Local History


As always, click the pics for larger size…the story of early aviation in the Twin City is a long, complicated and fascinating one…we have divided it into three parts…here is Part I…

Part 1 – First flight to first airport…

First flight…

Piedmont Park, which opened in the 1890s, was located on North Liberty Street, just south of today’s Smith Reynolds airport. It’s main features were a baseball field, which was used by a wide variety of local amateur and semi-professional teams, and a half mile dirt track meant for harness racing built by R.J. Reynolds’ brother Will. It was the main locus of touring circuses and the local fair until the new fairground, now the home of the Dixie Classic Fair, opened in the early 1950s.

As far as we can determine, the first airplane seen in Winston-Salem arrived in April, 1911, piloted by Lincoln Beachy, the most famous of the early barnstormers. His ad appeared in the local papers on April 2. He had offered to take aloft a few brave souls if anyone would volunteer. The list of volunteers appeared in the Journal on Friday, April 7, the day before his performance. The four young women all came from prominent families. J.R. Bolling was about to become the Twin City’s first Harley Davidson motorcycle dealer.

Saturday, April 8, brought rain and gusty winds. The show went on, but with many of its promises unfulfilled, before a disappointing crowd. Beachy agreed to repeat the performance on Monday, which drew a much better audience.

Lincoln Beachy and his aeroplane…

The highlight was a race between Beachy and a local man driving a Cadillac car. The car ran on Piedmont Park’s half mile dirt race track, averaging around 57 miles per hour, while Beachy circled 200 feet above, finishing five laps to the car’s four. Unfortunately, as often happens, the newspapers failed to report the names of the winners of the free flights. It is possible that because of the trying weather conditions Beachy did not take anyone up. Beachy had invented the first aerobatic maneuver, the simple loop. He flew many of them in Winston-Salem that day, thousands in his lifetime, but as with so many early aviators, he flew one too many and died for his effort in 1915 at San Francisco, aged 28.

Lincoln flies under the Honeymoon Bridge at Niagara Falls…

Second flight…

A few months later, at Thanksgiving, the Twin City had its second encounter with the aviation phenomenon. In the spring of 1910, the University of North Carolina baseball team had suffered a humiliating loss in a double header sweep by the University of Virginia. In the second game, UVA pitcher C.C. Witmer tossed a three hitter.

Ensign C. C. Witmer

Upon graduation, Witmer joined the US Navy as an ensign and became one of the first Navy pilots. He was soon flying exhibitions to recruit for the Navy flying corps.

In the fall of 1911, the Winston-Salem Journal announced a major Thanksgiving air show, at which TWO famous aviators would fly for the crowd at Piedmont Park.

Despite another rainy, gusty day, Witmer and Charles F. Walsh of San Diego put on a spectacular show. Just a few months before, Walsh had become the first pilot to take his entire family up for flight. Walsh’s wife Alice begged him to let her go aloft with him here, but because of the dodgy conditions, she was left on the ground.

Charles Walsh with his homemade plane “Silver Dart” and family, wife Alice, son Walter and daughter Juanita. During the family flight, Walter sat on his father’s right, Alice on his left, holding Juanita on her lap. Juanita would go on to become a pilot as well.

Stunt flying was the main course, but the highlight of the day was a simulated aerial attack on entrenched infantry, with the local militia, the Forsyth Riflemen, in the role of the enemy. The Riflemen fired over 200 blanks at the aircraft, while Walsh dropped five pound sacks of flour to simulate bombs. Luckily, he scored no direct hits, but on his last run, a stream of “smoke” appeared from one of the bombs. The crowd reacted with horror, thinking it was a real bomb, but one of the sacks had simply sprung a leak.

Less than a year later, on October 3, 1912, Walsh was performing at Trenton, New Jersey. Waiting in the stands for the next airplane ride was presidential candidate Woodrow Wilson…this at a time when no US president had ever even driven an automobile. Walsh decided to make one last test flight. His plane crashed and he was killed. Wilson went on to win the election.

Third flight…

International tensions soon interfered with with the aerial sideshows. By 1914, most Americans were reduced to following the exploits of their favorite aviators via the newspapers. But when the Great War ended in 1918, the barnstormers went back to work.

First airport…

Around 7 PM on June 12, 1919, Twin Citizens heard a droning noise that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Thousands flocked to Will Reynolds’ Westview Farm alfalfa field on Country Club Road west of Five Points. Some arrived in time to watch a Curtiss biplane land in the field.

On board were Captain B.J. Saunders and Lieutenant E.H. Sherman of the US Army flying service from Camp Bragg, near Fayetteville. The next morning Lieutenant Sherman gave a flying demonstration for local citizens, but the real purpose of the visit was to recruit new members for the Army flying service and to discover sites across the state where airfields might be built. That afternoon, the two flyers left for Camp Bragg.

But ideas were already roiling in the minds of members of the local Board of Trade and others. J. Stuart Kuykendall undertook a study to determine where a local civil airfield might be located.

A site on the old Kernersville Road, about six miles south of the courthouse was selected. Land was  purchased and construction of a modern airfield began.

