr Best Theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 12, 1996.

If a place is named to the National Register of Historic Places, can its patrons be far behind?

All right, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close-up.


  1. Hopefully the historic patrons won't meet the same fate as the theatre.
    I grew up in the city I am living in at the moment, and don't really like the way it has grown. There are suburbs in places we used to go for country drives and picnics. Showing my dinosaur status I suppose.

  2. Your ability to remember names is truly astounding.

  3. Yes, Dear Sir, I remember that you grew up in Mansfield, TX. Perchance, I may have neglected to tell you that long before I even knew there was a rhymeswithplague that once resided there, I had attended Sunday service at The Episcopal Church of St. Gregory the Great, 1091 Country Club Drive, Mansfield.
    I'm glad to learn that the folk who run the National Historic Register have some good sense. Thanks for jostling my memory about Them. All I remember of that one, however, is one ginormous ant silhouetted against a blazing garage/workshop in the background. It was scary -- enough so that I am always on the look out for supersized ants. :)

  4. Wonderful memories, Bob. I love posts like this. x

  5. I'm with Elizabeth on this one, I love this post. You capture something here, a perfect feeling of nostalgia for something, some time I have never experienced. And that is quite a gift. I've read many Stephen King books and often his stories are set in small towns just as you have described Mansfield.
    Brilliant. Encore. More please *holds out scruffy cap Oliver style.

  6. Thank you, one and all, for your comments!

    Elephant's Child (Sue), dinosaurs? I don't see no stinkin' dinosaurs.

    LightExpectations (Kristen), it doesn't seem astounding to me.

    Pat in Arkansas, in the 1950s the only churches in Mansfield were the Methodist Church (pre-United), Southern Baptist, independent Baptist, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, a very small Catholic church, and the foundation only of what had once been a Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I'm told, though, that wherever you find four Episcopalians you'll always find a fifth.

    Elizabeth, thank you, kind lady!

    All Consuming (Michelle), whatever it was that I did, I'll have to try to do it again.

  7. "it doesn't seem astounding to me" - No-one likes a show off rhymes.
    *falls about

  8. All Consuming, I wasn't showing off, I was making a simple statement, such as "Gasoline has gone up to $3.63 a gallon."

  9. Just tickling your ribs dearie *backs off slowly hands held high.

  10. He who would valiant be - to be a pilgrim...Mansfield doesn't just have to be in your memory Uncle Bob.

  11. "As Yorkshire Pudding and maybe Pat (an Arkansas stamper) know, I grew up in the little town of Mansfield, Texas"

    You've written about it on your blog, so everyone who cares--and isn't going senile--knows this. If I were you, I don't know but what I would say that I was from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area just so people would have an image of where I was from since few people would know where Mansfield is, but then again, maybe when you grew up, Mansfield hadn't been swallowed up the urban area, and so being from there meant more than it does today. I recall that Bonnie and Clyde were both from the same area. Of course, they died in 1934, so you missed your big opportunity to get shot by them and spend the rest of your life showing people the bullet, which you would want to hang from a chain around your neck, naturally. They sure were a fun couple. I've actually read two or three biographies of them.