Look for some changes in the landscape in Christopher Creek. Word is going around that the new owners of the Landmark are remodeling the once-popular watering hole. The remodel could even include some demolition on a fairly substantial scale.
That is the future. The Landmark, formerly called the Christopher Creek Store & Bar, has a rich history in the little Mogollon Rim community. In fact, at one time, the place was part of the heart of the community, at least that is how the children of one-time owners Heber and Blanche White describe it.
The White family, Cookie, Larry and Deanna talked about growing up at the old place recently.
Heber and Blanche bought the Christopher Creek Store & Bar in 1964 from Claude and Bay Mills. The Whites were the third owners of the property, which had originally been built by Paul and Polly Ashby more than a decade before the purchase by the Whites.
The Whites owned the place and expanded it during the next 12 years, initially selling it in 1976, but finding it back in their hands off and on for another 20 years.
The Whites' children are unanimous in recalling the place in Christopher
Creek as a good place to grow up.
The youngest, Deanna, said it was a great place to grow up and she felt cheated because she never had a chance to work in either the store or bar with her parents.
Cookie worked at the bar as a bartender and waitress and clerked at the store. Larry worked with his father in the family construction company and in the store, too.
"I wouldn't trade those days for anything," Cookie said.
Larry recalled the bar as being the favorite spot of many of the old ranchers in the area.
"It was the hangout for Bill and Barbara Bowman of the 13 Ranch, Dwight and Betty Joy for the OW and Norman Winters, who had a place by the fish hatchery, near where the Zane Grey Cabin was.
"Lee Simes, the caretaker for the Mountain Meadows Ranch in See Canyon, would come in on his tractor, park it under the same pine tree and sit on the same bar stool," Larry said.
"When the place was painted, they never bothered with the spot where his bar stool was, because he would always lean against the wall and wear the paint away," Cookie said.
There was a dance just about every Saturday night throughout the years. Some of the popular entertainers were Jinx Pyle who played with Bud Ellington, Angela Taylor (Van Horn Godac) and Nora Lee Pyle (Sossasaman); and Ron Gibson and Don Gibson.
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When the Whites bought the place, it had a store on the east side and bar next to it. Later -- in the late 1960s -- the bar became a restaurant and a new bar was built on the west side.
The new bar was built out of railroad ties chinked together; it was finished right before one of the area's biggest floods. The new construction was so sound the flood didn't make a dent in it, though the water came inside and the debris and mud nearly made the parking lot impassable.
"If it isn't torn down, that place will last another 100 years," Larry said.
The Whites' Christopher Creek Store & Bar was a community gathering place. Every April the family and their neighbors put on a barbecue that drew hundreds of people from all over the state.
"We'd use every kind of meat you can think of," Cookie said. "We'd have mountain lion, bear, javelina, wild turkey and more. Dad and Woody Woods would make their own barbecue sauce to go with it."
Deanna said the old bar (later turned restaurant) had a big fireplace and through the winter there was always a fire going in it. Every day her mother would put a large pot of beans over coals and fix a big batch of cornbread and feed anyone who came in. The family would also put up anyone who broke down.
"I never knew when I'd have to give up my bed," Deanna said. Heber and Blanche were always reaching out to people in need, whether they were just passing through or neighbors in a tight spot.
The family would have potlucks for every holiday.
"Everyone in town was part of our family," Deanna said.
No one in the White family has been a very frequent visitor to the old place since their parents died. Blanche died in March 1989 and Heber died in June 1999. Whatever the new owners do, the family hopes some of the old place will remain standing.
"I'd like to see it restored to the way it used to be and made into a good, old bar and restaurant," Deanna said.
New owners Gary and Cindy Weirlinger of Gilbert will be contacted in the future to discuss their plans for the property.