Maynard Field

Belvin Maynard grew up on a farm in Sampson County, NC, where he became a widely known expert at fixing anything mechanical. In 1913 he enrolled at Wake Forest College with intent to become a Baptist minister. But when the US entered the Great War in 1917, he enlisted, won his pilot’s wings and was sent to France.

After the war, he returned to Wake, but was soon, in October 1919, invited to enter the longest air race ever held, over a thousand miles from New York to Montreal and back. He won and the national press dubbed him the “Flying Parson”.

Belvin Maynard, William Klein and Trixie with de Havilland DH4 “Hello Frisco”…Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection…

Shortly afterward, he entered an even bigger race…over 6.000 miles…New York to San Francisco and back. He named his de Havilland DH4 biplane “Hello Frisco”. Accompanied by his puppy Trixie, who wore a scarf, and his mechanic William Klein, he arrived on the west coast in first place.

But on the return flight his engine seized over Nebraska and he was lucky to land safely. Everyone assumed that he was out of the race. But Belvin was not a give-up kind of guy. He quickly discovered that another competitor who used the same engine had crashed just eleven miles away. He borrowed an army truck, had the undamaged engine loaded on it and he and Klein installed the engine in “Hello Frisco” and set off for New York. He won again. Now the press called him simply “the greatest pilot on earth”.

This plan of Maynard Field appeared in the December 5, 1919 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. The field was designed by the local engineering firm of Spinks & Edwards, which had its offices on the fourth floor of the Masonic Temple on the corner of Fourth and Trade Streets. John D. Spinks and Latta V. Edwards were both graduates of the North Carolina A & M College, now N.C. State.

The developers of the new Twin City airport decided to name their field for Belvin Maynard. He agreed to attend the dedication of the new airport. They had built two runways, one extending 1,890 feet from southwest to northeast, the other 1,249 feet from northwest to southeast, of compressed red clay, covered with a coarser sandy clay layer. A marker consisting of fine granite was sunken into the soil at the junction point of the runways. A bit northwest of the marker, using the same fine granite, the words “NC-1” and “Maynard” were impressed into the ground. A wind indicator was erected, showing white except during snowfalls, when it became red. It was lit for night landings. Space for parking, hangars and sheds was allocated.

On December 5, 1919, a considerable crowd assembled at the new field to watch the arrival of Lieutenant Maynard. He put on an impressive show before landing. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, “…with the figure eight, upward dives, side turns, and all manner of maneuvers, he kept the eyes of the crowd glued to the upper air and made the nerves of every spectator tingle with excitement, perhaps sometimes with apprehension.”

Dedication of Maynard Field…December 6, 1919…

After landing, the Flying Parson was whisked away to a reception in downtown Winston-Salem at the Zinzendorf Hotel on Main Street. The next morning, he dedicated the first civil airport in the South. Maynard would continue his barnstorming career until September 6, 1922, when he crashed and died during a circus show in Vermont before a crowd of about 30,000.

Maynard Field never developed into the economic engine that some had hoped for, but it would survive well into the 1930s as a weekend center for aviation, attracting other area flyers such as Harry Herman and Roscoe Turner, who flew aerobatic shows for substantial crowds and took up passengers for very reasonable rates. But soon it had a competitor.

Next up…Part II The amazing Charles brothers and Charles Field…

Advertisements

As always, click the pics for larger size…

Our North Carolina license plates bear the slogan “First in Flight”. Most folks know why. But Kill Devil Hills was not the only aviation first for NC. The first airplane ever built in North America was built on a farm in Hertford County in 1873 by the brother of the inventor of the Gatling gun. It didn’t really fly…in fact it crashed, once only…but it was an interesting attempt. The first helicopter to actually rise vertically, just a few feet, was invented in 1907 in Carteret County. It was powered by four motorcycle engines. The first American pilot to shoot down an enemy plane, in 1916, was an Asheville boy…a few months later he became the second American pilot to be killed in action. In 1923, Billy Mitchell proved once and for all, off Hatteras Island, that airplanes could sink battleships, thus rendering those expensive vessels obsolete. Today you can land at Billy Mitchell Field there, from whence most of his bombers took off. And then there is Tiny Broadwick, from Granville County, NC.

One of Tiny’s 1,100 plus landings…

Georgia Ann Thompson was born on a farm in Granville County, near Oxford, NC, in 1893. When she was 15, her father took her to a carnival in Raleigh where she saw Charles Broadwick’s World Famous Aeronauts parachute from a hot air balloon. From that moment on, Georgia’ life focused on one thing… parachuting.

She begged Broadwick to let her join his troupe. He demurred. She would need permission from her parents, which was highly unlikely. We can only imagine what tactics she employed, but she was not to be denied. Her mother gave in. She learned how to parachute. She made her first jump from a balloon on December 28, 1908. Soon, she was the star of the show.

How could anyone resist. She was a cutie, five feet tall and 85 pounds. The World Famous Aeronauts toured North America. Broadwick, who had invented the backpack parachute, formally adopted her, so she was billed as “Tiny Broadwick”, the “doll of aeronautics”.

