Bitty Martin was indoctrinated into the spa city’s raucous illegal gambling and nightlife at a young age . . . the tiny newborn spent the first six weeks of her life in the St. Joseph’s Hospital nursery, only blocks from the Southern Club Casino and Nightclub. (Her identical twin, Mitsy, went home after three weeks.) They are seen with their mother and big sister Sara in a photo taken by a Stonecipher’s Deluxe Studio photographer while strolling Central Avenue not far from the notorious nightclub that had once been the winter hangout for gangsters Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Over the years, the vintage photos snapped in downtown Hot Springs became collector’s items for spa city families.
As a youngster, Bitty enjoyed her father’s tales of Hot Springs’ colorful characters and places. She still remembers sitting in the backseat on family drives downtown with her father serving as tour guide. Each time they’d pass the fancy Southern Club, he’d point at the huge "can-can girl" neon sign atop the ornate marquee and say, “If her legs are kicking, that means it’s safe to come inside and gamble.” At the time, gambling was illegal, but that seemed to serve as an added enticement to the well-dressed visitors from Chicago and surrounding states.
Bitty's mother was a wonderful influence, always taking the twins to the library and dropping them off at the Malco or Paramount matinees. Bitty believes her parents’ nurturing, along with her media and medical background, prepared her to tackle the mystery of her junior high school friend’s suspicious 1966 death and its connection to a brutal murder. She considers Snake Eyes: Murder in a Southern Town as Hot Springs’ 1960s true crime memoir.
Bitty earned a BSBA in marketing from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas and served as executive director of the Hot Springs YWCA after beginning her career at Arkansas State Parks and Tourism, Research Division. She later went into marketing at a Hot Springs bank and then an advertising agency. Moving to Little Rock, she was a sales and marketing account executive with Arkansas Times magazine, KATV-Channel 7/ABC affiliate and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Bitty returned to college to earn a nursing degree (RN) at UALR and began working at UAMS and then in hospital operating rooms across the country. Throughout her varied career and travels, she never forgot her junior high school friend, Cathie Ward, whose tragic death had always been a mystery.