History of hangouts

How Texarkana has changed throughout the years


Holland Rainwater

Students enjoy their down time at the local Steak ‘N Shake. Throughout the years, hangouts have evolved from drive-ins to the multiple restaurants we see today.

Story by Cate Rounds, staff writer

From burgers and root beer floats at the local A&W to nuggets and sweet tea at the renowned Chick-fil-a, the history of hangouts has left its mark on Texarkana. Throughout the years, hangouts have evolved from drive-ins, to parking lots off State Line, to the multiple restaurants of today.

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, the staple places to hangout were A&W root beer stands. Everyone would drive in circles from drive-in to drive-in blasting music from the radio.

“On my sixteenth birthday, I received from my parents a 1967 Ford Falcon,” said Francine Frances, a 1973 Arkansas High alumna. “I loaded my car up, and we went riding around. We would go to the A&W on Hickory Street. There was also an A&W Rootbeer Stand on State Line, and then there was a Dairy Queen on College Drive. We would make a big circle going from one place to the next.”

Photo from 1973 THS yearbook

Every Saturday in the ‘80s, people would go down to the mall and walk from end to end. 

“We would eat at El Chico, and no one had any money, so we split an appetizer between us and drink water and walk around the mall,” said Julie Mitchell, a 1990 Texas High alumna. “Then in the evenings, we would go to State Line. I actually didn’t have a car at the time, so I would ride with my friends. They would drive, and we cruised State Line. And if there were friends in that vacant lot behind Taco Bell emerging, then we would stay, visit with them and hang out listening to music from the cars.”

Like today, going to sporting events was a big part of the high school experience. Even though the Tigers didn’t get a lot of wins, everyone still loved to be with each other cheering at the top of their lungs at football games. The major rivalry between Texas and Arkansas has always been a big deal. Along with football, basketball and baseball were also widely appreciated.

“Going to football games has always been a big deal,” Mitchell said. “I think part of that is just living in East Texas, you’ve got your Friday night lights. School spirit was very strong back then, and the Texas vs. Arkansas [game] was huge. There was a lot of pranks between the two schools. I remember egging was a really big deal and stealing things from the other school’s property.”

At night, they would cruise State Line for hours going to each parking lot to see who was where.

— Cate Rounds

Going on “real dates” was much more of a big deal to previous generations than now. Girls would get asked out by boys and go to movies, nice restaurants or even just hang out with groups of friends.

“I would say a date night would be [at] what is now the Perot Theatre but used to be the Paramount Theatre,” said Doris Morris, a 1971 Arkansas High alumna. “Usually if I had a date, we would go to the movies, and always you’d stop by A&W and get a coke.”

Summer was the time when there were no obligations for homework, tests or other school obligations. Therefore, kids were able to relax by the pool. Everyone would go to St. James pool in the ‘60s and ‘70s. If there were a handsome lifeguard, the girls would flirt up a storm.

“We hung out at the St. James swimming pool. When we first learned to drive and even before that, we would out there and swim,” said Mary Catherine Haynes, a 1970 Arkansas High alumna. “There was a little hut where you could buy refreshments. I mean everybody who was anybody had a membership.”

Although times seemed to be simpler back then, it doesn’t mean life didn’t come with heartaches. In 1969, schools were just becoming integrated. There were often riots in the halls.

“It sounded like a stampede. I remember looking up, and it just looked like a wall of people because as they started coming down the bleachers they would just pile on each other falling down,” Haynes said about the riots.  “We started running, and I was the first one over the fence. I was about a third of the way across the football field, and the fence just went down. People were just trampling over it. It was just the most horrible thing.”

The Vietnam War was also in its height. Recently graduated seniors, and even boys in school, were getting drafted to go fight. To many students, the war at this time felt never ending.

“My brothers and brother in law all got drafted to Vietnam in 1968,” Morris said. “And in the summer of ‘68, there was a young guy named Howard Elder who used to come down everyday on his motorcycle and throw our newspaper. Handsome, handsome fella. I would sit outside every afternoon, and I wait for Howard to come by and maybe give him a glass of lemonade. We’d just sit outside and talk.”

At this time, teenagers were only kids. They weren’t having to deal with harsh realities of life yet. It was just lemonade and movie dates.

“Finally at the end of the summer, he [asked me on a date],” Morris said. “Then the year I was going to be a senior, he had just graduated, and I knew he got drafted. [That same time] I went on family vacation, and when I came back and started reading a newspaper.”

Many people died fighting in Vietnam, including young boys.

“On the front page, it showed that Howard had gotten killed in Vietnam,” Morris said. “It was quite a horrible thing to think that somebody that I knew and really liked, you know one of my first loves, got killed in Vietnam.”

No matter how the small world of Texarkana changes, the lasting friendships remain. The hangouts through the years hold an entire library’s worth of stories and memories.