Johnny Carol Sain – Crusing: Life does indeed move pretty fast. Seems like just yesterday we were cruising Russellville. The route was McD’s on 7 to 4th street over and over and over. If your ride had more than a few ponies under the hood, or even if you just thought it did, racking the pipes and and a few barked tires were bound to happen . Or maybe sonic power was your thing with eardrum-splintering hair band guitars and window shaking booms from the subs. But didn’t we all really want to be Ferris Bueller, driving an expensive red convertible import we could never afford and endowed with an unshakeable coolness?
Lesa Wolfe-Crowell – They say the events surrounding your life at the age of fourteen defines who you become later in life. I don’t think this is actually provable, but in the summer of 1983, I was fourteen and my life at the time was defined by music, softball, sleepovers, and the Saturday night pilgrimage to a place called Shotgun Sam’s.
1983 was a huge year. Come on, we got the Chicken McNuggets and the second British invasion! MTV was in full swing. Duran Duran and the Police were hanging on my bedroom wall. Music was visual. It allowed us, in this sheltered valley to see the rest of the world. It brought these powerful women, Cyndi, Madonna, Annie Lennox, and Joan Jett into my life and showed me what girl power was before the #girlpower became a thing. Michael taught me how to Moonwalk and Prince taught me to party like it was 1999. And if the Rock Gods were not already showering me with blessings, they unleashed U2 to the world, a combination of punk and morality that gave me a global perspective to all that was happening outside this small enclave I called home.
I can put on my 1983 Spotify playlist and immediately become transported to softball practice and our whole team squeezed into my dear friend Donna’s mother’s car driving (Hello permit and hardship license) from the old Dover ball field to Pirate’s Cove for Dr. Peppers and cherry Slush Puppies. I can see my friend Kelly and I dancing around our bedrooms listening to a highly crafted mix tape while we got ready for a trip to Shotgun Sam’s, that magical place where all the kids in the River Valley would meet up, hang out and car hop, cruising the streets of Russellville with music blaring and windows down. It was freedom. No cell phone check ins. No helicopter parents acting like your best friend. Our parents would drop us off and head to dinner at Cagle’s Mill with only a “you better be home by 11” threat hanging in the air.
So maybe it is true that we are defined by that age. All I know it was amazing and life was amazing and in this little place we all call home, in 1983, we were all cruising under the moonlight without a care in the world.
Susan Chesser – I had a moped that traveled way faster and further than it was designed. It was a two seater, but somehow Aimee Frew, Neva Hart, and I managed to fit quite well on it. It went from the Dixon Hole, to their houses and anywhere we wanted to go. Sorry, no helmets. No sunscreen, either. I’m sure that will jump up to bite me now that I’m 50.
Music was huge to me. I had vinyl albums and cassettes and listened over and over to Abba, Bread, Toto.
I had a huge crush on the Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov who was in White Nights with Gregory Hines. Movies were a big deal back then, yet i went to the Picwood three times to see Purple Rain. Loved Prince.
Gardens were everywhere when I was a kid. One time my friend, Tammy Goates, now Sumners, and I ate an entire bushel of garden tomatoes with a big salt shaker. It was one of the highlights of my life. They were so good. I don’t think her grandma got mad.
So, ultimately I felt fortunate to grow up in a small community with good people. We were all poor, but we didn’t know it. Of course, if someone wanted to pretend to be a hootie tootie, they could. But, ultimately we all had a good time.
Chad Freyaldenhoven – Summertime was spent walking down South Inglewood collecting Coke bottles and turning them in for cash at Skyline IGA. We usually found enough to get a Coke and candy bar for the walk back. We also rode our bikes down 12th Street to Glenwood and then to Ball’s Market for Now-And-Laters, Jolly Ranchers, and Pop Rocks. Camping with the guys was an every weekend event.
J.C. Sain – Tennis: If one of my buddies ever wanted a piece of me on the tennis courts after work I was game. Under the glow of those bug-magnet lights we tried to pull off strategies used by the greats like McEnroe, Lendl, Becker, and even that pretty boy Agassi.
Like all teenage guys we were, of course, looking for girls, too. The most memorable encounter was while grabbing a prematch snack at Taco Villa. Trying to convince a couple Tech girls we were Australian and would be attending Tech next fall on tennis scholarships was the plan. They might have bought it if I could have stayed in character just a few minutes longer. But then what? Fake that terrible attempt at an accent on every date?
Benita Drew – I have a bit of sadness thinking about the things from my teenage years that my kids will never experience, but also a bit of relief. A cell phone might be wireless, but it tethers one to civilization on a constant basis. Even without, though, my Dad kept a close eye on his daughters. Somehow, if I was where I wasn’t supposed to be, Dad would know it before I ever made it home.
