It was April 1956 and Wake Forest was splitting in two.
The town and college were about to break apart, becoming separate entities for the first time in their 122-year history. But despite the bright new campus waiting in Winston-Salem, many doubted it would really happen. The change seemed inconceivable.
Yet as the spring semester wound down, signs began to surface.
First came word from Dick Frye, whose famous fried chicken made his namesake cafe on South White Street a local hot-spot. He also owned a second eatery, the College Inn Restaurant, and it was closing due to lack of waiters. Frye normally hired 32 each year–mostly students–and half had already quit.
Then Emmitt Francis, owner of Francis’ Grill, reported his restaurant would also close.
Around the same time, college radio station WFDD went off the air. The students were packing up the broadcast equipment, transfering the entire operation to the new studio in Winston-Salem.
The student newspaper the Old Gold & Black reported that since all the station’s advertising contracts had been completed, the staff members decided to close early, get ready for the move, study for spring finals, and sign-off for good.
The College Book Store, owned by Everette Snyder, also was moving to the new campus. Snyder was busy holding fire sales and boxing his remaining merchandise for the big trek west.
And then there was Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs–the only of these once legendary restaurants still in existence today. In 1956, beloved proprietor Shorty Joyner announced he didn’t blame the college for moving, though he personally would prefer it to stay.
Identified as “creator of the ultimate hot dog” by the Old Gold & Black, Joyner held steady as the college departed.
By that summer the campus was home to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In the months that followed the dust began to settle. The town stepped back, paused a moment, and assessed the damage. The blow to the local economy was extensive. Even the public schools suffered, as the WFC faculty wives who’d worked as teachers and the children who’d filled the desks never reported back to class at the start of the fall ’56 school year.
But it was a different story for Shorty. Interviewed in early 1957, he said local trade was still good, and the seminary students were keeping his place afloat.
As reported in the Old Gold & Black:
“The preachers even shoot a game of pool in the back now and then,” he grins proudly. Friends had figured Shorty’s four billiard tables would suffer most severely when Deacon snooker enthusiasts cleared out.
Magazines were missing. Once the center of sport and sex literature, Shorty’s has now forsaken this part of the business. Seems they “just don’t sell” anymore. The whole side of the room looked barren without them.
The friendly proprietors [Shorty and his brother, Worth Joyner] still missed sorely the swarms of hungry students. They didn’t say much, but it was obvious.
“We see some of the boys on holidays and weekends. When they pass through on the way home, they always stop to grab a bite and say hello.”
The surroundings and faces were the same, but the silence was completely foreign. It looked the same, but it can never be–for Shorty and his brothers.
“In a coupla years you college folks will forget all about us, soon as the old crowd graduates,” they say.