Terry Barr

Terry Barr

Terry Barr is a native of Bessemer, Alabama, having graduated from Jess Lanier High in 1974, and the University of Montevallo in 1979. He received his Ph.D. in English from The University of Tennessee in 1986 and has been a Professor of English at Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina since 1987. He is the author of three essay collections, most of which concern his memories of Alabama, and the latest of which–Secrets I’m Dying to tell You–was published this past summer by Red Hawk Press and is available on Amazon. He lives in Greenville, SC, with his family and writes at Medium.com/@terrybarr. His email is gtbarr@presby.edu

Plantation Myths

“Another old BBQ restaurant. The ‘Old Plantation’ downtown had great BBQ. Opened in the 20s, it stereotyped blacks and did so until near its demise in 1972 when ownership changed. It stayed open several years after under new management. The “Yes suh, it was cooked in da pit” sign was removed. Too little too late I suppose” (From Hahn’s Historic Birmingham Facebook page, public group).

You can see the words as clearly as I can; as I did every time we drove past the Old Plantation on Birmingham’s First Avenue. The hickory smoke hit you full in the face if you kept your car windows rolled down, which we always demanded when we neared the joint. Such a sweet aroma, tempting, though to my memory, my family never ate there, or at least never went inside.

When I worked for my father at Standard Jewelry Company, roughly six blocks from the Old Plantation, sometimes the elders would order takeout, and that’s my only memory of eating this old style pit barbecue. You know they used a pit and real hickory wood because of the brick chimney you see to the right in the photo, and because I vouch for the smoke aroma and taste.

Though Alabama does wrong so often, people in the state know how to cook real pit, delicious barbecue.

But taste and cooking techniques aren’t the issue here.