I think the only business that was operating in Pea Ridge when I was born in 1940 and is still operating today, is Webb's Feed and Seed.
Webb's Feed and Seed was opened by Hugh Webb, Sr. in 1936, so if the business can endure another 18 years, it will have reached the 100-year mark. For most of its 82-year history, Webb's has been operated by the original family, including Fred and Mabel McKinney. Mabel McKinney is the daughter of founders Hugh and Nell Webb.
In the 1940s, when I was a youngster, Pea Ridge occupied much less geographical territory that it does today. The Arkansas Highway 72/Ark. Hwy. 94 intersection, which today is basically the center of town, in the 1940s was nearly a mile south of "town."
"Town," in those earlier days, pretty much referred to the main street business row, which we today call Pickens Street, at least the portion of Pickens from the former Pea Ridge Outlet Store running east as far as the Park Motel. The south edge of the city limits was what we today call Patton Street, so even today's Water Department would have been "out of town" in the old days. The only early Pea Ridge business that I recall being located "out of town," was the Pea Ridge Canning Plant, which canned tomatoes under numerous brands from the early 1930s until fire destroyed the building in the late 1970s.
Today, the Ridge Community Church occupies the site of the old cannery. I never worked at the Canning Plant myself, but it gave me one of my early memories of Pea Ridge, because the plant's steam whistle used to sound at the beginning of the work day, again at the noon hour, and at the end of the work day. The whistle's sounding was our "clock" while we were at school, and my family could even hear the whistle sound in the morning from out on our farm north of town. There is nothing like the mournful sound of an old steam whistle. I suppose one of the reasons I remain fascinated with early trains, even as an older adult, is the sound of the old steam locomotives, including the choo, choo, choo, choo of the steam power, but even more the sounds of the clanging bell and the moan of the old steam whistle. If I hear a steam whistle today, it evokes a nostalgia like nothing else can. Of course today there aren't many left to hear.
The Webb's Feed and Seed of the 1940s was very different from today's setting.
The site where the business now operates was basically the truck entrance in the old days. The loaded trucks would be backed into the front of the building, and the rear wheels would roll down slope to a lower level, so that the truck bed ended up at floor level. That greatly simplified the work of unloading a re-supply truck, or the loading out of bags of feed to be delivered to a farm. Fred McKinney told the story that when he first went to work for Webb's after graduating from Pea Ridge High School in 1940, he was given the job of single-handedly unloading a large truckload of 100-pound bags of feed. Of course he had a dolly to help, but the unloading meant that he had to manhandle each and every bag twice, loading each one onto the dolly, then stacking each one in the storage area in the back of the store. In those early days, the business office and sales room for Webb's was in the upper building next door west. That upper building has for years been the R.C. Schooley Wood Works, which no longer operates, but still occupies the building.
Next door west from Webb's was the City Drug Store, owned and operated by Ralph Miller. Mr. Miller also then owned and operated the Miller Funeral Home. Today the funeral home is owned by the Sisco family. The Drug Store had a small pharmacy, and dispensed some medicines, but the business to me was mainly our ice cream store. The fountain was to the left as you entered, and Beulah McKinney or Pauline Foster would dip the ice cream cones for us. Much of the inside of the drug store was a sitting area, with tables and chairs, where you could relax, eat ice cream and drink a Coke.
Next door west of the drug store was the Bank of Pea Ridge. In the 1940s it was the oldest business in town, having been organized in 1911. Ten local investors had gathered together $10,000 to establish the bank. I believe the original bank president was J.M. Putman, but after a year W.T. Patterson became president, and he would serve in that capacity for the balance of his lifetime. In the later years he was assisted by vice-president Hugh Webb, Sr. Both men were stalwarts in the Pea Ridge business community.
The Bank of Pea Ridge operated in the downtown location until about 1967, when it was relocated to the intersection of State Hwy. 94 and Lee Town Road. After operating there for several years, the bank became a subsidiary of First National Bank of Rogers, then later was purchased by Arvest Bank. The old downtown bank building later served for many years as the Pea Ridge Community Library. The building is now owned by Mr. & Mrs. Ray Easley, and is available for various family, business or community events.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge, is a retired Methodist minister and on the board of the Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com, or call 621-1621.Editorial on 09/12/2018
Print Headline: Some Pea Ridge businesses when I started out in life