As always, click on the pic for full size…

mapempire

Wayne (April 1, 1910) and Lawrence (September 8, 1914) Staley were the second and third born sons of Rowan and Roxie Mathis Staley. Around 1932, they began operating a gas station in Roaring River, NC, just a few miles down the road from Junior Johnson’s home near Ronda. Soon it was a busy drive-in restaurant known as the Friendly Cafe. In September, 1935, Wayne moved to Forsyth County and, in partnership with his hometown friend Arville Blackburn, opened a drive-in cafe and Shell gas station on state highway 60 (Reynolda Road), about six miles west of Winston-Salem. Lawrence stayed behind to run the Friendly Cafe. In March, 1937, Lawrence sold the Roaring River establishment to a neighboring businessman, Grover Longbottom, and moved to Winston-Salem and took over the Reynolda Road cafe.

 

 

Staley & Blackburn, on Reynolda Road, c 1935. The information pasted onto the picture at lower left is incorrect.

Staley & Blackburn, on Reynolda Road, c 1935. The sign in the window at right clearly states “Staley & Blackburn”. The information pasted onto the picture at lower left is incorrect. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

 

This item, which appears in the Wilke Journal-Patriot, September 12, 1935, clearly establishes the date of the Staley/Bllackburn partnership and the move to Winston-Salem. The Wilkes Journal-Patriot is stilled published as a weekly. The NC Room is a subscriber. Still one of our better area newspapers.

This item, which appears in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, September 12, 1935, clearly establishes the date of the Staley/Blackburn partnership and the move to Winston-Salem. The Wilkes Journal-Patriot is still published as a weekly. The NC Room is a subscriber…still one of our better area newspapers.

Wayne soon joined the Merchant Marine, where he served as a cook. After World War II, he often worked on commercial vessels, traveling to Europe, Asia and Central and South America. Lawrence had built a large house on Reynolda Road where he lived with his mother Maxie. Between voyages, Wayne usually came to Winston-Salem and helped out with the restaurants. He died at Butner in 1967 of a heart attack while battling amphetamine and barbiturate addiction, a problem common to seagoing folks.

By the early 1950s, the original Reynolda Road Staley's had evolved into a full-fledged drive-in. One of Lawrence's early Cadillacs is at the right.

By the early 1950s, the original Reynolda Road Staley’s had evolved into a full-fledged drive-in. One of Lawrence’s first Cadillacs is at the right.

During World War II, Lawrence served in the Fourth Service Command Military Police, attaining the rank of sergeant. He worked as a town patrolman, as a traffic control officer and as a train safety officer, his last detail being the train run between Columbia, SC and Miami.

Sgt. Lawrence Staley receives a plaque on behalf of the Fourth Command MPs from David A. Crawford, president of the Pullman Company as Major General Archer J. Lerch looks on. June, 1945.

Sgt. Lawrence Staley receives a plaque on behalf of the Fourth Command MPs from David A. Crawford, president of the Pullman Company as Major General Archer J. Lerch looks on. June, 1945.

In the 1930s, a man named Windsor operated a gas station/grocery out in the woods at what is now the corner of Stratford Road and Knollwood Street. It gradually evolved into a restaurant and by the mid-1940s had grown into something of a roadhouse, known as the Forest Inn, noted more for beer and dancing than for food and gasoline. In 1951, Lawrence leased the building and began it’s conversion to his second drive-in. It became a cruising destination for teenagers, with later stops along Stratford at the Triangle Drive-in, the Chuckwagon and the Castle Drive-in near Oakwood. Several renovations later, it closed in the mid-1960s and was replaced by a drive-thru bank branch.

Forest Inn ad, 1947

Forest Inn ad, 1947

 

The former Forest Inn has become Staley's Stratford drive-in, early 1950s

The former Forest Inn has become Staley’s Stratford drive-in, early 1950s

By the late 1950s, all Staley’s drive-ins were very popular, with the signature menu item being the triple decker cheeseburger. After the early 1960s redo, the Stratford Staley’s no longer had car hop service, but you could still go to a door at the back to pick up your takeout triple decker and fries for whatever private party you were having.

In 1954, Lawrence opened a third drive-in, Staley’s Grill, at 2985 Waughtown Street (Five Points at High Point Road). Meanwhile, around 1948, Robert E. Banner, who lived on East Polo Road, opened The Banners Restaurant in the 2400 block of Reynolda Road across from the Reynolds’ country estate. That family style restaurant was soon taken over by the Collier family, who also operated Morris Service downtown. When The Banners closed in 1956, Staley and Ken Cheek, an old friend from Wilkes county who had been managing the Reynolda road drive-in, formed a partnership, bought the former Banners property, and after extensive interior renovation, opened Staley’s Charcoal Steak House in 1957.

