Mural captures Clovis past

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks A.C. Bryant of Clovis sits in front of a mural that features him taking an order at Fox Drug store in 1937.

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Giving the new Norman and Vi Petty Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum some of the classic ambiance is a giant photo of an old-time soda fountain.

The picture is especially meaningful to Clovis’ A.C. Bryant.

The photo was taken by Duffy Sasser, also still a resident of Clovis and in his early 90s. Bryant, now 93, was 21 years old when it was snapped back in 1937.

“To me it’s significant, because the people in the picture are eminently connected,” Bryant said.

Bryant was an employee in the luncheonette department at the Fox Drug Store, located at Fourth and Main streets — now the site of Potter’s House — where “The World’s Best Lunch Plate” (for a cost of 25 cents) was touted.

The diner had seating for around 30 people at the L-shaped counter and every seat is taken for this particular photo, although Bryant remembers owner George Sasser having employees fill in the empty seats.

To Bryant’s right in the photo was fellow employee Glen Smith and to his left was E.J. Speegle — both who would soon become significant in Bryant’s life.

In the same year that the photograph was taken, Bryant was asked by Smith to coax a date out of a young customer named Eva Ruth Boaz. Dutifully crossing the restaurant to ask on behalf of his friend, A.C. Bryant found out Boaz had a different idea.

“I said ‘I’ll go ask for you,’” Bryant recalled. “She told me, ‘Speak for yourself.’ A little more than a year later we got married.”

When the Bryants wed in 1938, it was Speegle who officiated at the ceremony. Eva Bryant died in 1987.

In the 1950s, when young singers gravitated to Clovis to record at the Norman Petty studios, they often dined in places such Al’s Drive-In and the Silver Grill Restaurant on Main Street — where Bryant was an employee.

“When those people were recording, they were good people and we liked them,” said Bryant, who bought the Foxy Drive-In in 1959. “But they were just customers to us, they weren’t celebrities.”

As for Norman Petty, Bryant certainly served up some food to him as well.

“He was a real great guy. He was a person kind of like Will Rogers, I think,” Bryant said. “He never met a man he didn’t like — very personable, very friendly.”