His choice in my first vehicle must have been part of that plan. He could fix just about anything with a carburetor, and rebuilding a vehicle with him was just part of my education. I spent late nights in the shop working on my 1978 Lil’ Red Express, and many Saturdays detailing it to perfection. I wasn’t much for cruising the strip, but I did love being on the open road. Just me, five dollars, and my driver’s license in my pocket, windows rolled down, Aerosmith or Alice Cooper blaring from cassette and the rumble of the 360 and smoke stacks. A lot of my teenage days were like a country song: my truck, my dog and me, but my playlist rocked, even before it was called a playlist.
I spent a lot of summer evenings at the lock and dam in pick-up games, followed by a late-night/early morning trip to Taco Bell. Before seat belt laws, we could cram half a basketball team in a vehicle to go eat at Whattaburger or Vick’s Grocery before catching the bus on game nights.
I look back and am thankful for my carefree youth. I am most thankful, however, that there was no cell phone. There was nothing to take my attention away from the moment, and best of all, nothing to record my mistakes!
Kyle Wills – Phoenix Avenue stopped at 3rd Street. There was a field where the middle school is today. Where Deer Run and Brookside subdivisions are today there was standing timber that went to 12th Street. There was an extensive set of bike trails and creeks through there. We spent a lot of summer time building forts and tree houses out there.
Jeff Sweeden – Most of what I did growing up was fishing and hunting. I did do some running around, cruising Russellville and Atkins and the party thing, too. Rode my motorcycle a lot. Rode horses some, worked a lot with the cows and horses and hauled a lot of square hay bales. Rented a lot of VHS tapes, too.
Angela Dare Tilley – I remember kids within a two mile radius of Bradley Lane Hill would wake up, maybe eat, and grab their bicycles. Then they’d be off on an adventure untill after sunset. The rounds would include grabbing candy at EZ Mart (now the Dollar Tree across from Kroger) and stops at every friend’s house in the neighborhood. Long stops were made at friend’s houses with pools. The yards would have 30-plus bicycles in the front. It was a time when all were included in the adventures. To ease the bicycle routes, the guys created “The Trail” behind the Woker home to connect us. That trail became the path for kids riding their bikes to school at Dwight. I can’t tell you what TV shows were popular during the day because our entire summer was spent outside: swimming and riding bikes. Also, The boys weren’t allowed to swim on baseball game days. Those were the most boring days of summer. On really hot days we spent a lot of time walking the aisles of TG&Y to stay cool.
Jami Mullen – The majority of my summer memories center around Hickey Park. My mother would drop my girlfriends and me off at Hickey pool at 11 when they opened and we would stay all afternoon. It was always packed and we loved it. There were no shade canopies like they have now. I guess we just fried all day in the sun. Then we would be at the ball fields at night. My dad coached my brother’s baseball teams all the way up until he reached Legion. There was great competition and rivalry between the teams. It seemed like the whole town would be out there at night. All of the kids would play cup ball between the fields as the games were played. We would be filthy by the time we went home. As I got older, it was the place to chase boys and hang out. I actually met my husband at the baseball park.
I also spent a lot of my summer playing in the creek behind my house with my brother and the neighborhood kids. We picked wild blackberries and caught crawdads. If we didn’t have a ball game we would ride bikes, skate, climb trees, and play outside at night. My elderly neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. TC Faulkner would sit out in lawn chairs on their driveway at night and we would entertain them. It was a very different time. It was a great time to grow up.
Other memories that were mentioned centered around Shotgun Sam’s. That was the place when I was in high school. It would be packed inside and out on the front porch area. The parking lot would be full and we would even have to park at the mall. There was a lot of car hopping as some would play video games then we would go ride around town with a car loaded with kids and come back. That was also the place where we would meet kids from other towns. I remember Baskin Robbins was next door and Andy’s across the lot. It was a busy busy place and we loved it.
Margie Smith – Seems just yesterday the neighborhood children would congregate at the Parker home to play street hockey in their driveway. Kalie and Atalie Knight, Jodie Parker, the Simcox grandson, Jordan and Jay Lieblong and Chris and Nathan Smith would play for hours. It was simpler and happier time I truly miss. Nothing scheduled, but they knew when to arrive. They are all grown and most of them with children of their own. Love them all.
Christie Gatlin – I met my husband B.J. Gatlin in at this rink in 1986. His parents owned it. B.J. was my first love. I was absolutely crazy about him. In 2003 we met back up with each other and have been together ever since. We were married October 2, 2005 and then we bought the Skate Station in January 2006.