One of Tiny’s best loved stunts was, at a certain point, to cut loose the first deployed parachute, which would trigger the deployment of a second parachute, then cut that loose, triggering yet a third chute. That always brought gasps from the crowds.

But as the new airplanes rapidly became more sophisticated, hot air balloons were becoming passe. In 1912, Tiny met Army pilot Glenn Martin, the founder of today’s mammoth Martin Marietta Corporation. At the time he was building a few airplanes and barnstorming, looking for a new wrinkle to attract crowds. He asked Tiny if she would like to parachute from one of his airplanes.

Tiny prepares to jump, June 21, 1913. The pilot is Glenn Martin.

The week of September 16, 1912, she did, twice over Grant Park in Chicago. It is unclear whose plane she jumped from. Her most famous jump came on January 9, 1914, when she parachuted from a plane built and piloted by Martin over Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Most official sources cite her jump on June 21, 1913, with Martin at the controls, as the first successful parachute attempt from an airplane by a woman anywhere in the world. But her first jumps in 1912 came only a few months after Army Captain Albert Berry made the first ever jump from a Benoist biplane at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.

Later in 1914, as the Great War heated up, Tiny, who probably knew more about parachuting than anyone else, was asked by the US Army Aviation Bureau, which then operated all military flying activities, to meet with them and demonstrate the art of parachuting.

At the time, the Army was skeptical of parachutes, because they were deployed via “static lines”, which could easily become entangled in parts of the aircraft leading to disaster.

Tiny teaches the Army Signal Corps, 1914

Tiny did four demonstrations for the Army. On her fourth jump, as the Army feared, her static line became entangled with the tail structure of the plane. She could not pull herself back into the plane and was in danger of being dragged to death upon landing.

But Tiny was a cool customer. She calmly snipped all of the static lines but one, which she cut close to her body and held onto. That sent her into “free fall”, the first time that anyone had ever done that on purpose. She then pulled the one remaining line, which deployed her parachute, allowing her to float safely to the ground. And that, folks, was the invention of the “ripcord”, which would become a standard feature of the parachuting world.

The Army aviation people were so impressed that Tiny was hired to serve as a parachuting consultant for the duration of the war. Unfortunately, the Army failed to heed her message. Once the US entered the war in 1917, Army airmen went up without parachutes, so paid the price of ignorance.

Tiny decided to retire from parachuting in 1922. By then she had made over 1,100 jumps. She spent much of the rest of her life working on the line in mills, although she did work in an aircraft factory during World War II.  In 1955, she appeared on Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life” TV show. In 1964, she also appeared on “To Tell the Truth”. You can see her appearance on the latter show here:

Georgia “Tiny” Thompson Broadwick died at 85 in 1978 and was buried at Sunset Gardens in Henderson, NC, leaving behind 16 beloved grandchildren and several equally beloved great-grandchildren.

As always, click the pictures for larger images

 Watch brief Lindbergh video…turn sound on…

Winston-Salem mayor Tom Barber welcomes Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis to Miller Field, October 14, 1927. Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection

Since well before noon thousands of bundled up people had been standing in a chilly wind on the freshly paved tarmac at the brand new Miller Field. By 1:45, all eyes were riveted on the sky to the southeast. Suddenly, someone cried “There he is!” Other voices repeated the message until the sound became a gentle roar. “There he is!” Then one voice cried “He’s flying over downtown!”. Sure enough, the plane made a couple of back and forth runs to the south, then turned northward. It passed over the airport once, turned and landed. As it taxied toward the single hangar, the crowd could see clearly for the first time the logo on its fuselage: “Spirit of St. Louis.” The pilot cut the engine and stepped out. He was wearing a long leather coat, a dark blue suit with white pinstripes, a white shirt, a light blue tie and a pilot’s helmet. The crowd gave a much louder roar. After a brief conference with mayor Thomas Barber, the pilot climbed into the back seat of a Packard touring car. It was 2:00 P.M, Friday, October 14, 1927 and Charles A. Lindbergh, better known as Lucky Lindy, was on the ground in the Camel City.

Lindbergh’s aide Donald Keyhoe, left, and mayor Barber, right, in the Packard parade car at Miller Field.

National Guard troops and special police officers were on hand to maintain order. Lindbergh was joined in the car by his chief aide, Donald Keyhoe and Mayor Barber. There were a dozen other cars, all Packards, filled with state and local officials and members of the press. The cavalcade, with a police motorcycle escort, pulled out of the airport and turned south on Liberty Street, then west on Northwest Boulevard, then south on Hawthorne Road, coming to a stop adjacent to Wiley School. The route was lined with thousands of people, standing at the roadside, sitting in parked cars, leaning out of windows, hanging from the rooftops.

Lindbergh arrives at Hanes Park, October 14, 1927

Lindbergh and his entourage walked around the building and onto a platform that had been built on the east side of the school, facing up the length of Hanes Park. Immediately below the platform stood the 15,000 children enrolled in the Winston-Salem public schools. Beyond them, stretching to the park boundaries, were tens of thousands more folks come to see the most famous man in the world. Both local newspapers said that it was the largest crowd in the city’s history.

