Many may remember a hangout in Mansfield from long ago called the Kreme Kastle. It was located on the corner of Highways 71 and 96 and was later the home of the Tiger Restaurant and Simple Simon’s Pizza. The building was first built by Curtis Presson. He and his wife Katherine Baum Presson ran a drive-in restaurant there for a short time before selling it to Katherine Johnson.
Katherine Johnson was a character. She was a resident of Fort Smith and the sister to the late Harold Johnson and his wife Minnie of Mansfield. She was short, a bit stocky and appeared tough as a boot but she loved to prank and have fun. You might not ever think that she’d be in the food service business but it came natural to her. It was a hangout for the local students who got to come to the Kreme Kastle for lunch on school days. Katherine always put a lot of quarters in the jukebox so that the first person to come in was able to pick all the songs they liked for lunch. Cheeseburgers were sold five for a dollar. The ice cream tasted like homemade and they made the best malts, or so it seemed. The parking lot was always filled with cars and had the atmosphere of the movie “American Graffiti.”
A local young man came to the drive-in with his brand new motorcycle one day. He and his buddies were checking it out in the parking lot and Katherine stepped out to have a look too. After they visited for a while, Katherine asked the guy if she could try it out. He agreed and began to show her the brakes, gas, clutch and other things she needed to know. Katherine got on the motorcycle and shot the gas to it, headed down Highway 71 toward Huntington. The owner of the bike began to freak out! He just put an old lady on his brand new bike and both were seemingly doomed! Just about that time he heard the motorcycle coming back. As it approached the restaurant, Katherine climbed up on the seat and stood up with her hands in the air and drove past them toward the football field! She came back unharmed and the bike was in perfect condition. What they didn’t know was that Katherine and her brother Harold were once known in the circus circuit for their motorcycle skills and tricks. Everyone knew it now.
After the Kreme Kastle was sold by the Presson’s they bought the land on the opposite corner and built the Dixie Bell. They were also the builders and owners of the Holiday Acres Drive-In in Fort Smith. If you’ve been in those you will realize that the floor plans were the same or reversed.
Katherine sold the Kreme Kastle to the Roach family, I believe, and returned to Fort Smith, only coming back to visit with family and friends. She was an amazing woman and made the Kreme Kastle a great memory for many young and old who enjoyed their time there.