What’s left at Lester


Formerly "the store" at Lester AR. Now it is an eye-popping display of artifacts from the community. Notice symmetry in the arrangement. You see a lot of antlers. This is south Arkansas. Antlers are to be expected.

Formerly "the store" at Lester AR. Now it is an eye-popping display of artifacts from the community. Notice symmetry in the arrangement. You see a lot of antlers. This is south Arkansas. Antlers are to be expected.

What you’re seeing was formerly “the store” at Lester AR. This story started on the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. To see the first part (a very cool thing to do), click here, (safe to do).

Lester was once a thriving rural community in south Arkansas between Chidester and Camden. All that’s left now at Lester is this old store and two residences. After shooting the store, I found my way to the Chidester General Store and was greeted by Gracie, the proprietor. It was Saturday afternoon and she was open for business. Since my previous source of information was less than substantial, I asked if she knew anything about Lester. She allowed yes, with the caveat that her level of Lester knowledge was limited — but a couple of her friends in the back of the store might be able to help. I joined the conversation at a friendly table.

     The store sign is the only sure clue you are in Lester. Hanging from a salvaged single-tree, the sign is probably a left over from when the railroad ran through Lester.

The store sign is the only sure clue you are in Lester. Hanging from a salvaged single-tree, the sign is probably a left over from when the railroad ran through Lester.

The two gentlemen at the table gave the same caveat, but did provide a couple of nuggets. Turns out that at one time, the railroad went through Lester, plus, they had a post office and a school. Schools, for those uninitiated in the ways of rural America, are very important anchors for these small towns. Schools give people a reason to be there and go there.

This collage on the west wall features, ice block tongs, log tongs, what appear to be bolt cutters, sheaves, a double open-end wrench and a couple of things that escape me. What's impressive is the precise symmetry. There's an art director lurking in there somewhere.

This collage on the west wall features buggy springs, a horseshoe, a barrel hoop, ice block tongs, log tongs, what appear to be bolt cutters, sheaves, a double open-end wrench, a one-man crosscut saw, and a couple of things that escape me. What's impressive is the precise symmetry with a slight touch of imbalance. There's an art director lurking in there somewhere.

One of the men said that he started in school at Chidester in 1943 and that kids from Lester were in his class. That being so, he said, ” … meant that their school, in 1943 had already been consolidated.” My conjecture is that this was the first step in the downward slide. Most all at the table agreed that the store had been closed probably 40-50 years. So, the fate of Lester is all too familiar. The school, the railroad, the store, the people, egress in that order.

Promise made, promise kept. A foundation of advertising. After I noticed this sign, I decided that a visit to the store was required. Thanks to Gracie and her friends, our story had a little more substance. Thanks, y'all.

Deer corn promise made, deer corn promise kept. A foundation of good advertising. After I noticed this sign, I decided that a visit to the Chidester General Store was required. Thanks to Gracie and her friends at the store, our story had more substance. Thanks, y'all.

On the brighter side, the person who decorated the store had an admirable idea to keep the memories of community alive – and an eye for design. Most of the artifacts are symmetrically arranged with more than a modicum of precision. Many were cleaned up and painted. It is obvious that great care and deliberation were taken in placement of the items. It was meant to be appreciated. And we do.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

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8 Responses

  1. The picures take me back to growing up in rural Ohio. Although my small town was (and still is) a metropolis compared to Lester, I’m reminded of the many communities like Lester that I’ve seen.

    As I drive though place like Lester I often wonder about a time that once was. A railroad, a school, a store, a post office – so there was a reason for and a history to Lester.

    So to me, Lester is a symbol and a reminder to a time no more. Maybe a hard time … but possible an innocent one.

  2. Frank, here in Arkansas, there are a lot of communities like Lester. The state shifted from a rural, agriculture society to one more in tune with the times. The old song, “Howya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Pa-ree” probably applies. Fortunately at least some of the values which permeated these small towns are alive and well. Thanks for looking, Joe

  3. The “bolt cutter” is a cattle dehorner taken from an ajoining farm. Bob

    • Bob, thanks for the clarification. I knew I was wrong, but that seemed to be the closest I could come. My late father-in-law was a cattleman. He is probably giggling at me now.
      Thanks,
      Joe

  4. I enjoyed this very much. My Sweatman side of the family is from Chidester and what used to be a farm at Good Hope. Thanks!

  5. [...] pure curiosity in its remaining commercial structure, the old “store.” Take a look at “What’s left at Lester.” This trolley at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum is completely cosmetically restored. The restorers [...]

  6. Dehorner it is. See ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL by James Herriott, for description of use and why the country “vitn’ry” hated using it.

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