Inaugural History Luncheon Held at Rector
A fascinating series of events and personal recollections were featured as Leland Blackshare was the speaker at the inaugural History Luncheon sponsored Wednesday by the Rector Area Chamber of Commerce.
The event was held at the Rector Visitor Center, which is a building with a remarkable history and a beautiful restoration.
Blackshare began by speaking about the founding of Rector. The community was first platted by J.A. Harper, who also served as the first mayor in 1882. Rector essentially was established because of access to the railroad.
The first marshal was Jasper Boyce. The general merchandising store was owned by Alfred West. The store was later known as G.H. Hardin and Company. West later donated land to the city.
In 1887 alcohol was voted out of the city, so the saloons moved south of the railroad to an area that became known as "Swampnoodle."
In 1888 the Joseph Wolf Company opened, employing 18 to 20 people. Clothing materials, hardware and other merchandise could be bought until the building burned down in April of 1957. In 1891, the first brick building was built by Captain John Allen.
Also in 1891 the Southwest Freight Development Company bought 40 acres from Captain Allen and 40 more from C.W. Wright, which the town divided into lots. J.B. Boykin surveyed for the streets and, when asked why he made the streets so wide, he said "a big town will grow here."
Where the NAPA store now sits, a second floor housing an opera house once stood, and the area known as the Downtown Central Park was a big mudhole. Businesses mainly lined Main Street and Front Street at the time because of the railroad, Blackshare said..
Rector's Woman's Club began with Mrs. S.E.C. Cox, who was the leading force in establishing the first park of Rector, which housed a bandstand. The Rector City Concert Band played on the bandstand every Thursday night. The current bandstand was built in 1929 by Bert Sigsby Sr.
Ford's Theater, owned by Tom Ford, opened in 1936. Blackshare recalled seeing Frank Lovejoy, Wayne Morris and Susan Cabot visiting the theater. People came from miles around to witness the stars' appearance and Susan Cabot called Rector "a quaint little village." The theater held 315 seats and on evenings the theater was packed. He remembered an Elvis movie came out and Ford had to play it three times, meaning more than 700 people went to see the show. In 1937 Ford's Theater was bombed by two former occupants of the theater who lost their lease to Ford. Both men were convicted.
In 1948 the Ogles brothers shot Marshal Tom Green on Main Street while he was patrolling on foot, and were sent to prison for life.
Blackshare recalled another time in 1967 while watching Bonnie and Clyde "before there was a rating system, and a man grabbed up the little boy that was with him and lit out of the theater." Stephen Crancer, who was in attendance, spoke up saying, "that was me and my grandpa from St. Louis."
Over the years many businesses have come and gone, including W.K. Neely Dry Goods, Rector Bottling Works, Rector Steam Laundry, M.J. Motsinger Jewelers, and many more.
The oldest business in Rector is the Bank of Rector, which opened in 1899 with a capital of $20,000. Originally located at the corner of Main Street and Front, the bank moved to the west side of Main and Fourth Street in 1944. The late Jewell Marlar served as the chief executive officer from 1944 until his retirement in 1982.
Johnny Williams noted that the first Kroger in Arkansas was located at 310 South Main Street in Rector, and the building remains there today.
This was the first in a series of history events the Rector Chamber of Commerce have planned. The next luncheon will be held the second Wednesday of September.