LOCATION: 414 N. Main Street Wake Forest, NC 27587 CONTACT: 919-556-2911
On November 20, 1950, a reporter from the Old Gold & Black caught a few students having a late evening snack at Shorty’s. “Stanley Johnson is sleepily telling a friend of his quiz next day, while Ed McClure eats, and Ed Listopad and Shorty look very interested in a passerby.” -Story by Thom Miller
Red Stools, Counter and Billiard Tables Symbolize Familiar Scenes at “Shorty’s”
“Gimme a hamburger and a cup of coffee.”
“Come on back and let’s shoot another game of pool before we go back to the dorm.”
“Say, Shorty, has the latest shipment of ‘SEE’ magazines come in yet?”
Almost any time of day or night, and on into the wee hours of the next morning, remarks such as the above can be heard at that place known to all Wake students as “Shorty’s,” one of the many institutions of Wake Forest. There are no neon lights, no glittering marquee, and no slim-limber chorus girls to keep you entertained while they keep taking off flimsy niceties amidst showers of applause from the subdued males in the audience.
The Click of Cueballs
No, only a simple legend in faded gold letters proclaims what is behind that faded brown awning and corrugated glass window. “Shorty’s, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers.” Inside, ten red stools face a long black counter and a row of much carved school desks is backed up against the opposite wall, usually occupied by a number of students who have more time than money and read magazines from the variety stacked on the adjoining rack.
There is the smell of frying hamburgers, the reek of onions, the blare of a battered jukebox, and coming from the back room are sharp clicks of the cue balls on four tables. There are stacks of drinks, shelves of soup, the latest in practical jokes, and if you’re in the mood for some deep concentration Shorty has a complete library that includes nearly every quarter novel pocket book that has been published.
A rack of strictly fresh eggs sits near the grill, waiting the omelet call, and three silent Silexes are busy producing the caffeine necessary for any who might have to endure the long hours. The mirrors into which thousands of former students have gazed are behind the counter, and there is a class case you can look through to see frankfurters sizzling on a hot plate, with the mustard jar and a dish of chopped onions nearby. The oatmeal cookies and other delicacies line the counter and long-armed standees reach over your shoulder to make selections.
That is Shorty’s. Not just another place of business, a roadside grill where you spend a few seconds to froth at the mouth and stagger away, not a high class restaurant where you turn white when you glance at the check, but Shorty’s is an institution and Shorty himself is a tradition. He is a little man whose hair stayed long enough to gray and then started to leave. He is always chewing on the stump of a cigar which somehow or other manages to stay just so short. This man behind the counter is Millard Edward Joyner, that’s Shorty.
Ran a Movie
Shorty came to Wake Forest in 1919 and was running a movie when the infamous flu epidemic came long. With his brothers, Worth and Buster, he opened up the short order emporium which has been located at various places in Wake Forest before it finally came to rest in its present location. That was 1939 and Shorty turned his business adventures toward other lines. He built the Collegiate Theater, which burned mysteriously in 1940. He rebuilt the theater but later sold it, either because he was afraid of arson or because Roy Rogers had to stop singing, or because Clark Gable had to quit making love to the film’s leading lady every time the northbound whistled along the Seaboard Airline Railroad.
Shorty is now 59, and has very definite ideas about love, business, and the life of the current Student Body. Immediately following the last war–(number two that is)–he said that the majority of the students were younger but, he says, more serious. There used to be a lot of horseplay, hazing, and hair-cutting, and compared to the old days, the kids of today are rather grown-up. The veterans all seem to be rather solid citizens, too, the king of the hot dog emporium observes. The coeds? They’re fine. Wake Forest did the right thing letting them in, he says.
Shorty has seen them come and seen them go. Always a supporter of the College, he is proud of the fact that it is practically impossible to pick up a school publication or listen to WFDD without hearing or seeing one of his advertisements.
Yes, Shorty loves Wake Forest and the students of Wake Forest will always hold a warm place in their hearts for the smiling, genial gent behind the counter of the town’s most frequented short order cafe.