Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A Tribute To Jesse And Sadie Nuckles

This page is dedicated to my parents, Sadie and Jesse and my sister Marilyn "Sue", who were owners of the one of the first Barbecue Restaurants in Greensboro, N.C. up until the early 90's when the doors were finally closed.

For "Non-Tarheels" and those unfamiliar with Greensboro, Nuckles Barbecue was established in 1937, the oldest Barbecue Restaurant under the same owner in the Central Piedmont town. Nuckles catered to the Northeastern part of the city, surrounded by the early textile elements such as Cone Mill, Webbing Mill and Burlington Mills.

Sadie and Jesse, well known throughout the area with popularity extending into the Southern Virginia region, attracted customers from the border town of Danville and beyond who travelled the distance for Jesse and Sadie's "Southern Cooking Talents" and Carolinian hospitality.

During the early fifties, the business thrived and was typical of the "Happy Days" paradigm of curb hops, juke box speakers blasting out of speakers attached at each corner of the building, and the forever jammed parking lot, with silver trays braced on the side of the car. It was "The In Spot" for the local teenagers and their parents.

Nuckles Barbecue provided a comfortable atmosphere, and clientele returned often, adding "a trip to Jesse's", to their weekly family agenda. Most customers were life-long friends, some of whom had grown up in Proximity, White Oak and Revolution area of Northeast Greensboro.

Jesse Whitaker Nuckles, usually called "Jessie" by those that knew him, one of five sons and a daughter born to Richard, a Scotch-Irishman and Emma, of German-Jewish descent.

Sadie Parker, was one of five daughters born to Sophronia Purvis, of Southern Wales/France descent and an Englishman, named Robert E. Lee Parker. Sadie was born in Marlboro County, on the border of Hamlet and Rockingham. As a young girl, her family moved to Rockingham, where she attended school and later moved to Greensboro after the passing of her Mother.

Sadie and Jesse married in April, 1932 and remained in Greensboro raising their three daughters, Mitzi, Sue and Deborah. It was in the Rankin community, they would build a business that would become a landmark of Northeast Greensboro.

During the depression Jesse left Greensboro, seeking employment to sustain his family during the economic chaos of Hoover's administration, and hopped a train enroute to Washington, D.C., on a trip that would be the catalyst of his cooking career. He landed a job at a restaurant training under a head chef, preparing himself for his future in the food service business. Several years later, he returned to Greensboro, and began working for E.C. White, later known as Jones Barbecue in the Phillips Avenue Area of Greensboro.

Later on, with the financial support of his Mother and Father, he invested in the property located at 3109 Summit Avenue, which would be Nuckles Barbecue, and eventually a family tradition. Jesse worked in the restaurant for several years, with little salary in order to repay his parents for helping him achieve his dream.

Over the course of years, the business grew and hosted a large variety of customers and quite a few from the Entertainment world. During the early 1950's Elvis Presley was reported to make rounds of the Paragon and frequented Nuckles while on the road during his early promotional tours.

George Lindsay of "Andy Griffith" fame dined with Sadie and Jesse, during his guest appearances at the Greater Greensboro Open Golf Tournament, held yearly at Forest Oaks, which is also the home of another regular, Billy "Crash" Craddock, of Country Music fame.

The Building, older, quaint and reminiscent of Bavarian Architechture withstood the test of time. Jesse was not interested in major renovations to keep in step with the rapidly growing fast food chains. Cleanliness was paramount to his operation, and quality ingredients were always of the utmost importance.

Barbecue was his specialty, and he took great pride in his methods. When asked why he did not add his Sauce to the meat, as most Barbecue Specialists are known to do. He replied "I want my customers to taste my barbecue, not my sauce." This was true, as his Barbecue sauce was a compliment to the pork, not an addition. His barbecue was pit cooked by his brother who operated another restaurant and that had pit capabilities. The shoulders were cooked on the pit, and picked up usually by him or his daughters.

He was also noted for his "Chicken Sandwich". He fried 20-30 chickens per day in 9 huge cast iron skillets. He frowned upon deep-fried chicken, claiming that it cooks too fast, and chicken is definately not a meat to be eaten medium well or rare! His chicken was slow-cooked in the skillet's, turning frequently until crisp and mouth-watering.

He would drain the oil (Wesson, his oil of choice) and steam the chicken until it formed a golden gravy. The sight of the chicken basking in the golden gravy could make the most weight conscious person abandon a diet. Chicken gravy sandwiches were the answer to the financially crippled high school crowd.

As for the now popular "value meals" for $3.49..... at Nuckles, a student could get 3 gravy sandwiches and a coke for less than a dollar.

Hot Dogs, the best in town! His chili was 100% Beef, which was simmered slowly, and was the crown topping to his hot dogs and hamburgers. His cole slaw was a simple novelty...fresh chopped cabbage marinated in a weakened vinegar base. It complimented Hot dogs, Barbecue, and Hamburgers.

Dinner Entrees included a choice of meat and two vegetables that were prepared fresh and seasoned to perfection. Meat choices were Barbecue, Chicken, Country Style Steak and Ham, Mom's Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Dressing and Chicken Livers. The choice of vegetables was a variety including but not specific to Mashed Potatoes, Turnip Greens, Collards, Squash, Lima Beans, Green Beans, Candied Yams, Candied Carrots, English Peas, Pinto Beans, Broccoli and Cauliflower, Macaroni and Cheese....a complete variety, cooked to perfection!

Everyday A large pan of delicious Cornbread, and either a Banana Pudding or Peach Cobbler was available, also prepared by Mother, or my sister Sue.

This was a family restaurant. Nuckles Barbecue was a family household word that encompassed over 50 years of service. In the early 70's, Jesse became ill with Colon Cancer, but continued to work at what he loved. He was limited in the time he could spend however, he remained productive until his passing in the late 80's. His love was the "Stand" as it was called, and his wife, Sadie.

Their establishment was a place to relax, eat, and talk. Dad's favorite pastime was conversing with the customers and reminiscing about old times. He and Mother would often go down on Sunday during close of business hours and sit at the center table and have a glass of tea. This was their special time.

The building is now gone, and a shopping center is located in its place, but Nuckles, aka Sadie and Jesse's "Stand" would always exist on Summit Avenue in Greensboro in the hearts and minds of those that were a part of this era.

After the passing of my father, Mother reopened the doors once more, after minor exterior renovation and continued on for nearly 7 years. This is what he would have wanted her to do..and this was her way of dealing with her grief and remaining connected to him, after all he was there more than he was at home. This was his love, and his customers were his second family, and we loved him for it. Shortly after the business finally closed, Mother passed away at the age of 82.

My sister, Sue and my parents are gone now, but memories of Nuckles will always remain in my heart, and while driving by the area where it once stood is hardly recognizable to me, there is no stopping in for Barbecue, hotdogs, or a gravy sandwich..but the energy is there, because, if you ever knew Mom and Dad, they left their memories behind, and will forever be in our hearts and minds.

To Jesse, My Father

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.__Dylan Thomas


Lorie Pearman said...

I remember sliding into the first booth as a kid, and Jesse coming and sitting at the table talking to my parents. Great memories! Would love too see a photo of the stone building.

Lorie Pearman said...

I remember sliding into the first booth as a kid, and Jesse coming and sitting at the table talking to my parents. Great memories! Would love too see a photo of the stone building.

Luckystar said...

Deb - My husband and I were just talking about Nuckles Saturday. We were trying to decide were to eat and wishing Nuckles was still around. Would love to have one of those wonderful sandwiches now. Nothing today compares. Thanks for posting this. Those were the good times. Louise (Laws) Welborn