When we moved from Michigan to Arkansas in 1966, my Mom and Grandmother bought and opened cafe in Blytheville, AR at 108 East Main Street. In those early days Mom would work 12 hours a day on the day shift and my Grandmother would come in at 3pm and work 14-16 hours on the night shift. They were very hard working women that took great pride in the business and their place in the community. Betty and Lettie’s Cafe not only gave people in Blytheville a comfortable place to come to eat, but it was a great place for a cup of coffee and to discuss the daily topics of life…all in a friendly atmosphere. Betty and Lettie’s Cafeteria was opened in the fall of 1966 in Blytheville, AR by Betty Jarratt and her mother, Lettie Link. The business was purchased from Hazel Moore and was located at 108 E. Main Street. Most people came to know the place as the B&L Cafe. The building was rented from a Mr. Shibley (which I don’t remember much about him or his family)…although I do think he owned a 3 story brick home on the corner of Kentucky and 1st or 2nd Street.
The restaurant was initially open 24 hours a day and was known best for it’s hamburgers, open faced chili burgers and of course famous for their homemade hot tamales. The lunch menu also consisted of a “buffet line” that featured country cooking with meats and vegetables. We had a jukebox that went pretty steady all the time (I especially remember hearing “Apartment #9”, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” and “Hitchin’ A Ride”)… and we also had a couple of pinball machines in the back, with one of them being a “payout” machine (kinda like gambling). Betty and Lettie’s Cafeteria remained opened until Lettie Link retired and closed it’s doors for the final time in the fall of 1976.
Most importantly, me and my Brother’s were pretty much brought up in that cafe. We ate most of our meals in there (lunches anyway), and I can remember leaving Blytheville High School at lunch and driving up to the cafe with Mike and Pat Parish for lunch…I always got a cheeseburger, fries and mashed potatoes and gravy….with a small coke!! I loved being up there and seeing all the great Blytheville folks come in…we definitely had our regulars. The Cafe definitely had an influence on me and my Brother’s personalities and I can tell you that what humor I have came from my Mom and her ability to “come back” with her quick wit…better than anyone I ever saw!!
But…they building at 108 East Main Street is now in disrepair and looks nothing like it did in the 60’s and 70’s. In fact, it’s falling down. I do have memories and some pictures of the outside, inside and even some of customers and family inside the cafe.
I was approached about a month ago by Terrye Maclin Fairly, who is from Blytheville (Class of 1971) and her desire to do a painting of the Cafe when it was in it’s heyday. I thought that was a great idea and so… Terrye created a painting. She was nice enough to share the progress of the painting at various stages of painting it. I got the painting a couple of days ago…I was completely taken aback at the detail and quality of her work. It was a nostalgic look back in time for me and I immediately took it to my framing person here in Searcy to get it custom framed. I am so proud of this photo and will include on the back of the painting a history of the Betty and Lettie’s Cafe in Blytheville for daughter, granddaughters, and hopefully their children. Thank you Terrye for taking the time and your creativity to do this for me…it is GREATLY appreciated!