Shady Grove (1925 to 1970's)

Shady grove - 1929

One of the "IN" spots for all county young folks,
the Shady Grove was a gathering spot for those
that loved to meet and greet after a
movie or a ballgame, this was the place to be.

In this ageless photo, Miller Lynch brings out an order of "two Cokes, an order of fries, Sun-Kist soda and a vanilla shake" to the two couples in a '40 Ford.

Miller later built the Blue Mirror Cafe in 1947. This was a Conover landmark,
popular with young folks from Conover to the Tennessee state line.

Long ago and not too far away was a place that was visited by more than three generations of people. They came from numerous cities throughout the southland. From Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, from Boone and ASU, from Columbia and USC. Boys in the armed forces would come to this location on their three-day passes or on leave from their bases in the states. But it would be the local folks that would establish its prominence.

The popularity of the place began quite awhile back. Your grandparents still speak of the memories they have.

If you had a car, you could drive here. If not, you would ride with friends. Myrtle Beach you are thinking? Think again, and remember Shady Grove. It was between Newton and Conover and surely deserves a place in historic recognition.

Even today, while driving along NC 16 and 27th Street, perhaps your peripheral vision will kick the brain, if only for a second. It will be an involuntary action, like a miniature slide show, to see and think of those moments there with your friends.

The history began when in 1925, Charles Everett Setzer of Newton and George Blackwelder Sr. of Hickory, built then a wooded building in a grove of large oak trees, to house a new restaurant. Its name would be Shady Grove. A fire from an exploding gas stove destroyed this building four years later.

Afterwards, Setzer bought out the partnership and erected a new structure of brick and block. Again in 1950, it was remodeled and a new and spacious dining room was added. Mr. C. R. Watts would be the new night manager along with Mrs. Setzer overseeing the kitchen, offering home cooked style meals along with breakfast and blue-plate lunches.

Joining the guest book would be our twin cities mayors, lawyers, semi-pro baseball players, car dealership owners, furniture and mill workers and prominent industrialists.

Shady Grove would be open from six A.M to past midnight, everyday except Sundays. A young and energetic Miller Lynch would work the curb service, along with the tray to hang on the car side window. He would later leave this employment and in 1948, would build his own restaurant, the famous Blue Mirror Café.

Early in the growth of Shady Grove, entertaining the patrons would be a pair of ringtail monkeys, housed in a large cage to the side of the building. The story goes that a mother from Newton had bought her young daughter to see the monkeys. The little girl got too close to the cage and one monkey reached out and completely tore off her dress. She would be wrapped in her mother’s coat for the ride home. The monkeys did not have the best of temperament!

In the grove of trees, as dusk fell, neon along the window framing would brightly light the parking lot. The essence of onions and grilling of hamburgers would fill the air. And soon, as if given a signal, came the student body. Classmates from Bunker Hill High, St. Stephan’s High, Maiden and other school throughout the county would make their presence known. Through the years thousands of young boys and girls would have spent time with friends at Shady Grove. They would come driving what later would become the "classics" of the times, and the not so classic would be there too. They would come to enjoy the delicious burgers and fries and enjoy the comradeship of friends. On weekends this meeting could go late into the night. There could be close to perhaps 100 cars in the parking areas, over flowing onto the Midway Grocery across the street. Some of the crowd would visit the skating rink, built in back of the restaurant.

All the boys from Newton and Conover would park and sit on the fenders and hoods of their automobiles, as was the custom in those days. Here too would be the "always there" group. Then came the boys from Hickory High, to find the Hickory girls in the company of "Red Devils". Surprisingly there was never any real trouble or fights, a lot of name-calling but little else. Under the request from Mr. Setzer, the Newton police would shadow the area to keep it a safe haven for the young crowd.

Shady Grove would become the favorite meeting place after the drive-in movies were out and the theaters of Hickory, Newton and Conover closed for the night. Kids would sit and talk and talk way past midnight. Parents would not believe it was just "talk". Many young people would meet their lifelong partners at this place.

Many others would leave the community in search of their dreams and to work in jobs far from North Carolina and Newton. Some would leave to never return and be missed among the gatherings.

Down at Newton High School, as the story goes, young football players from Conover, would not take the bus line home but elected to sprint the distance instead. At passing Shady Grove, they knew home was not far away.

Later in the years, Setzer would then lease the building to J.C.Medlin and later to Charles Kluttz. Then, to the disappointment of many people, Kluttz made the decision to leave the business and Setzer would then lease the building to Hallcraft Furniture Co. as a showroom.

Shady Grove would pass into history at 45 years young.

The delights one had at the "grove" are now just memories of moments in time

long ago. But we will always remember what made "Shady Grove" so enjoyable;

It was us!

Once a landmark night spot, the building
now serves as a Mexican tienda and night club.





[Many thanks to Don Barker for the photos
and the recollections that provided the dialogue.]

All photos courtesy of Don Barker

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