The best of Ruston

Photo is the west side of Louisiana Tech’s campus in 1967.

By Wesley Harris

In 1936, a reporter stopped several people on the streets of Ruston to solicit opinions of the town. Among the questions asked were, “What is the best thing in Ruston?”, “What is the worst thing in Ruston?” and “What do you think Ruston needs more than anything else?” 

Every respondent had something good to say and most answered the question of what could be done to improve Ruston. Schools—Louisiana Tech specifically—received the most endorsements by the 16 people interviewed. Tech was mentioned by six and schools in general by three. Twenty-year-old Mary Alice Cheatwood said, “The best thing in Ruston is Tech which has really meant more to me than anything else.”

G. E. Harper was more specific: “the best thing is the good-looking Tech coeds.” He thought the worst thing in Ruston was “snubbing girls” (girls who gave men the brush-off).

Several observations focused on the people of Ruston. Veterinarian and semi-pro pitcher J. E. Stiles remarked, “The best thing in Ruston is the real Southern hospitality.” Jeweler L. B. Burkett said, “The best thing in Ruston is that it is full of good people.” Insurance man L. K. Brooks was more loquacious: “The spirit of friendship is the best thing in Ruston. The grouch, who expresses his personal opinion of his fellowman in the wrong light, is the worst thing in the city.” 

Frank Eastland and R. W. Lewis touted Ruston’s sweet-tasting water. Lewis believed Ruston water “is the best thing we have.” “It’s like Ivory soap—99 percent pure,” Eastland observed. The comparison of Ruston water to pure Ivory soap is a catchphrase some our older citizens still recall. Many of Ruston’s senior citizens recall water having no chemical taste or smell before the changes to the Sparta aquifer and the introduction of extensive treatment methods.

A quick inquiry on social media revealed memories of Ruston’s fine water of days past. One local remarked, “Ruston water used to the best tasting water ever! Even the Coca-Cola bottled in Ruston was better than any Coke in the country all because of Ruston water!”

Another Facebook user responded to our request for memories: “I remember the water tasting good. My Monroe relatives always commented on how good Ruston water was.”  Another: Ruston water was clean and fresh . . . We always took “Ruston water” to our D’Arbonne lake house. Yet another: “I always loved coming home to Ruston and that good water. The best. We were lucky to grow up with it.”

Thirty-three year-old L. G. Huey added another “best” to the list. “The best thing in Ruston is its churches. Ruston does need Christians.”

The need for a more diversified economy led the informal 1936 list of Ruston’s greatest needs. “We need factories and a bigger payroll,” said 31-year-old businessman F. E. Willis. L. B. Burkett opined, “We need more industries, a larger payroll, and more confidence in the future.” And Mrs. Jettie Timon, owner of a women’s ready-to-wear shop, agreed. “Ruston needs more industries and more payrolls.”

J. S. Harris replied, “The thing most needed in this city is more industries. If we had this, there is no reason we shouldn’t have quite a ‘little city.'” Thirty-year-old Annie Bell Hinton was more specific on improving the economy: “The thing we need more than anything else is an oil well.” 

Beyond the economy, Ruston needed “a recreational center for adults as well as children,” according to Mary Alice Cheatwood. Merchant J. H. Mays longed for a “a good street light at the intersection of the Monroe Highway (U. S. 80) and Vienna Street.”  

Dr. Stiles simply said the worst thing about Ruston was “politics.” Frank Eastland complained drunk drivers were the worst thing in Ruston.

What do you believe is the best Ruston has to offer? 

Please send your answer to Wes Harris at campruston@gmail.com or respond on our Facebook post.


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