Tag Archives: Martha Jefferson Hospital

The Case of the Cash Register that Won’t Open

27 Jan

I’ve admitted before, and I’ll say it again, that I enjoy a good mystery wayyy too much.  If I didn’t love history so much, my other career choice would have been detective work.  Or, employment by sitting on my couch all day watching Law & Order and Murder She Wrote and reading Sherlock Holmes.  In fact, one of things that attracted me to history is the idea that in every case, a story has 3,000 or more different viewpoints, so how do you track down what REALLY happened?  While there are many facts in history, there are a far greater number of opinions and evaluations.  I have a saying, “History is a mystery,” that my professors never appreciated as an exam answer, but nonetheless is often the case.  As much as this makes history appealing, I really, really wish it weren’t the case in this case- “the case of the register that won’t open.”

Metal Cash Register from Buddy’s Restaurant, 17″x13″x15″

Metal Cash Register from Buddy’s Restaurant. Accession notes: the $2 lever is stuck, and drawer will not open.

You see, the register to which I refer, pictured above, comes from Buddy’s Restaurant, which was first a long-standing, well-beloved Charlottesville business.  Its legacy, however, derives from its setting as one of the most violent yet effective sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement in Charlottesville.

Metal Cash Register from Buddy’s Restaurant, with sign stating “Buddy’s: Just a nice place to eat”

Buddy Glover, a young local man whose prior experience included working as a soda fountain clerk at Timberlake’s Drug Store, established his own place, aptly named “Buddy’s” in the late 1930s as a hamburger stand, located near104 Emmet Street.  The self-declared, “Biggest Little Place in Town,” Buddy’s restaurant managed to maintain that small-town atmosphere even after moving into a much larger location.  After serving in the Korean War in the late 1940s, Buddy and his long-time employee Sylvester “Woody” Wood returned to Charlottesville with a bigger vision for the restaurant.  Buddy worked with architect Thomas Craven to design the building at 104 Emmet Street (last known to us as the house of UVA’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation), which was recently torn down by the University of Virginia to make way for a park.  At the time, however, the building became a hub for University traffic and local businessmen alike.

Buddy’s Restaurant may or may not have served African American customers during this time.  According to Paul M. Gaston, a UVA professor of history and local Civil Rights activist, Buddy had occasionally allowed African American visitors to eat in the restaurant.  Another local civil rights leader, Eugene Williams, has no such memories, saying, “I have no knowledge of a single black being served in that restaurant,” in an interview featured in a recent Charlottesville Tomorrow article.  Regardless of what Buddy may have done in the past, during the sit-ins of May 1963, Buddy did not serve his African American guests.

On May 29, 1963, three men—African American community leaders Floyd and William Johnson, and white UVA professor Paul Gaston—entered Buddy’s but were ignored at their table until being ushered out at closing time.  The group was denied entry the next morning, when violence erupted between the threesome and some restaurant patrons.  As Gaston entered a phone both to call the police, he was punched four times in the face.  Police eventually arrived and arrested the protestors.  Following a storm of negative press after the events at Buddy’s, a number of Charlottesville’s restaurants, theatres, and hotels dropped their segregation policies.  Violence had quickly changed what months of negotiations had not.  Gaston told The Hook,

“Change was not only going to come from direct action, and not from rational discussion.”

Gaston further asserts that as consequence of sit-ins like that in Charlottesville occurring all throughout the South, President John F. Kennedy submitted what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Buddy closed his restaurant the evening that act was passed, July 2, 1964.  On the door of the former local hotspot, he posted a notice that stated,

“Passage of the Civil Rights Bill forced us to take this unfortunate action.”

According to Buddy’s supporters, including Gaston, Buddy closed the restaurant because he was a firm believer in the rights of private property, a common contemporary Southern sentiment.  At the same time, many others viewed the closing as an inability to deal with the changes of the times, namely, segregation.  Buddy never spoke about the incident to the media.  The sale of the building in 1969 to the American Automobile Association was announced with a brief article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, sans quotes from Buddy regarding the incidents of the past decade.  In a farewell article to Buddy in a Martha Jefferson publication, c. 1983 (Buddy worked as Dietary Department Director for MJH after his restaurant career), the author interviews Buddy extensively about the restaurant but conspicuously avoids the topic of the 1963 sit-ins.  Instead, the article simply states, “Buddy decided, for a number of reasons, to close the restaurant and enter the catering business.”

We may never know exactly what prompted Buddy’s choice, but we must look to the positive, as all those involved in the protest do.  The incidents at Buddy’s restaurant changed conditions in Charlottesville for African Americans in a way that other tactics had not.  As The Hook states,

“the incident served as a catalyst for desegregation in Charlottesville, a town whose businesses initially resisted the door-opening efforts of local NAACP head Floyd Johnson.”

Further Reading:

Brian Wheeler, “UVa plans pocket park at site of old restaurant, gas station; Buddy’s played role in civil rights movement,” Charlottesville Tomorrow News, August 6, 2011.  Article can be accessed online here.

“Buddy Glover Retires from MJH, Retraces 45 Years of Good Times,” Martha Jefferson Hospital publication, ca. 1983.

“Buddy’s Sold to Auto Club,” Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 4, 1969.

Hawes Spencer, “Busted Buddy’s: UVA has demolished civil rights landmark,” The Hook, November 29, 2011.  Article can be accessed online here.

Lisa Provence, “A Long and Winding Road: City Residents Recall Integration Battles,” The Hook, April 8, 2004.

Lisa Provence, “Brown’s Birthday: The Road to Equality in Charlottesville,” The Hook, May 6, 2004.

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Today In Rip Payne

27 Sep

Expanding Martha Jefferson Hospital

On this day in 1973, Rip Payne photographed the recently begun construction to expand the Locust Avenue campus of Martha Jefferson Hospital.  Martha Jefferson Hospital was founded in 1903 by eight local physicians, and has grown tremendously over the past century.  Just a few short weeks ago, the hospital moved from their original location on Locust Avenue (as seen below) to their new location in Pantops.

Construction at Martha Jefferson Hospital, September 27, 1973, RP 6401

Overhead view of construction work at hospital, September 27, 1973, RP 6391

View of construction and neighborhood behind the hospital, September 27, 1973, RP 6393

Workers at Martha Jefferson construction site, September 27, 1973, RP 6396

Workers at Martha Jefferson construction site, September 27, 1973, RP 6400

View of construction with existing hospital, September 27, 1973, RP 6388