Cover of the invitation to the Lindbergh banquet at the Hotel Robert E. Lee

The R.J. Reynolds High School band, which had been entertaining the waiting crowd with a wide variety of patriotic and popular tunes, played the “Star Spangled Banner.” Mayor Barber introduced the keynote speaker, attorney William Hendren. He welcomed the spectators and the dignitaries and made a few remarks, then introduced the governor of North Carolina, Angus McLean. When the governor had finished his remarks, he introduced Lindbergh, who, greeted by a mighty roar, spoke to the crowd. It was not a long speech, and it was the same speech he had delivered many times before, urging the people to get behind aviation and support the building of commercial and military aircraft. He did add a local note, encouraging the Twin Citizens to continue to develop their excellent new airport.

The invitation contained the list of speakers at the banquet

Soon the cavalcade resumed, this time to the five year old Hotel Robert E. Lee on West Fifth Street. Lindy gave a brief press interview, then grabbed a quick nap. The banquet began at 7:00 PM in the hotel ballroom, which was packed to the rafters. After dinner, a series of dignitaries spoke, all hewing to the brevity requirements of the Lindbergh tour. Lindbergh finished with another brief speech and had retired to his room by nine o’clock.

The Lindbergh banquet menu

The next morning, Lindbergh was back at Miller Field going through his lengthy pre-flight checklist before another large crowd. When done, he climbed into the cockpit. Someone gave the propellor a couple of spins, the engine caught, and with a wave of his hand, Lindbergh taxied the “Spirit” to the end of the runway, turned and took off, bound for a flyover at Danville before a later landing in Richmond.


Lindbergh got his start in aviation on the barnstorming circuit as a wing walker and parachuter. Here we see him at about age 20 with his wing walking pal, Bud Gurney

Charles Lindbergh was only 25 years old when he made his famous flight. Since Le Bourget airport in Paris was in an industrial district, and he would be arriving in darkness, when the factories were closed, he thought that it would be easy to find the airport by its lights. But as he approached, everything looked lit up. He thought perhaps that he was lost. But as he drew nearer, he realized that the lights were coming from thousands of automobiles stuck in a massive traffic jam trying to get to Le Bourget to watch him land…perhaps his first intimation as to just how famous he was about to be.

The Spirit of St. Louis rolls to a stop at Le Bourget airport in Paris, May 21, 1927. The crowd at the airport was estimated at 100,000. Another couple of hundred thousand were watching his progress from downtown via illuminated bulletin boards.

During his transAtlantic flight, every sighting, from ship or shore, was excitedly noted. When he passed over Ireland, telegraphs and telephones reported every inch of his path until he again disappeared over the ocean. That night, as the Spirit of St, Louis landed at Le Bourget, the crowd surged past French troops with fixed bayonets. Eager hands snatched Lindbergh from the cockpit and began to carrying him toward the crowd. He was rescued by two French aviators in a small Renault vehicle and whisked away to safety.

Mounted police escort Lindy through the ticker tape in New York. 1/3 of the US population of 140 million saw Charles Lindbergh on his US tour in 1927. In Winston-Salem, the crowd at Hanes Park roughly matched the entire population of the city. For the moment, Babe Ruth’s brand new record of 60 homeruns in a season was forgotten.

Crowd control became a problem in some places during his victory tour of the US. It seemed that everyone wanted to touch him. And his boyish good looks particularly inflamed young women, who shouted at him and tried to mob him as later young women would do to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. In Greensboro on the morning of October 14, 1927, the route from Lindley Field to the stadium ran past both Women’s College and, two blocks farther, Greensboro College, which was still mostly a female school. Lindy may have felt like he was running the gauntlet. The Greensboro Record reported that every coed on both campuses turned out and that many had comments: “He’s sooo cute! Hey, handsome! Marry me! Oooh, just like his pictures!” Once or twice Lindy’s police escort had to fend off young women who tried to climb into his car. According to the reporter, Lindbergh seemed embarrassed, but kept a smile on his face and waved, but did not look directly at the young women.

16 year old Joe King (far right) leaves the stage in Greensboro moments after presenting Lindbergh with his portrait

At the stadium, a Greensboro teenager presented Lindbergh with a freshly painted portrait. Headlines across the nation shouted “One-armed 16 year old artist painted Lindy’s portrait!” Shortly afterward, Joe King moved from Greensboro to Winston-Salem to take advantage of Reynolds High School’s nationally acclaimed art program, met and married a talented young woman named Earline Heath, and went on to become the celebrated artist “Vinciata”. See the whole Joe “Vinciata” King story here:

https://northcarolinaroom.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/joe-king-et-al-the-sultan-of-kuwait-and-a-lot-more/


