By Brent Davis, editor of The Saline Courier
If you want a really good look at the town of Benton, I suggest you go to the Big Red just off exit 114 and buy some gas. That’s what I did and I am telling you, the view is fantastic.
As I stood there filling the tank, I could see all the way up Interstate 30 into the city limits. The tops of the trees put down a carpet of green from one side of the horizon to the other. The steeple of the First United Methodist Church pointed skyward and right next to it, the Saline County Courthouse could be seen.
But what really caught my attention were the water towers on Carpenter Street. My dad always told my sister, my brother and me that one was for hot water and the other for cold. Seeing them standing proudly above the tree line brought back good memories, and I smiled.
I also remembered when the Big Red wasn’t there and the only thing in the area was located just up the hill behind it. Sadly, it is no longer there. I'm talking about the old Stuckey’s store.
Back then, Stuckey’s was a welcomed sight to families traveling to vacation destinations. It was a hybrid of sorts -- a gas station, gift shop, diner and rest area all rolled into one. It was the only store that carried those little nuggets of pecan divinity. Even better was the pecan log. Mom would buy one and bring it back to the car. She would cut it into slices and hand them over her shoulder as we waited eagerly for the treat.
Whenever our family traveled, those of us in the back seat scanned the roadside for a Stuckey’s billboard. On one such trip, I made the mistake of saying the first thing that popped into my head when I saw our sought after prize, the billboard.
First, a little background: As a kid, I was a TV junkie. I kept up with the new shows coming to the fall lineups and the shows that were canceled to make room. I was even a charter member of the ABC Saturday Morning Club. Membership came with exclusive privileges such as special bulletins in the mail about new cartoons coming soon, decals and, last but not least, a special membership card signed by the president of ABC. This was the elite club for cartoon fans. ABC had "School House Rock" and all the good shows. And "Conjunction Junction," remember that one?
Sometimes the world of TV animation and reality would blur. This is where the unfortunate comment comes in. It is a fact that in any cartoon involving bad guys and chase scenes, there was always a policeman on a motorcycle sitting behind a billboard that would hit the siren and chase the criminal who had just whizzed by.
The view from the hill may change drastically in the coming months and years as plans for an upscale shopping center move from drawing board to dozers and concrete across the interstate from the old Stuckey's location. Growth will come in one form or another, and that's a good thing. Stagnation means death.
It wasn’t funny then, but it is now. But more than being funny, just like the water towers looking back at me from the gas pump at the Big Red, the memories of my past are golden.