I grew up in Prairie County, and Hazen was a huge part of my life. My parents owned a hardware business there for more than thirty years. I spent countless hours at the store, waiting on customers, stocking and dusting shelves, and running various and sundry errands for my mom and dad.
One of the great perks of working in the family business at that place and time was lunch.
Hey, I was just a kid. I cannot honestly say that I relished sweeping the sidewalk when the summer temps soared near one hundred degrees, or enjoyed taking inventory in the scary, creepy dark, damp warehouse that was inundated with spiders, wasps, and junebugs!
Yes, lunch was always a welcome reprieve. As I have mentioned before, my mom was somewhat of a healthy food guru; however, with four kids to raise and a business to help run, she didn’t have time to prepare a proper noontime meal. So, I was always given a $5 bill and left to my own devices, which, at the time, included Mrs. Lucille’s dairy bar, Mr. Bud’s barbecue joint, and, my favorite, Mrs. Kathryn’s Cafe.
Mrs. Kathryn’s was a bakery/restaurant. Walking in to the little shop simply decorated in pink and white, I was always greeted with the sweet aroma of cookies and pastries. It was a dainty little place. Well, physically Mrs. Kathryn and her teenage daughter, Georgene, were dainty little ladies, so it was a perfect fit.
The menu, anything but petite, included healthy portions of the standard southern fare: chicken, potatoes, hamburgers, fries. Customers never left hungry! More than that, they were always treated with a kind smile, an encouraging word, a concerned question like, “How’s your momma? I heard she was at Dr. Camp’s the other day.” (Yep this was waaay before HIPPA was a thing!)
Although her business was a success, well, at least in my eyes, Mrs. Kathryn closed her doors for more lofty pursuits: running the town of Hazen. Yes, in the 80’s, this intelligent, savvy businesswoman ran for mayor and won, and, in doing so, left a lasting legacy that has and will affect futures to come.
Simply put, she led the charge to renovate and restore the Rock Island Railroad Depot in Hazen.
Abandoned since the early 70’s, the building was in utter disrepair. Understanding the historical significance of the depot, and the possible positive impact it could make on the community, Mrs. Kathryn appealed to the local civic clubs, and raised the necessary funds.
The rehabilitation was completed and the Hazen Rock Island Depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Of the four Rock Island Railroad depots originally in Arkansas, the Hazen Depot is the only stucco and brick building with a slate roof.
Mrs. Kathryn was a lady who was so much more than a pretty face and a good cook. She was an industrious, enterprising person who made a difference. She passed on in 1994, but a little part of her lives on near Hazen’s city center!