Richard Payne – Some quick memories of the 70s late and early 80s as a kid growing up in these times. I remember in the summer riding our bikes over to Bailey pond(now Wildflower area) and fishing all afternoon.
I also remember the treat of getting to go swimming at the city pool located where the art center is now by the Hughes Center and getting to go out to the lock and dam park to play on their fantastic play ground.
J.C. Sain – Roller Skating: Some of the most terrifying words heard by 12-year-old me was “this will be a couple’s skate.”
After the adrenaline spike and as more confident dudes and gals chose their partners, I scooted and stumbled to the pinball machine. But the awkwardness didn’t end there. It carried over to the rink. I never gained the skill and coordination required to use the skate’s toe brake, so although I could work up some speed the only option for stopping was running into the wall. Which I did. Thankfully, a couple buddies thought slamming into concrete at 10 miles per hour was cool and my ineptitude and lack of game was concealed once more.
Chris Zimmerman – Growing up in Russellville and the surrounding area in the 80’s, what is there to be said. We always complained there was nothing much to do, yet we always managed to find something. Often times for my friends and I, it involved water. From launching ourselves off the rocks at Long Pool to floating the bayou, swimming at the quarry (I likely shouldn’t say which one), to boating on Lake Dardanelle, or just fishing every puddle in between, that’s how we spent our summers. Water seemed to be the one element that we were always drawn to, and there’s rarely been a shortage of that here in the River Valley.
However, the activity that was the most prevalent in my teenage life was basketball. While you never had to go far to find some water, you just had to look out the back door to find a hoop. You’d find them on utility poles in the back yard (thanks Dad) or sometimes just nailed to a tree, on the side of the driveway or hanging above the garage door. And a select few (whose parents loved them deeply) had the holy grail of them all — the adjustable-height goal with a breakaway rim. It was hard to understand why all our parents didn’t invest in one of the most life-changing inventions of our young times, as we each saw ourselves as a young Michael Jordan, slamming our way to greatness. It was so much safer than jumping off buckets, wood blocks, wheel barrels, or our buddies back to slam dunk on a regulation height goal. As a parent today, I would have thought our safety should have been paramount to them… go figure. I’m sure you can find the same thing today anywhere you look, but they just seemed a bit more special back then.
Growing up in Dover, we only had a couple public spots to play outside of the backyard. When the Old Gym was closed, though, and the city park was full-up, we’d head to Russellville. The Lock and Dam to be specific. You’d bring your team of two or three or four and get in line as it was always winner-stays-up. For those of us who relied on the adjustable goals to showcase our greatness, it was typically an abrupt jolt back to reality when our time arrived. Every now and again, sure, we’d win one, but that likely meant we got to the park before the sun had set, and found opponents of similar greatness who were waiting just like us. After the sun went down though, the titans of hoops in the River Valley would arrive, often times led by one Big Nasty. It was then that we had to make a choice, wait in line for our opportunity to take them (him) on, move over to the side court where all the dads played and try our luck there, or just hit the road in search of another lighted goal somewhere within driving distance.
The latter was the most common outcome of our nights, typically accompanied by one of us complaining there’s just nothing to do in Russellville.
Dana Johnson Higgins – I remember playing hours and hours of kickball in my neighborhood (Western Hills) until no more daylight to play. We had neighborhood variety shows and we charged our parents to come watch. Also, lots and lots of back handsprings from my yard through the Vitale’s front yard and lots of walks through the Big Red trail from Western Hills to get a malt at the Big Red. TG&Y was where Kroger is today on West Main. TG&Y grilled cheese sandwiches were so fabulous.
Dwane Ahrens – As a young teenager in Russellville my fondest memory is working all day at the AP&L yard servicing the trucks and then washing them all down for the next week so we could earn some money from Dad to go cruising on 4th Street all nite and eat at the local Sonic. We had our 8-track tapes as loud as they would go. Good times
J.C. Sain – Aerobics: Credit Olivia Newton-John (sigh…) and her “Let’s get Physical” video for why your mom wanted a leotard and leg warmers. Seemed like every town in the River Valley had a weekly aerobics class after that song came out.
The class in Atkins was held at the old gym down by the baseball fields. The dank ancient structure was about as far from the shiny glam image of aerobics portrayed on the videos as you could get. But this was small-town Arkansas in the 80s. My mom wore gym shorts and sweatpants. We shot hoops on an outside goal as the rhythm of “Hey Mickey” and “We Got the Beat” from the instructors boom box helped Mom do her best to tackle Jane Fonda’s workout.