It was 12:40 pm on a warm Friday afternoon, and I had just stepped across the street to take the picture shown above of Shorty’s, a legendary stopping place for hot dogs and beer when Wake Forest College was in the town of Wake Forest before moving to Winston-Salem in the summer of 1956 and eventually becoming a university. I had 20 minutes before meeting a group of people for a downtown walking tour, organized by the Wake Forest Historical Museum, and the question on my mind was whether I had time for a hot dog. It seemed ungracious of me to take its picture, walk inside and not get one, so I asked the lady behind the counter how long before one to go would be ready. She told me less than 5 minutes, so I was a yes!
Our group started on time, and now well fed, I was excited about seeing downtown Wake Forest not only through the eyes of our guide who told the history of the main street and all the buildings in about a three block area, but also through the memories of having lived in this place for eight years until my family moved with the entire school and faculty to the new campus in Winston-Salem just weeks after the last commencement.
Many of the buildings are still there, and while the businesses and names have changed, I found I could close my eyes and remember the Western Auto, the two movie theatres, where I spent most every Saturday afternoons, the dime store, Holding’s Drug Store, always serving milk shakes and the best cherry smash, the Post Office where Lib Greason, the wife of the long- time basketball coach, delivered the mail to everyone in town, and of course Ben’s of Wake Forest who sold men’s clothing. Always the entrepreneur, Ben opened another store on the new campus.
Just so you know, Shorty’s is where Arnold Palmer, who played college golf at Wake Forest, in town for a celebration of his 75th birthday, told everyone assembled at the Wake Forest Birthplace that the only place he wanted dinner that night was at Shorty’s. He got it.
I remembered Miss Jo Williams who, for most of her lifetime, ran the cafeteria across from the campus and who later nightly fed and boarded students at her large and stately brick home across Durham Road from the President’s house. I knew Miss Jo well as almost every Sunday night in the early to mid-1950’s, I would often join my Dad who would regularly walk there from Sunday night church services at the campus Baptist church, where he was pastor. After eating fried chicken or pancakes or something else wonderfully delicious, we would continue down the sidewalk to our home, about four doors away. (Miss Jo at work is in the picture below.)
Seeing Wake Forest this past Friday was, for me, another technicolor moment, this time lasting the better part of the afternoon. I only write this to suggest a good way for you to have such a moment in your life is, if you can, go back one day to where you once lived when you were young and small. If you cannot get there, look at pictures. It will bring back memories, and you will think that Thomas Wolfe is wrong…you can go home again.