Sunday, June 7, 2009

Newport—A Tribute to the Blue Bridge

A Sunday Favorite

In honor of Mema Martha’s 98th birthday, today I am reposting something I wrote last fall about the town where she spent most of her adult life. When you’re finished here, you might also want to read THIS POST about Mema Martha. Also, be sure to check out other Sunday Favorites at Happy to Design.

I'll never forget my first trip to Newport, Arkansas. It was the summer of 1970, and LBeau and I had been dating since March. He was in Newport to play in the Annual Four-Ball Golf Tournament, and I had been in Fayetteville taking exams for my master's degree.
After completing the exams, I drove to Newport. I remember that the trip seemed like it took forever, but when I finally crossed the old Highway 67 bridge over the White River, I knew I had arrived.
As I recall, the bridge was painted silver in those days, but some time in the late '70's or early '80's they painted it blue. It became symbolic for our children. They knew we were there and would soon see Mema Martha when we finally saw the "Blue Bridge."
LBeau and I traveled back to Newport on Saturday for his 45th high school reunion. We had not been there since we loaded up furniture from Mema Martha's house after she sold it and moved to Memphis. Although we didn't drive out to look at the "Blue Bridge" on this trip, we did see much of the rest of the town. As usual, some things have changed and some things will forever stay the same.
We stayed at the Fortune Inn and Suites, formerly the Park Inn, and we found plenty of improvements. Kelly's Restaurant is gone, but in its place is a modern lobby with HD television, a fancy bar and a breakfast room. On one door was a sign noting that an exercise room is in the works.
On Sunday morning, the helpful lady at the front desk gave us a tour of the bar. It's decorated with memorabilia from musician Sonny Burgess and Baseball Hall of Famer George Kell.

The Bar at the Fortune Inn and Suites

Later we took a drive around town. Although not in the same building, the Silver Moon Club is still at the same location. However, the only thing left of the original Silver Moon is the slab, which is now part of the parking lot, but you can still see the tile from the men's room in the far right corner.

Elvis played at the Silver Moon Club on October 24, 1955. It is one of a number of clubs along U.S. Highway 67 in northeast Arkansas where emerging Rock and Roll artists played in the late '50's. For more information, check out this article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The whole weekend was a trip down memory lane. At the reunion on Saturday night, there were two displays of classmate pictures. One table featured pictures of living classmates, and the other held photos of those who are deceased. LBeau and one of his friends said that their goal for the 50th reunion was to stay on the live table.

If they keep going back to Newport, they will probably make it. LBeau told me tonight that he thought Newport had therapeutic powers that he attributes to drinking the water and beer and visiting the site of the Silver Moon. He said that his knees weren't hurting today and his back isn't sore. Come to think of it, the crick in my neck has gone away, too.


Chandy said...

Newport looks like a great place to visit. Maybe someday as we're staying put this summer. ;-)

Happy Sunday!

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

Isn't it fun to go back and revisit old places and see the change.2012 will be my 50th reunion. but I won't have to go far as I still live in the same town that I graduated in.
Really enjoyed taking the trip back with you.

Chari said...

Hi Kathy...

How fun to go back and revisit Meme Martha's home town! It sounds like you and your honey had a great time...whewww...and you never know how those old high school reunions will go!!! Hehe! The bar area in the hotel that you stayed at was so cute!

I have only been to Arkansas once...stayed in Hot Springs! I loved the state! Thank you for sharing a little more about that great state and for joining in with Sunday Favorites this week!!!

Warmest wishes,
Chari sorry that I'm so late at getting over to your place! We had our big family estate sale this weekend and I was soooo busy!

nanny said...

Oh My The Silver Moon!!!!! Heard many tales envolving that club/ha

Anonymous said...

Since the bypass was finished I haven't been across the old bridge in years, but it quite an impressive piece of architecture. Kelly's in Newport and I believe Searcy were both institutions.

Highway 67 in Jackson and Lawrence Counties is now officially known as the Rock & Roll highway for the very reason you mentioned. Lots of the early rockers played in clubs in Newport, Swifton, Tuckerman, etc.