I look back at my Monticello High School years and remember that time as fun, difficult, a little warped. I needed cue cards to maneuver around the corners.
Like other adolescent girls, I suppose, I felt powerful one hour and helpless the next. It was a time of light, a time of shadows.
I now know that those years were filled with grief for me. Grief over what someone said or what nobody said, what someone did or what nobody did.
My parents had separated. My brothers, sisters, and I were living in separate cottages all over the campus of the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children. I carried many feelings and unasked questions in my throat.
It was a time of singing along with songs on the radio, learning about the Civil War in high school, shucking corn, coming to grips with the reality that my parents were never getting back together.
Part of my healing was making friends on campus and in my new hometown, having a boyfriend, and hangin’ out at Bee Dee’s.
Maybe you hung out at a Dairy Freeze or Sugar Shack and felt that same goodness and rightness I knew on Saturday nights. It would have been a place where you laughed in spite of your sadness, where you drank the sweetness right out of the songs blaring. I do hope you had such a place, even if it wasn’t a restaurant in a small town.
I look back and realize how wonderful it was to have been a teen in Monticello in the early sixties.
On weekends my boyfriend and I would park at Bee Dee’s where people were hangin’ out. Such camaraderie: laughter, friendship, good food. A sense of belonging, of innocence, of being loved happened there for me. We’d eat, then be off to the drive-in movie.
A good time to be alive.
I’ve asked a few people about their memories of Bee Dee’s. Always, they’d talk about Mr. and Mrs. Gladden, who owned the café at the time, and the laughter of many friends hangin’ out there.
Now, my prose poem about Bee Dee’s:
It was the place to be on a Saturday night
in the 1960s. Girls wore pageboys; boys,
ducktails. Nothing ordinary about the place,
the smashed burgers, the curly fries baptized
in catsup. Sixteen and in love. We sophomores
were ripening like apples on a tree. Just following
the road blazed by others—placing orders,
telling secrets, laughing loud, listening to
“Running Bear” piped out into the parking lot
where we hung together in cars under stars.
Sometimes a Thou-Shalt-Not got in the way, but
we shoved it aside and hurried inside a church
the next day anyway. Perfect trust. No clue
of what was ahead—malls, McDonald’s, Vietnam.
Young and naïve, we were breathing apple-fall
in the middle of an orchard.
(poem by Pat Durmon, from her book Women, Resilient Women, available at amazon.com)
Telling you about Bee Dee’s somehow completes my enjoyment of it.
My thanks to the Gladden family, my thanks to my readers for taking this little journey of yesterdays with me. Wish you could have been on Bee Dee’s parking lot with us.
P.S. - If you had a sweet, safe place like Bee Dee’s, please consider sharing this blog. Much gratitude.
Photo of Bee Dee’s in the Fifties or Sixties in Monticello, Arkansas. Photographer unknown.