On April 4, 1927, R.J. “Dick” Reynolds, Jr. turned 21, thus gaining access to an annual trust fund income estimated at $100,000 (roughly $1.5 million today). A few weeks later, Charles Lindbergh made his epic transAtlantic flight. Dick Reynolds had already developed a hearty interest in aviation, had received his pilot’s license and owned several aircraft. Within weeks of Lindbergh’s landing in Paris, Dick Reynolds purchased Roosevelt (formerly Curtiss) Field on Long Island, which was the center of American aviation endeavor at the time…most of the top aviators kept their planes there, and it was the takeoff point for Lindbergh’s historic flight. As the story goes, when Lindbergh’s itinerary for his triumphal tour in the fall of 1927 was announced, it showed only one stop in North Carolina…Lindley Field at Friendship near Greensboro…supposedly, Dick Reynolds had a quiet chat with Lindbergh and suddenly the Twin City was added to the itinerary…

The Spirit of St. Louis prepares to take off from Roosevelt Field, May 20, 1927

Once Lindbergh’s new itinerary was announced, local leaders in the Camel City leaped into action. At the time, Winston-Salem had only one real airport… on the Sedge Garden/Kernersville Road southeast of the city. By the standards of the day it was a pretty good airport…it at least had intersecting runways…but it was too far from the business center, and worse, located on poorly maintained roads…local leaders had already begun discussing a better located and equipped airport by June of 1927…Lindbergh’s new itinerary gave added urgency to their plans…within a few weeks, they had announced a new airport on North Liberty Street…it would be located on land under lease to Forsyth County…a number of local leaders agreed to donate services to complete it in record time…since Clint Miller made the greatest contribution, the field was named for him…at the banquet at the Hotel Robert E. Lee on October 14, 1927, RJR Tobacco executive Robert Lasater made a dramatic announcement…he had purchased the airport for $100,000 and was donating it to the Winston-Salem Foundation, which eventually led to it becoming the property of the local airport commission, where it remains today…

When Dick Reynolds temporarily gave up his womanizing ways to marry Elizabeth Macaw Dillard in the 1930s, he returned to the Camel City and ran for mayor. One of his first projects was the upgrading of Miller Field…the result was the opening of the Smith Reynolds Airport in 1942…it was considered to be  the best and most modern airport in the southeast for some time to come…


Meanwhile, local citizens heeded Lindbergh’s advice to continue to improve Miller Field. Additional buildings and equipment were added. In the summer of 1928, it was announced that the airport would be officially dedicated during a grand air show to be held on Saturday, September 1. It was advertised as being the biggest air show ever held in the region, with over twenty planes in attendance. The highlight of the event would be the appearance of three huge Martin Army Air Corps bombers, which would simulate a bombing attack on the Twin City. It rained heavily on the first, so the dedication and show were postponed until Monday, the 3rd.

Saturday’s rain caused a huge reduction in the turnout for the dedication of the new airport because Monday was a working day

 

Three Martin T4 bombers attacked the Twin City with paper bombs…

 

A Pitcairn Super Mailwing won the big race

On Monday, the bombers wiped out the city…some of the paper bombs had passes inside for free airplane rides. The airfield was formally dedicated as the Miller Municipal Airport. There were flying races, aerobatics demonstrations and contests. The bombing contest, trying to hit a tobacco basket from 200 feet altitude, was won by a drop within eleven feet of the target. But the highlight of the day was the amateur race, which pitted two 17-year-old best friends, Charles Gideon Hill in his Waco and Zachary Smith Reynolds in his Monocoupe against each other. Smith won the race, but C.G. Hill received his pilot’s license for his performance. Three years later, at age 20, Smith would make the longest solo flight ever at the time, from London to near Hong Kong. That momentous event is chronicled here:

https://northcarolinaroom.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/now-leaving-for-paris-rome-baghdad-and-points-east/

Map of Smith Reynolds’ record setting flight, from the privately published book produced as a memorial by his siblings

In July, 1932, Smith would die from a gunshot wound on a sleeping porch at Reynolda after a drunken party. The party had been thrown by Smith and his wife Libby Holman Reynolds to celebrate C.G. Hill’s 21st birthday.

Smith Reynolds and his Waco

Celebrate Black History Month in February with these history and genealogy programs. 

Free Book Reading Event at the United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on February 11, 2018 @ 4:00 PM.  A copy of Little School in the Woods is available for reference in the North Carolina Room. 

untitled001-e1516473799489.jpg

 

Join us for a free program on African American Genealogy at the Walkertown Branch Library on Tuesday, February 20th @ 6:00 PM. 

AA GEN WT

 

Celebrate Women’s History Month in March with true tales of North Carolinian women. 

Free program presented by the New Winston Museum on Wednesday, March 14th @ 6:30 PM in the Central Library Auditorium. 

InfamousWomen

 

Click to see Little Richard singing about alleys in 1956

A few days ago, the Winston-Salem Journal published an article about a dispute over an alley off of West First Street. That is not at all uncommon.

http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/hedge-row-man-fights-city-over-alley-hedge/article_aebfe456-f92e-548f-9cdd-53d2595b944e.html

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an “alley” is “a narrow passageway between or behind buildings”. The origin is in Late Middle English, from Old French “alee” (walking or passage), from “aler” (go), from Latin “ambulare” (to walk).

