Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cook's Barbecue, Part One

These are photographs we found after my mother died and we were emptying out her house prior to selling it. They show one exterior view and two interior views of COOK'S BARBECUE, my grandfather's restaurant in Evansville, Indiana. My father worked there for his dad as the second in charge. This would have been about 1961 or 62, as the original restaurant was smaller and less modern. The new restaurant commenced construction in 1960, I believe, and was open for business by 1961. I have vivid memories of our weekly lunches there every Sunday after church, and, less often, dinners. We left Evansville in late 1963 and headed to the Jacksonville Beaches in Florida because my father could no longer work with his father, who was, by all accounts, difficult and irascible. My uncle, who worked in advertising in Jacksonville, had put my father in touch with a restaurateur there who was looking for someone to run one of his restaurants. My cousin Bill worked for grandad for a year or two after he was discharged from the Marines--this was after we had left Indiana--and he still talks about how terrible grandad was and how he "ran everybody out of there!" (By this he meant family members who worked for him at various times. Only my grandfather's sister, my Aunt Inez--as sweet as my grandfather was not--stayed with him. She made pies there.) By 1965 everything fell apart. My grandfather, a diabetic with high blood pressure, had a stroke at work one day while--I'm told--yelling at an employee. He never really recovered. The restaurant had to be sold and grandad was placed in a nursing home. After a couple of years, my father and my uncle decided to move grandad down to a nursing home in Florida, where he could receive visits from his family. I remember him at Sunday dinners at our house, where he was mostly quiet, passive, and uncommunicative. He died in 1971 or 72.

I hadn't seen these pictures in years, and my memories of the restaurant are realized in exact detail in these photographs. Not an iota of my memory is betrayed by the evidence here. I have to say the barbecue may have been the best I've ever had. For years after, my father and uncle would have semi-annual cookouts at my uncle's house where they would prepare the recipe for the sauce--which had been devised by my grandfather and grandmother--and would slow cook ribs and chicken on an outdoor brick grill for hours. They replicated the restaurant's output perfectly!

No comments:

Post a Comment