Sisters remember good old days

by Heather Pierce
The Sowell Sisters of Searcy – Nancy Hatfield and Betty Mote – paint a colorful picture of the good old days and what Downtown Searcy had to offer when their mother and father first opened the family business, Sowell’s Furniture. 
In l945, John M. and Lora Sowell began a business that specialized in selling used wooden ice boxes. Obtaining new merchandise during this wartime era was near to impossible. To keep up with the demand, John made monthly trips to St. Louis and Chicago to bring back those items and whatever else was available. Eventually he found a market in Chicago selling new items, which marked the real beginning of Sowell’s Home Supply, now Sowell’s Furniture. 


What started in a 3,000-square-foot building at 207 West Arch St. has grown to a showroom area of 38,000 square feet, plus two warehouses. Since the very beginning, Sowell’s has remained a family-operated business. The store even features the original tiles on the ceiling. 

Nancy and Betty recently recalled some of their fondest memories from growing up in Searcy and at Sowell’s Furniture. 

Betty described growing up at Sowell’s Furniture was like playing store. She recalled a young boy named Charlie who helped out at the store when she was younger. “Daddy took Charlie under his wing. He would go and pick him up to come work at the store, but some days he would just take him hunting or fishing,” Betty said. 

The sisters also reminisced about going on evening deliveries with their daddy after dinner. Nancy even laughed about riding in the back of the truck up Joy Mountain as they headed to Rose Bud for a delivery. “Oh, how times have changed,” she said. “I would have never dreamed of letting my kids do that, but I did it and I was fine.”

Betty recalls the first time her father and Uncle Cecil got on the train at Kensett to go to Chicago for the first furniture market. Shortly after that, the Dallas Furniture Market opened up. It started at the Texas State Fairgrounds outside in tents with no air conditioning. She remembered everyone would dress up in suits and dresses. “It was quite uncomfortable to be so dressed up with it being so hot out,” she laughed. “It was much different back then.”

Nancy noted how much things have changed since she first started. “If you wanted to send a picture to a customer back then, you would snap the picture on your camera, take it to be developed and then mail the picture through the postal services. Nowadays, you take the picture and then email it, simple as that,” she said.  

Both agreed that there are definitely perks to today’s digital world, but many different perks in that day and age as well. They both have very fond memories of the Rialto Theater back then as well as today.  

“When I was younger, the big thing was to go to the Saturday matinees. My friends and I would walk to town and we would go to the movies at 1. We could watch the same movie over and over again, all afternoon long. I would take a quarter and see the movie and get some popcorn,” Betty said. “Those were the good old days.”