As a 90-year-old watering hole and legendary music venue just down the hill from the University of Arkansas, George’s Majestic Lounge has become home to a lot of traditions over the years.
Predictably, most of them pertain to live music. Dancing during a Cate Brothers show at happy hour. Pulling out a lighter (or these days, a cell phone) during a slow song. Cheering and calling the Hogs to bring out the band for one more song.
One of the more surprising traditions, however, is the extensive collection of University of Arkansas yearbooks that sit above the bar in the lounge area.
George’s owners Brian and Day Crowne have collected nearly 90 yearbooks, dating back to the time before the school mascot was a Razorback, when Arkansas players were called Cardinals.
The collection was actually started by Jim Hatfield, ex-husband of former bar co-owner Suzie Stephens.
Stephens purchased the bar along with the Crownes back in the early 2000s before Brian and Day become sole owners a few years ago.
“The first day when we took ownership, I took a sledgehammer to the drop ceilings to try and open the bar up, and was looking for a way to refresh the area above the bar,” Brian recalled. “We built these shelves, and were looking for something to put on them, and one of us realized, ‘Hey Jim. We need those yearbooks.'”
Since then, the books have become a part of the rich history of the venue, which has a long relationship with university students. Since the yearbooks have been at the bar, the Crownes say that bartenders frequently pull them down for customers so they can look for themselves or their relatives.
“We’ll have freshmen come in, and find their parents, grandparents, even great grandparents,” he said. “Or we’ll have people that come to town for homecoming who went to school here in the 1940s, 50s, or 60s, and we’ll say, hey, sign your yearbook.”
Since acquiring the Hatfield’s collection, the Crownes have continued to add to it through the years.
All of the area flea markets and thrift stores have a list of the yearbooks missing from the George’s collection, and occasionally, Day will get a call with a lead on a new book. She has purchased several, and a few have even been donated to the collection.
The most recent additions were recently discovered in the attic of the Old Post Office building on the downtown square, and include 1909 and 1910. Day said they were donated to the collection by a former secretary of long-time OPO owner, Ron Bumpass, who passed away in 2014.
She also recently acquired yearbooks for 1914 and 1915, and both books are currently being restored by a local book binding company.
The yearbooks have led to countless interesting conversations and revelations over the years, Brian told us.
The 1915 yearbook had an original sketch inside on tracing paper, created for the yearbook by the person who once owned it.
Brian also told us the story of a man who had been doing janitorial work for the bar, who after several years of working there pulled out the 1962 yearbook, and pointed himself out inside. He was All-SEC lineman John Childress, who lettered for three years during the 60s under former head football coach Frank Broyles.
“Nobody had any idea, and he’d never mentioned it before then,” Crowne said. “That was pretty cool.”
Day said she is still seeking 32-33 yearbooks to complete her collection, and anyone who’d like to donate or trade for one of the missing editions (see the full list below) can contact her at the bar.
Day said she isn’t looking for the yearbooks to be in mint condition. After all, interaction with them is kind of the point.
“I don’t need them to be completely perfect,” she said. “We want people to take them down and look at them, sign them, have fun with them. They are meant to be enjoyed.”
Yearbooks needed to complete the collection
1899 (No known publication)