BY JACLYN ROSE –
Born and raised on Hatfield’s Six Mile Creek in Lone Valley, Hatfield Mayor Larry Stricklin has dedicated his life to his much loved town. “Everyone may feel this way about their childhood, but I get melancholy when I think back about how good we had it. We all grew up centered around my Mamaw Iva’s house. All of my cousins and I worked together and played together and there was always enough to play baseball. It really was a Norman Rockwell type childhood,” explained Stricklin.
“When momma and daddy both had to go to work I developed my fondness for cooking. I always made sure I had supper on the table when they got home from work,” said Stricklin. His cooking skills, as well as his knowledge of meats and vegetables, would create a foundation for most of the work Stricklin would do in his life. In 1969, while a senior in high school, Stricklin went to work for the Hughes Brothers’ Meat Market in Potter. “I was extremely shy and bashful, which I know is hard to believe, but I was always around kinfolk and I didn’t have to know how to make friends and influence people. So working behind that meat counter really helped me learn how to talk to people. I know it’s hard to imagine now, but back then, Potter was like a hub with 2 grocery stores and the meat market and the sale barn always going. I would work 60 hours a week for 60 dollars, and I knew this would be my career,” Stricklin explained.
Shortly after graduating from Hatfield High School, Stricklin joined the Army National Guard, where he would serve for 20 years. “When I got back from boot camp the meat market was closed so I went to work as a produce manager in Mena. Then from 1976-1982, I had Larry’s Grocery in Hatfield. At one time, we had up to 10 employees and lots of my family working with me,” said Stricklin. From there, Stricklin worked 6 years as a USDA Poultry Inspector and in 1988 he leased Boyd Smith’s Meat Market. Through the years, Stricklin has owned six businesses including, Larry’s Corner in Mena and Simple Simons in Hatfield. “Tommy Fowler bought that shopping center where Atwoods is and I bought the service station from him and it was so great seeing that shopping center come to life. He did a great thing for our community. I really met a lot of people from Mena at Larry’s Corner. I know everyone from the south and it was great getting to know people from the north,” said Stricklin.
Recently, Stricklin has retired and is taking the time to slow down and really enjoy life with his wife, Mona, and their 10 grandkids. “Mona and I married in 1988, she really gave me a new lease on life. I think probably at the end of it all, the greatest accomplishments in life are your kids. We have five: Tonya, a Mena High School Counselor; Toni, a librarian in Oklahoma; Beau, a Captain in the Army National Guard; Tasha, who is headed to law school; and David, a truck driver who loves what he does. They are great kids and they take good care of me,” said Stricklin.
With a great affection and dedication to the city of Hatfield, Stricklin has served the city for 25 years, with 16 of those being Mayor. Newly re-elected, by the end of this term, Stricklin will have 20 years as Mayor of his hometown. “I had a lot of concern of Hatfield just folding up when we lost the school, but Hatfield has done well. I think it has become the place in between the two new schools and it is going to survive. In the years I’ve been with the city, so much has changed and grown thanks to the city council and the people. We’ve established a park, we have the old gym to use as an auditorium, we have a backhoe and a dump truck, and the Jubilee in June, which is an awesome event. This Christmas we established the Christmas Caroling and we have plans to really expand this in the future. I think a lot of people are nostalgic and long for the past,” said Stricklin.
“The people and the heritage and memories are what make this area wonderful. We have great creeks and rivers and mountains, but the people take care of each other. If you let the people in Polk County know you have a need, they are going to take care of you, even if they don’t like you,” said Stricklin with a laugh.