Memories of the Ozark Cafe




Memories of the Ozark Cafe and a little family history

Submitted by Brenda Renfroe Dunn


I am sure this is the cafe in Clinton that my Aunt Mary (Suggs) and her husband Uncle William "Bill" Harris owned for several years (or rented the building?).
Uncle Bill had a sense of humor and was always "cutting up" and having fun with life. Aunt Mary was as sweet as anyone could get. Bill called her "Petunia."

The cafe building was made of native stone and was built up against a high enbankment or mountain that went up towards a highschool and an old church. Bill and Mary did not live above the cafe, but lived in Choctaw where Mary was raised.

I remember going to the cafe with my parents in 1950 when I was seven years old. We had traveled two thousand miles to visit our family in Choctaw and Clinton, Arkansas, and I was so excited to finally get out of the car. Running inside I asked where the bathrooms were and knocked a gumball machine over in the process. Gumballs rolled all over building and customers helped the waitress pick them up.
I was facinated at how fast the waitress washed the dishes and I asked her how she could do it so fast! Glancing over her shoulder at a roomfull of customers she smiled and said, "well sugar pie, one learns how in a pinch." Having pent up energy, I offered my services. She took me up on it while waiting on customers, and I washed the dishes as fast as I could. After picking up the pieces, Uncle Bill retired me from my dish washing job and paid me for my services with a hamburger and a milkshake.
I was enjoying my burger as Uncle Bill sat down to hold my six month old sister. About that time she wet through her "cloth" diapers. Jumping up with a wet lap he whooped out, "boy howdy," and handed her to Mom. He tied a table cloth around his waist and as customers were roaring with laughter from all the entertainment, he did a little dance, headed for the door where he bowed, then went home to change his clothes. These are memories I have of what I believe to be the "Ozark Cafe."

Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary eventually moved to Pottsville, Arkansas, where Bill was mayor for several years. In his younger days, he was foreman for a company involved in building Hwy 65 from Arkansas to California, among many other roads.

Aunt Mary was the daughter of Miles and Ida Belle (Jennings) Suggs of Choctaw and sister of Verlena (Suggs) O'Dell. Verlena was the mother of Hazel (O'Dell) Renfroe, my mother. Mom grew up on Bald Mountain in Choctaw and there, married my father who grew up in Bee Branch. Both their older generations helped to settle Choctaw, Clinton, Bee Branch and Damascus, Arkansas.

My fathers first cousin; Sarah Caroline "Sally" Renfroe was married to Wiley Redmon Risner.
Sally's parents were James Monroe and Jincy Elvira (Harris)Renfroe. James Monroe was the brother of Zachariah Taylor Renfroe who married Almeda Geer of Illinois. They were the parents of Walter Elmo Renfroe. Walter married Margaret "Maggie" Lankford and they were the parents of my father, Charles L. Renfroe, all of Bee Branch, Van Buren County, Arkansas.

I have two letters written by Zachariah to his brother James Monroe's children, one letter written in 1897 to Quixy Ann after the death of her father, asking about her sister Sally and brother Nick. His other letter was a humorous letter written in 1907 to Nicholas "Nick" Harris Renfroe of Sherman Texas. Zachariah wanted to write his nephew a "big letter", so "Zach" went to the local newspaper and got one of their blank sheets of paper and wrote his "news" on that paper. I will be glad to post the letters after I get permission to share them.

Mothers aunt "Dollie", who lived to be 106, ten months and twenty-four days, was the daughter of Pleasant Miles Suggs Sr., and Sarah Lucretia (Jobe) Suggs of Choctaw. She married Uncle David Zachariah "Dave" Jennings and lived in Choctaw, Ark. Dollie wrote articles many years for the Van Buren Co., Democrat. Many stories are there in those old papers that my mother wrote about the old days. You might find information in Dollie's articles about the cafe.

In 1980 I took a picture of Aunt Dollie holding my granddaughter Jenny, who was born in Russellville, Arkansas. They were 1st cousins five times removed. When Jenny was born, she made five living generations on both sides of my family and we were so privileged to have a 5th generation cousin share this time. We were at Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill's home in Pottsville, Arkansas. It seemed so appropriate that the old families of so many generation could gather that one last time.

Brenda (Renfroe) Dunn