The old question, “Where would you go first if you had a time machine?” is an easy one to answer for me. I’d visit all of my favorite long-since-gone childhood cafes, diners and restaurants.
Not all, but one stop may soon be possible, without the help of H.G. Wells.
Growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, we had some great places to eat. Ms. Mac’s served the best chicken fried steak ever. Mesamore’s had a plate lunch that was great. And the Tastee-Freez chili dogs were so good John Mellencamp mentioned them in a song.
Ashdown did not have a pizza parlor when I was growing up, but Texarkana did.
A man named Harold moved to Texarkana from Alabama. To my knowledge, he opened the town’s first pizza restaurant in the 1960s. It was aptly named Harold’s Pizza.
Harold’s first location was downtown, but in the early 70s he relocated to Stateline Avenue on the Texas side. Kmart had a strip shopping center next door, which was where Harold’s was located.
My father took us to Harold’s frequently. He’d order a large sausage pizza and we’d share it, with any leftovers going home with us.
Later, when I worked at KTFS radio in Texarkana, I’d order a pizza from Harold’s, put on a long song, usually American Pie or Do You Feel Like We Do, lock up the station and drive over to pick it up before the record ran out.
I can confess this now, but that was a huge no-no when I did it. Many things could have gone wrong, including the record skipping or getting stuck, or the boss showing up unexpectedly.
Time passed and Harold’s went the way of Ms. Mac’s, Mesamore’s and Tastee-Freez. It closed. I never thought I’d dine at any of them again. But after a recent column where I mentioned Harold’s, an email popped up in my inbox.
“Mr. Moore, I am Harold’s daughter from Harold’s Pizza. I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article… we are thinking of having a fundraiser to create a scholarship in memory of my son... we are thinking of making pizzas… Harold’s original recipes. Still have a few details to work out but I thought you might be interested! Harold’s family really enjoyed reading your article! Brought back lots of memories! — Susan”
I was very interested. I wrote her back and energetically told her so. She responded that she wanted to do a test run of pizzas before any fundraiser would take place, and she asked if I would be willing to try some pizzas.
Well, she didn’t have to twist my arm.
The timing of all this was working out perfectly. During exactly the same week she was thinking of doing a trial run of pizzas, I was speaking at a fundraising event for the Texarkana Library.
God has a way of making things fall into place.
Susan and I exchanged phone numbers, and per her instructions I called her when we were leaving the fundraiser. That gave her just enough time to put the pizza in the oven, bake it and meet us on our way back home.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect to receive two Harold’s Pizzas in pizza boxes, with the same aluminum foil lining the bottom of the box, just as I remembered 50 years earlier.
But there they were. They looked the same. They smelled the same. Most importantly, they tasted the same.
I couldn’t believe it.
I asked Susan how she was able to recreate the same pizzas her father had made so many years earlier.
She said she had worked in the parlor for many years, and her dad had passed on every aspect of making his pies.
Susan had worked hard to get everything as close to the original process as possible, including the sauce, which she said was her specialty.
Even with the passage of time and possible variances in ingredients, she had hit a homerun with the pizzas. They were just as I remembered.
So what’s next? I asked her. If she does a fundraiser and it’s successful, would she consider reopening Harold’s?
Only time will tell, she told me, but she said it’s possible. I assured her that if she does bring back Harold’s, I’ll be her first customer.
The only thing missing will be her dad and mine. Since there’ll be some empty seats at the table, I’d love for you to join us. You can share a pizza history.