Dusty Days of Summer: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

The area southwest of Donaghey and Dave Ward Drive today is bustling with multiple subdivisions, medical clinics, restaurants and other businesses. The entrance to Nutter’s Chapel Road is flanked with a large medical complex on one side and a shopping center on the other side. But 50 years ago, this area was mostly farms and dusty dirt roads.

Dave Ward Drive (or Hartje Lane as it was called then) was a dirt road that started at the bottom of the hill where Mattison and Country Club now intersect Dave Ward. The pavement began at the Donaghey intersection and extended to the corner of the Ward Bus Company (at the South German Lane intersection) where the road ended. Nutter’s Chapel Road too was just a dirt road. No pavement, just dirt and gravel with a cloud of dust that grew thicker depending on the amount of traffic.

The whole area was outside the city limits so there were no city services. Our mail came to Rt. 2, Box 262. We got our water from a well and had our own septic systems. Electricity was provided by Arkansas Power and Light and we rented our phones from Southwestern Bell. Our phone was a pink wall phone and we were on a party line with the neighbor up the road. The phone numbers were easy to remember though because they all started with FA9 or FA7.

If you turned onto Nutter’s Chapel Road back in the 1960s, you would drive by the Moix place and then the Nahlen and Gunderman places before you negotiated the S-curve and found yourself in a world full of Starkeys. My grandfather, William Thomas Starkey, farmed there. The little white vacant house that stands at the corner of Nutter’s Chapel and Salem is the house where my Mom and all of her eleven siblings were born. As his children grew up, most of them got a piece of land along the road to build a house. My uncles formed a construction company, Starkey Construction, which sat on the right after you got around the S-curve. Our neighbors were family — aunts, uncles and cousins in almost every house.

In a world where quite a few women still were at home all day, the typical hot summer day started with coffee at the house most centrally located. The kids played outside while the women sat around the table, drinking coffee and catching up on all the news.

Later in the day, Mr. Nooner, the milkman, would come by to deliver the milk. Dean Food delivered milk to our house three days a week. It was always a treat when he would leave chocolate milk too. We also had regular visits from Mr. Shelby who sold produce off of his truck. He would lumber up in his 1940s pickup with wooden side boards on the bed, loaded with fruits and vegetables that we might not have in our garden.

Everyone had a garden so there was always something to pick, shell, shuck or can. We grew potatoes, corn, peas, green beans, okra, squash and of course tomatoes. The hot summer days would be spent either picking or preparing the food for canning. Mom would heat the jars and fill them up before putting them in the canner to seal the jars. Then we all listened to the music of popping lids as the jars sealed.

Afternoons were typically spent in the living room where the window air conditioner attempted to keep the house cool as the temperatures reached higher. Sometimes we watched television but there were only three commercial channels.

Cable television did not exist and AETN was just getting started. Sometimes we would pick up the receiver of our wall phone and listen to the neighbor lady on the party line sharing some new gossip. Sometimes we would go ride our bikes if the roads weren’t too dusty that day. Summers were slow and easy on that dusty dirt road.

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