Alleys are as old as civilization, dating to the invention of towns over 5,000 years ago. Every town had streets, or at least one street, but streets were not always convenient for every need. As towns grew, alleys grew with them, serving many purposes. Eventually, streets had names and official status as publicly owned property…many alleys did not, and still do not today.

In the minds of many, alleys conjure images of dark, threatening urban regions populated by muggers, rapists and other varieties of thugs. Most of that can be attributed to Hollywood, as in this image from a Batman movie. On the other hand, some of the best places in the world are found in alleys.

 

Nashville, TN

 

Georgetown, DC

 

Melbourne, Australia

 

Hong Kong

 

Hap’s Grill, the green building on the right on Main Street in Salisbury, which serves some of the best hot dogs in North Carolina, was once an alley…the founder of Hap’s put up front and rear facades and a ceiling in the alley to create the building. In good weather, the lines can reach around the block, but the service is so fast that people actually enjoy waiting.

Winston-Salem certainly has its share of alleys. My apartment in the Arts District looks down into one. Within a block or two there are others. And some appear in nearby suburban districts.

Trade Street Alley

This short alley on Trade Street was originally a building which housed a shoe repair shop in the 1920s at 543 North Trade. At some point, the front and rear facades and the roof were demolished, probably because of a fire, creating an alley. Today it is being repurposed as the entrance to the new downtown Señor Bravo restaurant and will soon become an outdoor dining area.

Washington Park Alleys

When J.L. Ludlow drew the plans for the Southside development in the early 1890s, he deliberately included alleys to provide rear access to the platted properties there. Some of those alleys have been coopted by nearby property owners. Others remain in their original undefined state.

This alley runs from Broad Street to Doune Street between Gloria and Vintage Avenue in Washington Park.

Buena Vista Alley

This alley on Virginia Road provides driveway access to several houses on Buena Vista Road. There are alleys like this in every neighborhood.

Fourth Street Alley

By far the longest and most publicly visible alley in the Twin City is the one that follows West Fourth Street from Liberty Street to Poplar Street. It has its origins in the Fayetteville & Western Plank Road, the longest plank road in North Carolina history, which extended 129 miles from Fayetteville to Bethania between 1854 and 1862.

The Fayetteville & Western ran 129 miles from Fayetteville, via Asheboro and High Point to Bethania, NC.

Early roads in North America were not really roads…just blazed trails which, at their best, were hard and dusty ruts in dry weather and virtually impassable morasses in wet. The first plank roads in North America were built in Canada and upstate New York in the 1830s and early 40s.

The idea was to grade the route as nearly level as possible, with drainage ditches at the sides. Then stringers, like a railroad track, were laid, then boards were fixed across the stringers to give a relatively smooth surface for horseback riders and wagons. Since the roads were only one wagon wide, when two vehicles met, one would have to pull off to let the other pass. Loaded wagons had right-of-way except on hills, where the uphill wagon had right-of-way. Users would pay tolls at stations spaced about 10 miles apart and the investors would make a tidy profit. It sounded like a good idea.

Laying stringers

By 1849, a group of businessmen in Fayetteville and elsewhere in the state had gotten a charter from the general assembly to build a plank road from Fayetteville to Bethania in Forsyth County. It ran from Fayetteville to Asheboro to the new town of High Point to Salem and Winston and ended in Bethania, which at that time was a small industrial center with mills and Forsyth County’s largest tobacco factory. The road was completed in 1854. Francis Fries (pronounced “freeze”) operated cotton and woolen mills in Salem, so built his own adjunct to the plank road which extended along the path of the current Brookstown Avenue from Salem to the main plank road in the West End.

Fayetteville & Western stock certificate

Fayetteville & Western toll receipts

The makeup of the board over time changed, but among the local board members were Francis Fries, Edward Belo and Charles E. Shober of Salem and Darius H. Starbuck and George and Thomas Wilson of Winston.

For a few years in the mid-1850s, the road was profitable. But it encountered three problems. First, many people used the road, but rode off into the woods to avoid the toll stations. Spies were hired to catch them. Second, the estimates for maintenance had been based on the original Canadian and upstate New York roads. Higher temperatures in the South caused the planks to deteriorate at a faster rate, causing a significant increase in maintenance costs. And as the North Carolina Railroad from Goldsboro to Charlotte was completed in the 1850s, it put a big dent in the plank road business.

Macadam paving, 19th century

Fries solved the maintenance problem early on, in 1858, by macadamizing his road. The Fayetteville & Western experimented with the same solution, but by 1860, they were pretty much out of business. In January,1862, they sold the portion of the road from High Point to Bethania at auction to John Stafford, who owned the federal mail contract for that route. He paid only $725.50 for the entire section, but still could not make a profit, so soon sold the road to a group of local businessmen: Israel Lash and Edwin Clemmons of Salem and Samuel Martin, Darius Starbuck, Robert Gray and Peter Wilson of Winston. They could do no better, so in 1869 the General Assembly authorized Guilford and Forsyth counties to appoint overseers to take over maintenance of the road.

Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

Some of the right of way remained open, but the alleyway behind Fourth Street fell into disuse. By 1900, the ownership of that entire stretch was in dispute. Lawsuits and auctions made it possible for Sihon Ogburn to build along part of the alley extending westward from Trade Street in 1912, but ownership and responsibility for some of the rest is still unsettled. That can be said of many alleyways across the nation, so disputes like the current one will continue ad infinitum.

The modern Fourth Street Alley once ran unbroken from Main Street to Poplar. The first block, which ran behind such landmarks as the Brown Rogers Hardware store, Brown’s Opera House and V.O. Thompson’s drugstore, has been obliterated by construction of 1 West Fourth Street, but much of the alley is still visible.

 

The easternmost view of the alley begins on Liberty Street, looking toward Trade.

 

 

Looking back from Trade toward Liberty.

 

In 1912, Sihon Ogburn built an L-shaped building starting on Trade and wrapping around to Fourth Street, thus obscuring the original plank road alley at the Trade Street end. But we can look back at the rest of the alley from Cherry Street.

 

The view from Cherry Street to Marshall Street.

 

Looking back from Marshall Street to Cherry.

 

The view from Marshall Street to Spruce Street, running past the old Journal & Sentinel building.

 

Looking back from Spruce Street to Marshall.

 

The final part of the alley ran from Spruce Street to Poplar…that part was buried beneath the foundation of the Security Life & Trust building in the late 1950s.

 

At Poplar, the plank road jogged a bit northward, then followed Four and 1/2 Street to Brookstown, thence to the Bethania Road (now Reynolda) to its terminus in Bethania.

 

It is often said that “lady of the night” is the oldest profession. Could be. But right up there with that would be “doughnut maker”. Archaeological evidence of doughnut-like substances has turned up in every corner of the globe, especially in early American cultures. But the doughnut as we know it arrived in Manhattan, New Amsterdam with the Dutch, who called them olykoeks (oily cakes).

Olykoeks

The name doughnut supposedly hails from the 19th century and a New England woman named Elizabeth Gregory, who put walnuts or hazelnuts in the center of her nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon rind spiced olykoeks, thus “dough nut”. Those early ones did not have holes in them…legend has it that Mrs. Gregory’s sea captain son, needing both hands on the ship’s wheel in a storm, skewered his doughnut on a spoke of the wheel, thus inventing the hole. He later denied that any such thing happened, but it makes a good story, doesn’t it?

One of Adolf Levitt’s Mayflower doughnut shops in the NY theater district, 1930, and a view from inside

Until the 1920s, all doughnuts were made by hand. Adolph Levitt, a Russian immigrant, was frustrated by having too much demand and not enough doughnuts at his stand on Broadway in New York, so he invented a machine for mass producing doughnuts. By 1930 he had two huge doughnut shops across the street from each other at Broadway and 54th Street in the theater district, plus a thriving wholesale business, and was reputedly grossing $25 million a year. He put his machines in the shop windows and doughnut making became a spectator sport. His machines were the “the food hit of the Century of Progress” at the  1934 Chicago World’s Fair.

So now, to Krispy Kreme. According to many accounts, Ishmael Armstrong (some even claim 18 year old Vernon Rudolph), who ran a grocery store in Paducah, Kentucky, bought a doughnut shop or a secret doughnut recipe from a former New Orleans French chef named Joe Lebeau in 1933. No such person has ever been found. And there was no doughnut shop to buy in Paducah in 1933.

Paducah city directory listing for Ishmael Armstrong, 1933. People who “go by” their middle names are always a problem for historians, because official documents tend to list them by first name…but this is Ishmael…

In the early 1930s, Armstrong operated a grocery store on Hill Street in Paducah. Not far away lived a man known as Joe LeBoeuf.

Joe LeBoeuf grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana. At age 16, he went to work as a cook and deckhand on an Army Corps of Engineers dredge barge on the Mississippi River. In the early 1930s, he was transferred to Paducah on the the Ohio River. He and his young family lived on Broad Street, near the river front. In 1949, LeBoeuf was transferred to Louisville, just upstream. After his retirement, he became the First Mate on the tourist river boat Belle of Louisville. He died in Louisville in May, 1999, never having had any idea of the role that he played in the Krispy Kreme story.

Louisville Courier Journal, December, 2000

In 1999, a few months after LeBoeuf’s death, Carver Rudolph, son of Vernon Rudolph, went to Paducah to investigate the Krispy Kreme story. There, local historian Barron White showed him the site of Ishmael Armstrong’s 1930s store and revealed his findings about Joe LeBoeuf. Some years later, the West Kentucky Star quoted Carver on what he discovered.

Danville (KY) Advocate Messenger, November, 1999

LeBoeuf worked as a cook on a barge on the Ohio river and was famous for three things–his flapjacks, his coconut cakes, and his light and fluffy doughnuts. Uncle Ishmael probably admired the recipe…and LeBoeuf would have been flattered to share it…no secret transactions involved.”

