Christmas Happiness: Wink’s Bunch honors the guys it has lost
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — Many years ago, more than 30 if you’re counting, the Wink’s Bunch started as a business breakfast at the “old” Wink’s barbecue place off East Innes Street.
The group included the local top dogs with Piedmont Gas and Duke Power, along with industrial development folks such as brothers Sonny and Jim Epting.
John Stegall and Wayne Hayworth were part of the Piedmont Gas group back then. “We had a lot of movers and shakers in the area,” Hayworth told the Post back in 2017. “We learned what each other were doing and what we could do best. We built real good friendships and contacts by doing that.”
Time marched on, and many people floated in and out of the breakfast group. You showed up when you could, knowing there was always a core group of guys who would be at Wink’s most every morning.
The original breakfast meetings often led to golf outings, usually organized by Gene Auten and Stegall.
The names of people who became part of the Wink’s Bunch represented many familiar names in Rowan County: Harold Earnhardt, J.C. Ritchie, Wayne Kennerly, Jerry Barger, Jim West, Charlie Deadwyler, Larry Ford, Danny Williams, Homer Lucas and, well, they are just too numerous to name.
The breakfast has continued to take place, now happening at the “new” Winks on Faith Road.
Another tradition evolved with the Wink’s Bunch — an annual Christmas breakfast in December where all members of the bunch — past and present — gather for a country-style meal put together by the Wink’s Dwight Martin.
The morning includes door prizes (many of which are gag gifts). Auten, who died in 2011, also got in the habit of making sure everyone left with a gift bag.
The reunion breakfast often attracted more than 30 people and always encouraged those attending to make contributions to the Christmas Happiness Fund.
That tradition continued Thursday when 21 people showed up at Wink’s and gathered together a $125 donation for Christmas Happiness in honor of the Wink’s Bunch guys who have died.
Kennerly, an unofficial secretary for the bunch, said Piedmont Gas was still well represented Thursday morning by six people.
W.A. Cline spoke for the “coaches” branch of the group, which includes Cline, Charlie Little, Frank Saunders, Charles Hellard and Pete Stout.
Other people addressing the bunch included Kennerly, Hayworth and Sheriff Kevin Auten (Gene’s son). Besides putting together some money for Christmas Happiness, the group as usual made sure the waitresses were well covered.
“The waitresses make much more than Wink’s makes,” Kennerly said.
The Wink’s Bunch men who have passed away and are being honored by the Christmas Happiness donation include Victor Farrah, Jim West, Jack Owen, Don Bills, Jerry Barger, Charles Deadwyler, Gene Auten, Sonny Epting, Jim Epting, Dick Earnhardt, Walt Sebastian, John Stegall, Pete Brown, Dick Smith, Mike McCowan, Harold Earnhardt, Jack Ward and Bill Shives.
Contributions to the Christmas Happiness Fund may be delivered to the Salisbury Post, 131 W. Innes St., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, or mailed to the Salisbury Post Christmas Happiness Fund, P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, NC 28145-4639. Please make checks payable to Christmas Happiness and indicate how you want your donation listed.
Today’s contributions are:
SALISBURY — Each year, the preschoolers of First United Methodist Church excitedly walk their donations to the lobby of the... read more