Goad’s Cafe: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

When reminiscing about downtown Conway, many share memories of this or that café that they remember frequenting. But those born in the late 1950s or later will probably not have many memories of the Goad’s Café, a popular restaurant which stood near the northwest corner of Oak and Parkway for 36 years.

Luther, or “Uncle Luke” as he was affectionately called, Goad and his brother, Judson “Jud” Goad, opened Goad Brothers Bakery and Café at 1304 Oak Street in 1921. Luther, an Army cook in World War I, did most of the cooking while Jud operated the bakery. Morning Glory Bread as well as other baked goods were baked and distributed from there.

Goad’s was L-shaped with an entrance on both Oak and Parkway. Railroad workers and passengers would usually come in through the Parkway entrance. When the passenger trains stopped in downtown Conway, one of the Goads—Jud or Luther—would deliver plates of food to the train’s engineer and fireman. When a westbound train stopped, they would get in their Model T Ford to deliver food to that side of the track.

For 16 or 17 years, the restaurant was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Luther had a place to sleep in the back of the café and was available to serve anyone who needed a meal. If both had to go to a funeral, they got a friend or employee to keep the café open and running.

During World War II, the cafe, like many other similar businesses, had difficulty purchasing a sufficient amount of food to meet demand. One Sunday during the war, the brothers ran out of food and were forced to close early for the day. They never opened on Sundays again after that day saying they enjoyed the time off.

In 1946, Robert D. Hairston and Eulon Naylor purchased Jud’s half of the business. Both had worked in the café before the war. The restaurant’s name was changed to Goad’s Café and the bakery part of the business was closed. After a couple of years, Naylor sold his quarter interest to Hairston and went to work for the postal service.

Sonny Belote worked at Goad’s Café during high school. He would go to work after football or basketball practice and work until about 10 p.m. He waited and bused tables as well as swept and mopped the floors. The night crew usually just included him, Mr. Luther, and the dishwasher. Mr. Goad always paid him daily in cash.\

He remembers Mr. Goad as being one of the finest and most generous gentlemen in town. If you were hungry, he would feed you. He often gave Sonny’s friends a roast beef sandwich and a drink when they came by to walk home with him after work.

The café was popular with the locals as well as those who came through town often. The newspaper staff frequented the place and the carriers rolled their papers there. Coach Glen Rose, University of Arkansas basketball coach, always brought the team to eat there when they were passing through. The café reportedly sold more Coca-Colas than any business between Little Rock and Ft. Smith.

In 1956, Hairston retired and sold his share to Luther. “Uncle Luke” then became sole owner of the establishment. By this time, he had been cooking up, roast beef, hot ham and hot pork sandwiches, along with other food for over 35 years.

Luther Goad would continue to run the restaurant for another 18 months before he also decided it was time to retire. In July, 1957, he announced that he was closing the business. At 67, he said he felt like he deserved a vacation. Gene Blessing bought the restaurant and changed the name to Oak Street Café.

Old timers say that when Goad’s finally closed, they couldn’t find the key to the front door because the place had not been locked in 33 years. The equipment stayed there a few more years before Goad had it moved to a storage facility in Mt. Vernon. Both Goad brothers passed away in the late 1960s.

Some of the information for this article came from the Antique Wampus Cat, a newsletter published by several CHS alumni from 1989 until 2007. Thanks to Bill and Ginny Nutter for their articles about Goad’s Café and Sonny Belote for sharing his Antique Wampus Cat copies with me.

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