91-year-old barkeep calls the shots

91-year-old woman runs bar

CRAVENS, LA (KPLC) - Over in Vernon Parish, there is a secret spot that has been drawing crowds for more than three decades.

"We're home folks up here ... Raised in the woods, born in the woods and we're going to stay in the woods," Neil Nelson said.

Nelson is a regular at Bea's Place, a local bar in Cravens, La., in the deep piney woods of Vernon Parish. For Nelson and many others, Bea's Place is more than a drink stop.

"You just go to Aunt Bea's and you're home," Nelson said.

Beatrice Watkins is a 91-year-old woman who has been running a bar for more than 20 years. Watkins' husband opened the bar in 1978, but she took over after he died.

"I said, well, I've got to have a living so I just stayed on," Watkins said.

Prior to working at the bar she worked in Fort Polk, but Watkins said Cravens is her home.

"I don't like all the hustle and bustle in the city," she said.

Bea's place has been a popular hangout since 1978, but it isn't always the drinks that drew in the crowds.

Nelson pointed out, "Without her being around here there wouldn't be anything to it. You just go to Aunt Bea's and you're home."

Watkins said she does it all, from mopping and sweeping to tending the bar.

Bar patrons look forward to visiting with Watkins every day.

"She's the queen in this country," Nelson said. "She takes care of everybody in this country, helps them out, raised them up and helps us all."

Watkins said the people keep her going. She said the laughter and company make her days enjoyable.

"When we had her birthday, people came in all week long just to see her," Watkins' granddaughter Cheryl Berry said.

"There are five generations in this family and I hope the other four are as strong as she is," Berry said. "If so, this bar is going to be alive for a long time."

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