In 2000, Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Byron Crawford tracked down Joe LeBoeuf’s widow and daughters in Louisville. They agreed that Joe, who continued to make his doughnuts at home long after he had moved on from the barge cook trade, would never have charged any money for his closely held recipe. And they pointed out that his favorite commercial doughnuts had always been Krispy Kreme: “That’s the best doughnut I ever ate,” he would always say after eating one.

But he had never called his own doughnuts Krispy Kreme, and he never had any idea that his recipe was connected with Krispy Kreme. That name was certainly coined in 1935, when Ishmael Armstrong closed his grocery store in Paducah and opened his Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop on the Charlotte Pike in Nashville. He brought with him his young nephew Vernon Rudolph, whose job was selling to other businesses. They were soon joined by others, including Vernon’s father Plumie and his younger brother Lewis.

The 1937 Nashville city directory shows the location and ownership of the first Krispy Kreme Doughnut Store on the Charlotte Pike in 1936. “Paul” Rudolph was actually “Plumie”…people with unusual names are often misidentified in census and directory listings…

Later that year, Armstrong decided to return to Paducah. He sold the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop to Plumie Rudolph. The next year, Plumie opened a second Krispy Kreme shop in Charleston, West Virginia, then a third in Atlanta.

Plumie Rudolph opened the second Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop in 1936. Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, October, 1936.

In 1937, Vernon Rudolph went to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and opened the fourth Krispy Kreme establishment. There he was joined by his brother Lewis. With two energetic young men at work, the Winston-Salem shop soon became the center of the Krispy Kreme universe. The brothers hired Benjamin Dinkins, who worked on the production line at T.W. Garner Foods, to design the Krispy Kreme logo that we all know so well. By the end of the 1930s, they had opened several other shops.

 

Lewis Rudolph

Most of the new shops were operated either as partnerships with local owners or franchises. In 1946, the Rudolph brothers incorporated the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Company. The next year they formed the Krispy Kreme Corporation. The company oversaw the operations of the various partnerships and franchises. The corporation produced dry mixes to make the doughnuts more uniform at all locations.

 

Ring King, Jr.

In the early 1950s, they invented their own doughnut machine, which they dubbed the Ring King, Jr. Each machine could turn out 30-75 dozen doughnuts per hour. By the late 1950s, they had 29 Krispy Ring Kings operating in 12 states. After Vernon Rudolph’s death in 1973, the company was reorganized, then purchased, in 1976, by Beatrice Foods, which changed the logo and the doughnut recipe. Unhappy with those developments, a combine of franchisees bought the company back from Beatrice and restored both the logo and the doughnut recipe. Since then, the Krispy Kreme story has been an up and down hill run, three steps forward, two steps back, but Krispy Kreme is today a name known worldwide. Every year, about 10 billion doughnuts are manufactured in the United States. A bit more than one in ten is a Krispy Kreme.

In 1997, Krispy Kreme donated a Ring King, Jr. and the company archives to the Smithsonian. The doughnut machine and the archives are housed at the National Museum of American History. The archive, NMAH.AC.0594, consists of 16.5 cubic feet of boxes, flats and folders.

Krispy Kreme delivery trucks on Main Street in Salem, here and below

 

New Krispy Kreme store, Tampa, 1953

 

Krispy Kreme delivery on Fourth Street in the Twin City, 1959

 

 

 

Krispy Kreme store, Green Street in Greensboro, 1950s

 

**********************************************

The First Krispy Kreme

What is the likelihood that two separate companies would arise in two separate places at about the same time using the same stylized spelling “Krispy Kreme”? Close to zero, one would think. But it happened. We are told that the first ever Krispy Kreme doughnut shop opened in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1930. It had nothing to do with the later Nashville / Winston-Salem Krispy Kreme. It spread rapidly west of the Mississippi and in the Midwest. We have found ads for it in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and even one in Asheville, NC by the late 1930s. It lasted into the 1960s in some places. It is easy to spot their ads because they use the spelling “donuts” instead of the correct spelling, although some early “real” Krispy Kremes also used “donut” occasionally. At the moment we know no details of its origins, but eventually we will.

 

Iowa City Press Citizen, 1925. The earliest use of the name “Krispy Kreme” that we could find. Obviously a brand created by a local bakery, having nothing to do with any later developments.

 

Little Rock, Arkansas, 1931. Partially explained below.

 

Asheville Citizen Times, 1938. Connected to the Arkansas chain.

 

Decatur (IL) Herald, 1935. A part of the Arkansas chain.

At first, I thought this might be a Beatrice rebranding, but realized that the cars are much too early for 1976. Almost certainly a remnant of the Arkansas chain, say 1960ish. There were a gazillion “Dutch Pantries”, so this location will remain unidentified for the foreseeable future.

****************************************************

Lorraine Rudolph, Vernon’s second wife, calling for the Winston-Salem Symphony membership drive, 1959

A great partnership has begun with Wings Over Winston, an aerial photography company, and the North Carolina Collection staff at the Forsyth County Public Library. We are providing historical context for selected images taken by Wings Over Winston for their Instagram account. Check it out when you have time. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to see great views of Winston-Salem and learn about local history.

InstagramScreenCap

Next Page »