It was April of 1965 when a young couple, newly married from Oklahoma, and on their way to Hot Springs for their honeymoon, saw an intriguing sign on the highway advertising the entrance to Mountain Harbor Resort.
Robert Bennett turned to his new wife, Reba, and asked her if she’d like to see what was at the end. Turning onto the gravel road, the couple found their way to Mountain Harbor Resort.
Arriving at the resort, they met Hal Barnes, the owner and father of the current owner, Bill Barnes. Hal graciously welcomed the couple but explained that they could only stay through Thursday evening as the resort was full for the weekend with a fishing tournament. The Bennetts stayed for three nights and fell in love with the rustic beauty of Lake Ouachita and the surrounding area. Reba Bennett carefully packed away their registration card, a brochure, matchbox and postcard from Mountain Harbor and placed the items carefully in her wedding album.
Twenty five years later, in 1990, a receptionist at Mountain Harbor Resort received an odd phone call. The chipper caller on the end of the line quipped “I have a registration card from 1965 with a $12 per night rate. If I bring it with me….can I pay $12 a night again?” She went on to tell the story of their honeymoon at Harbor in 1965.
While the couple didn’t quite get that $12 rate in 1990, they did receive a generous upgrade to one of the resort’s nicest new condominiums. They were amazed at all the growth and changes, especially in the number and size of trees all around the resort. And, they met Hal’s son, Bill, now owner of the resort after his father’s passing in 1989, although Bill had been managing the resort since the early 70’s.
Spring forward to April of 2015. Another phone call to Mountain Harbor from the Bennetts – now ready to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary at the site of their honeymoon. And this time, the Bennetts came bringing priceless gifts – souvenirs from that very first trip. And the resort had a wonderful surprise in the works for the couple – an upgrade to a cozy Harbor North cottage….and a special $12 per night rate!
In a warm, happy reunion between Bill Barnes and Robert and Reba Bennett, the couple presented Bill with a four color Mountain Harbor brochure from 1965 featuring a then 17 year old “Billy” with his brother Johnny in front of the Lodge fireplace. They also presented Bill with a copy of their original registration card from 1965 and clippings from their hometown newspaper of their wedding. Then they brought out the registration card from their 25th anniversary also at Mountain Harbor and a photo taken with Bill in the Lodge Restaurant. They had also saved brochures, a matchbox and even a resort flier from their 1990’s visit.
The Bennetts and Bill Barnes shared a lovely hour on the deck of their lakeside cottage, reliving memories and hearing about each other’s families and the resort’s plans for the future.
Afterwards, they took another picture re-enacting the photo from 1990 for the Bennetts to take home in the little wedding album Reba has treasured for fifty years.
“Having had the opportunity to spend most of my life living and working at Mountain Harbor has been a great privilege for me”, Bill Barnes, stated, “But, by far, my greatest privilege has been the opportunity to meet and serve wonderful guests like the Bennetts and to see how the beauty and hospitality of our resort has affected the lives of those we have the pleasure of serving”.
And....we could't help but fall in love with the sentiment we found printed on the match box from 1965 - "We treat you like a friend". We are so grateful to all of our Harbor friends!