Monday, July 10, 2006

Watkins Restaurant

Jeannie: There are so many things I remember about Watkins. When I was young Parker Furniture Store was behind Watkins. Because my father, Sam Rolfe, and Ted Parker were best friends there were many times we would go to the furniture store so Ted and Sally could join us for our afternoon tradition known as "coffee time". We would walk from the back door of Parker's to the back screened door of Watkins. To get there we had to walk through the alley and cross a long wooden plank. (I can still smell the wonderful aroma of the rolls before we were anywhere near the door!) As we walked through the kitchen each of the cooks would greet us with a warm smile and a friendly "hello". It was so fun to exit from the kitchen and watch the customers faces as we appeared in the doorway of the dining room. I too remember the small glass individual creamers they used to serve with the coffee. I loved to drink that cream! That was also the place I filled out a Grid-Iron Guesser for the upcoming football week and at age 10 or 11 I won, beating out all the Parker boys! My dad got a big kick out of that!

Bogie: Speaking of "hang-outs", does anyone remember how "up-town" we felt when we were treated to dinner at Watkins? Eating out wasn't as common then as it is now and going out was such a treat! My dad would call it treating mom special on "her day"--Mother's day or her birthday--to take the whole family out to eat at Watkins. I believe the family who owned or managed the restaurant were the Paul Graves' family.

Sula: Eloise Watkins Graves, Paul's 1st wife, was sister to Chan (Chandler) Watkins. Chan owned Watkins in West Memphis which was also hugely popular in the 50's and 60's. I remember the rolls that melted in your mouth. Great family style restaurant and the food was always really good. Eloise was one of grandmother's best friends. She died too young. My grandparents in W Mphs both worked in their store across the street from Watkins & when I stayed with them we ate there daily. Went to kindergarten with Chan's daughter. Watkins was an institution in both FC & W Mphs. Church crowds would unofficially "rotate" for Sunday dinners after church . I can recall hearing things like "let's wait until Methodists are finished eating" or "you won't be able to get a seat right now, the Baptists just got out."

B.J. said... That's right. Since the Methodists were right across the street there was no beating them there after church. But, our Baptist preachers were always holding us past 12 anyway, so it worked out anyway. I remember Watkins in the 50's when I was pretty young. I finally convinced my daddy to take me fishing with him. He had warned me that we would have to get up at 5:30 to get out on the lake before the sun came up so we'd be there when the fish started biting. I was up and rearing to go right on time, but what did he do? He took me straight to Watkins Cafe where we ate breakfast and he had a couple of cups of coffee first. It was well past sun up when we finally got to the lake, but it was a real treat to eat breakfast out at Watkins Cafe. The owners were so friendly, and so were the waitresses.

Dora says... BJ, can you remember the two of us walking to Watkins on Saturday from my house and eating lemon ice box pie! The best pie ever! I can also remember our pretending we were on candid camera and the camera was hidden in the flowers that were along the wall. I mean we were only 12 but we were strange! I also remember Dr Charles Lattimore eating in Watkins. He was the first African American to eat there. It was a big deal at the time. It was during the time of the Sweet Wiliie Wine march. Really hard to believe that his eating there was such a big deal. I can remember people staring at him and I thought he was cool!

Carol said...I remember that Watkins in Forrest City had the best fried chicken and rolls of all. Chan Watkins died last year here in West Memphis. I'm in a civic club with his widow, Dorothy, and she told me that when she married Chan and moved to Forrest City she had no idea that she would be required to work in a restaurant. She was so beautiful and looked like a movie star to my young eyes. Does anyone remember her then?

Paul said...Our family ate many Sunday dinners at Watkins Cafe after the Methodist Church let out. While those dinners were memorable for the yummy food after a too-long sermon, they couldn’t compare with the unforgettable early morning breakfasts. Starting at age 12, I helped load meat trucks for my father at 6 a.m. on summer mornings and weekends during the school year. He would rouse me out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and we would be at Watkins Café by 5:15 a.m. Claude Buford, Johnnie Turner, Web Sweet and a couple of other men were always there at their favorite table when we walked in. They had a never-ending catalogue of good jokes, but what I remember most fondly were the hilarious stories they told on each other. Often they had everyone in the cafe in stitches. My father and I both enjoyed their friendly comradere and hearty laughs – so aside from the great food, breakfast at Watkins Café was always a memorable experience and a great way to wake up! When I was younger, I remember getting “lost” in daydreams about the panoramic photos that lined the walls. By the way, B.J., I believe your father was also there frequently for early morning breakfasts during those years.

5 Comments:

Anonymous B.J. said...

That's right. Since the Methodists were right across the street there was no beating them there after church. But, our Baptist preachers were always holding us past 12 anyway, so it worked out anyway. I remember Watkins in the 50's when I was pretty young. I finally convinced my daddy to take me fishing with him. He had warned me that we would have to get up at 5:30 to get out on the lake before the sun came up so we'd be there when the fish started biting. I was up and rearing to go right on time, but what did he do? He took me straight to Watkins Cafe where we ate breakfast and he had a couple of cups of coffee first. It was well past sun up when we finally got to the lake, but it was a real treat to eat breakfast out at Watkins Cafe. The owners were so friendly, and so were the waitresses.

Mon Jul 10, 01:25:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Carol said...

I remember that Watkins in Forrest City had the best fried chicken and rolls of all. Chan Watkins died last year here in West Memphis. I'm in a civic club with his widow, Dorothy, and she told me that when she married Chan and moved to Forrest City she had no idea that she would be required to work in a restaurant. She was so beautiful and looked like a movie star to my young eyes. Does anyone remember her then?

Mon Jul 10, 06:25:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember the floor in Watkin's? If you go to Oscar's restaurant which occupies that space now, it's still there! Another memory from Watkin's for me....do you remember the little bottles of cream with the cardboard lids for the coffee??? My parents didn't use cream, so I always got to drink it! I really didn't like it, but I loved those little bottles....

Thu Jul 13, 06:57:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Jeannie said...

There are so many things I remember about Watkins. When I was young Parker Furniture Store was behind Watkins. Because my father, Sam Rolfe, and Ted Parker were best friends there were many times we would go to the furniture store so Ted and Sally could join us for our afternoon tradition known as "coffee time". We would walk from the back door of Parker's to the back screened door of Watkins. To get there we had to walk through the alley and cross a long wooden plank. (I can still smell the wonderful aroma of the rolls before we were anywhere near the door!) As we walked through the kitchen each of the cooks would greet us with a warm smile and a friendly "hello". It was so fun to exit from the kitchen and watch the customers faces as we appeared in the doorway of the dining room. I too remember the small glass individual creamers they used to serve with the coffee. I loved to drink that cream! That was also the place I filled out a Grid-Iron Guesser for the upcoming football week and at age 10 or 11 I won, beating out all the Parker boys! My dad got a big kick out of that!

Sat Jul 22, 12:37:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Turkey Joe said...

I remember Watkins so well...Had the best cake doughnuts and turkey and dressing on the planet...My favorite memory is when my grandmother came to town, and took the entire family out to eat at Watkins...After the meal she slipped my stepdad (who wasn't my favorite person in life) money to pay for the meal...He tipped the waitress $20 dollars of my grandmothers money...Was the first time and only time I ever heard her cuss...

Wed Apr 09, 12:19:00 PM 2008  

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