Santa has been visiting the good boys and girls of Texarkana, on both sides of State Line, since December 1873. Every year, he makes appearances at Main Street Texarkana’s Christmas Parade and other jolly events, spreading joy across the area. He always looks forward to hearing from each child, so don’t forget to get your Christmas letters post marked as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for him and check out Page 36 to find extra opportunities to bump into him around town during this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Texarkana!
photo by Kara Humphrey
Texarkana or on the outskirts of town, you can see our foundation in the winding railways that trail through our city. Word quickly traveled about the abundance of job opportunities in Texarkana. Dr. Rowe states, “The predominantly male population of the city in its earliest years spawned gambling houses, barrooms, and brothels.” A cheeky mural depicting the “ladies of the night” of that era can still be found on Spruce Street. According to Dr. Rowe, “Texarkana’s rough and tumble beginnings certainly created a rich field of work for religious denominations and their preachers.” As mentioned in the Gate City News of January 2, 1875, Catholic services during Lent and a service at the Methodist church are among the first references of Texarkana’s religious founding. While growing up in Texarkana, you often hear about different legends that have made their way through generations. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, better known as “Bonnie and Clyde,” are two infamous examples. Les Minor, Editor of the Texarkana Gazette says, “Local folklore reports that a lot of gangsters hung out in this part of the country, partially because they could move easily in and out of jurisdictions in the four state area and avoid the law.” Sources online report Bonnie and Clyde could be found at the Hotel Grim prior to being gunned down in Louisiana in 1934. It is even rumored they robbed the Texarkana National Guard Armory before leaving town. Merely a decade later, the Texarkana community was tormented by its own infamous criminal, the Phantom Killer, whose reign of terror began February 22, 1946, and lasted through May 3, 1946. In the book, Images of Texarkana-A Visual History , Sheriff William Presley said, “This killer is the luckiest person I have known. No one sees him, hears him in time, or can identify him in any way.” Though many students and individuals alike have researched these “Moonlight Murders,” and documentaries have been made regarding the subject, the Phantom Killer remains at large. Though the Phantom Killer’s exploits put Texarkana on the map, there are many other notable, positive references to Texarkana. Have you ever seen the 1977 classic, Smokey and the Bandit , with
Burt Reynolds and Sally Field? If you have, you know that Reynolds’ (“Bandit’s”) challenge is to pick up 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana and take them to Atlanta, Georgia in 28 hours. This iconic movie, with Texarkana at its center, was the fourth highest grossing film of the year and raked in more than $126 million at box offices. The first official reenactment event took place May 15, 2007 and was called, “The Bandit Run,” which retraces the route traveled by Bo (“Bandit”) and Cledus (“Snowman”). The run is said to have included about 30 Trans Ams, and both Texarkana city mayors gave a send-off speech at the Four States Auto Museum downtown. This three-day event received local and national media coverage, including Automobile Magazine and The New York Times . In the year 2000, we gained national attention again. With no time to prepare on Christmas day, weather conditions took a quick and drastic turn for the worse. As many celebrated Christmas festivities, and others traveled to attend family gatherings, freezing rain began falling and soon, our city was almost entirely without electricity. Nita Fran Hutcheson was quoted in the LA Times as saying, “Everywhere you look, trees are snapped like matchsticks. Power lines are down everywhere, and most of the streets are impassable because we don’t know which lines are live.” When food in our grocery stores was scarce, family and friends all came together to share what they had with one another. Manager of Distribution Systems at AEP/SWEPCO, Craig Harland recalls, “There was not a light bulb burning anywhere, and it took about six weeks to get all the lights back on.” That period of time was definitely a memorable one for the residents of Texarkana and the surrounding areas. The National Weather Service reported, “At one point, much of the cities of Texarkana were without power, telephone and water. Ice accumulations were estimated by observers to be as much as an inch in Southwest Arkansas.” Not every Christmas in East Texas brings snow and ice, but one thing you can look forward to is the annual Main Street Texarkana Christmas Parade. It’s been said that every year the float lineup increases, as does the size of the crowd. From camels to Clydesdales
COMMUNITY & CULTURE
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