Lendy’s was joy
People are always saying, “Remember where…was?” and I don’t.
This week’s Vanished Salem historic photo feature from the Salem Museum in our Aug. 9 issue places another long-gone landmark in my mind.
It was Lendy’s Big Boy. The building is still there, known most recently as the old Bastian’s Barbecue, I guess, on Apperson at Riverside Drive in Salem. One of the slogans was “Lendy’s is joy!”
I grew up seeing the little fat guy, Big Boy, associated with various restaurants in Alabama, Georgia and other parts of the Deep South. I didn’t know about Buddy Boy until now, though, and the history of Lendy’s in Salem.
This week I happened to meet Pat Dotson, who worked for the founder of Lendy’s, Leonard Goldstein, in Salem and ultimately opened Pat’s Café on Shenandoah. The latter offered Lendy’s specials for years after Lendy’s went out of business in 1980.
Dotson filled in some of the blanks in my restaurant history of Salem and the Roanoke Valley.
“There was a radio announcer for WSLS, Jivin’ Jackson,” he said, pointing out the tall portion of Lendy’s in the photo that’s on display at the Salem Museum. “From the speakers you could request a record or song. It was really neat.”
Dotson was was 17 years old when Lendy’s opened in 1955 and he went to work there.
“We were the first drive-in to offer a tray service in the front and the back seats. There was even a tray that fit on the steering wheel,” he recalled.
“These girls would come out and the food they were carrying on their arms would weigh 10 pounds alone. When the snow was blowing and the wind was blowing, it took a lot of nerve to get from the building to the cars.”
Dotson pointed out that there were almost no drive-ins in the Roanoke Valley in those days. “There was Toots in Roanoke, and Salem had Amo’s,” he said, thinking back. There wasn’t any Burger King or McDonald’s in 1955. We didn’t have any competition.”
And the teenagers and adults flocked to Lendy’s. “We actually couldn’t serve everybody because of the crowd.” Leonard Goldstein used to take out ads on Monday apologizing, and telling people to come back, Dotson said.
“I was a Distributive Education student at Andrew Lewis High School. I got out at 12 o’clock and drove straight over to the store,” he said, referring to Lendy’s. “I worked 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. I know I didn’t work every day, because I had to go to school, but we all had to work weekends.”
Altogether, Dotson worked for Goldstein for 18 years, he said. A second Lendy’s opened across from Lakeside with the rotating bucket sign that Col. Sanders like so much he took it for Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. Eventually, there were more than 20 Lendy’s across the state and as far away as Richmond, according to Salem Museum Director John Long.
“When Leonard Goldstein closed his last Lendy’s Gold Nugget Cafe on Williamson Road, I was his store manager,” Dotson said, “and I had to look for another job.”
Restaurants were in Dotson’s blood, for sure. He took a job with Country Cookin’ for a few months, then bought the Burger Barn on Shenandoah Avenue in Roanoke.
It offered mostly burgers, hot dogs and a fish sandwich. He missed Lendy’s fare.
“In the back of my mind, I thought it would be a great Lendy’s, and I asked Leonard Goldstein if I could use Buddy Boy and the names of Lendy’s favorites.
“He let me, and didn’t charge me a cent,” Dotson said, smiling.
Today Salem resident Dotson still works in food service, at Chick-fil-A at Valley View.