Landmark Coming Down

Last Bottle Standing


The Gay Way, the Saloon, Opal’s…the establishment on the northern outskirts of Lamar had a number of titles and owners over the years, but still a honky-tonk by any other name. And you know what they used to say, “What happens at Opal’s gets talked about all around the town the next day!”

Reflections in a Bar Mirror

Opal’s has been empty for about the past ten years, one of several abandoned buildings on a six acre stretch of land overlooking Valco Pond on the edge of the Arkansas River. It was said that the parking lot belonged in the city limits, but everything east of the front porch was in the county, offering a legalistic conundrum on a weekend when some of the patrons occasioned to get rowdy. Now it’s being cleared to make way for an up-scale Best Western Inn and Suites. An estimated 60,000 tons of fill dirt is being hauled in to bring the property up to a level grade with the highway. If you remember the drop-off from the road to the parking lot, that’s a lot of fill.

Last Call

Opal’s featured the standard pool table, bar, drinks in plastic cups, a rack of Slim Jims, a black-painted ceiling, numerous bands of varying talent and a his and hers about three steps up and due east of the dance floor. On any given weekend night, you could crowd-watch a variety of social situations including flirtation, a break-up, jealous couples, couples in love, people out on the floor, beer in hand, who were minus a dance partner and unaware of the fact.   Everybody watched everybody else. The last time Opal’s was open, there was no such thing as facebook or social media. Tinder was in real time and right in front of you!  No photo-shopping; you had to make do with what you brought to the table!

DeWitt Excavating Handles the Demolition

Years back, you could do the weekend hat-trick, start at the Cow Palace Lounge, walk across the parking lot to the Stagecoach for a few drinks and a chance at new friendship and back across the street to the Saloon or any one of those combinations and by around 1 or 2am it was time for breakfast out at the Truck Plaza. Sometime in the mid 80s, Vic’s Country Palace became the entertainment anchor for the southern part of town. And over the years fewer people came out for the weekend, fewer bands played their music and those nightspots eventually closed their doors for one reason or another.

And now it’s all gone. No more listening to, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” booming from the dance floor, played over the conversations of a thirsty crowd with the aroma of tobacco and beer wafting from the front door. A lot of places like that in small towns across the high plains had their day and their time in the twilight and Opal’s was ours.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarCountyEntertainmentFeaturedHistoryRecreation


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