Mary Lu Wooten

“I bought the restaurant July 1, 1979. I moved down here after I bought the restaurant in 1980 and rented. Physically, (my address) is 315 East Lane Street, but most people tell you my address is the restaurant. I’m here almost all the time. There are people who eat here who have been with me since the get-go… It’s nice. There are couples who had their first date in here, and then I did their weddings and now I’m doing their high schooler’s graduation… People feel comfortable here. To me, it’s not about the all-mighty dollar and it never has been. To me, truly, the only purpose in life is to love one another and take care of each other.

“When Hurricane Fran came in on 9-6-96, the neighborhood suffered a lot. A lot of us lost electricity. Some of us got it back within 12 hours, some not for 8 or 10 days. People would come down and we would dole out one bag of ice per house per day every day. People would come down just to sit together and get out of the heat.

“Probably one of the most important stories to me… there was a man named Percy Griswold… Percy didn’t have a home. He had served three terms in Vietnam. He was a person who cleared mine fields. One day he had cleared a field and given the o.k., and he lost his best friend. That kind of catapulted him into a world of drinking. When he got out of the army, I don’t think he got out on a good basis. Somehow he ended up in Oakwood. Percy did a lot of work for people, mowing grass and painting. He had a good, good heart. My favorite story about Oakwood would have to be after we lost him… About three or four weeks after we lost him, we had a memorial service. It was in the church that is down here on the corner of East and Lane… That church was standing room only and it was full of people who were white and black and straight and gay and male and female and well educated and illiterate and very rich and very poor and they stood and sat side by side by side by side and were joyful about this man’s life. That’s what I love about Oakwood.”

Mary Lu Wooten bought Side Street Restaurant in 1979 and several years later moved into 315 East Lane Street.

To listen to her story, 

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Tuesday, October 18th, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized

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