Ken Cheek (left), Lawrence and their chef at the opening of Staley's Charcoal Steakhouse, 1957

Ken Cheek (left), Lawrence and their chef at the opening of Staley’s Charcoal Steakhouse, 1957

It instantly became THE place to eat in the Twin City for both locals and visiting parents at the brand new Wake Forest College campus nearby. If a high school boy wanted to impress a date, he took her there, where she might be more impressed by some of the clientele, ranging from early NASCAR legends Curtis Turner and Junior Johnson to some mysterious sharp-dressed men and their flashy women over in the far corner, than she was by the excellent food and service.

A far cry from the later charcoal steakhouse...note a couple more of Lawrence's collectible Cadillacs...

A far cry from the later charcoal steakhouse…note a couple more of Lawrence’s collectible Cadillacs…

In 1960, Staley acquired the former Leroy’s Restaurant across from Northside Shopping Center (not to be confused with Leroy’s Barbecue and Leroy’s Confectionary on South Main Street) and created his fourth drive-in restaurant in Winston-Salem. He also operated a restaurant in Danville, Virginia, where sit-ins took place in 1963.

Ralph Eaton at the opening of Leroy's Northside Drive-in in 1959. Within a year, he had sold it to Lawrence Staley for his fourth and final local drive-in.

Ralph Eaton at the opening of Leroy’s Northside Drive-in in 1959. Within a year, he had sold it to Lawrence Staley for his fourth and final local drive-in. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

staleysdanvilleus29

In the early 1960s, Lawrence opened a second Staley’s Charcoal Steak House at 2401 Wilkinson Boulevard in Charlotte. A few years later, on Clanton Road in Charlotte, they opened Staley’s Elegante, which placed less emphasis on steak and offered three meals a day, seven days a week.

First page of the Charlotte menu, 1978

First page of the Charlotte menu, 1978

 

Second page of the Charlotte menu, 1978

Second page of the Charlotte menu, 1978

The Staley’s empire lasted for more than sixty years, the last to close being the original Charcoal Steakhouse in the Twin City in 2003. By then, Lawrence was long dead. On the night of December 25/26, 1973 Lawrence was driving his Rolls Royce near Lexington, NC. Shortly after midnight, the Rolls ran off the road, over an embankment and crashed. Because the wreck was not easily visible from the road, Lawrence lay unconscious for about four hours until the wreck was discovered. Lawrence was taken to Forsyth Memorial Hospital where he was found to have a fractured femur and other injuries. For two days, he seemed to be recovering, but he had a second heart attack and died on December 28. The autopsy determined that he had had a heart attack while driving. He was buried at the Roaring River Baptist Church cemetery in Wilkes County.

1971 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Cornich convertible

1971 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Cornich convertible

Lawrence was a serious automobile collector. He owned a wide range of cars, many of which he lent to NASCAR as pace cars. The heart of his collection was possibly the largest assemblage of Cadillacs in the country. But the car that Lawrence was driving when he had his accident was a light blue Rolls Royce Silver Shadow convertible. He had seen it, the only one in the United States, at the New York auto show a couple of years earlier. A number of wealthy collectors were competing to buy it, but Lawrence pulled a few strings and ended up driving it home.

The infamous bull, which had its own little corral, annoyed neighbors, at one point igniting a zoning battle, but delighted everyone else. It traveled widely, appearing in parades and at NASCAR events. It was stolen at least once, but found and returned.

thebull

It was built by a Wisconsin company in 1957, fiberglass and steel, eleven feet tall, 2000 pounds. Ken Cheek bought it at restaurant trade show in Chicago for $6,000. When the restaurant closed in 2003, Cheek moved the bull to his farm in the Shepperd’s Crossroads community north of Roaring River. Later, it returned briefly to Reynolda Road and also was displayed  at a restaurant in Elkin. There is a similar bull at Thrift-Way Meats, 635 Waughtown Street. It is not the Staley’s bull.

After Cheek’s death in 2009, the bull was sold to a resident of Davie County for $10,000. There it resides in pastoral peace.

The third edition of Staley's Reynolda Road drive-in opened in the early 1960s with a menu and microphone for ordering by each car

The third edition of Staley’s Reynolda Road drive-in opened in the early 1960s with a menu and microphone for ordering by each car

Almost immediately, the Reynolda drive-in underwent yet another update to become Staley's Open Hearth, a great favorite of Wake Forest faculty and students

Almost immediately, the Reynolda drive-in underwent yet another update to become Staley’s Open Hearth, a great favorite of Wake Forest faculty and students

charcoal1960s

mapws

Advertisements