Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tribute To Jesse And Sadie - My Parents

This page is dedicated to my parents, Sadie and Jesse and my sister Marilyn "Sue", who were owners of the first Barbecue Restaurants in Greensboro, N.C. up until 1990 when the doors were finally closed.


For "Non-Tarheels" and those unfamiliar with Greensboro, Nuckles Barbecue was established in 1936, 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, attracting customers from the border town of Danville and beyond who traveled 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 blasting out of speakers attached at each corner of the building, an always jammed parking lot, with silver trays on 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 Jess's", to their weekly family agenda. Most customers were life-long friends, some of whom had grown up in Proximity, White Oak and the Revolution area of Northeast Greensboro. The textile mills were the background of the economy in those days...they worked hard and they loved to come to Nuckles to eat Chicken and Gravy Sandwiches and home cooking...

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.

Sometime in 1933 around the height of the depression Jesse left Greensboro and hopped a train en route to Washington, D.C. on a trip that would be the catalyst of his cooking career. He landed a job at Ebbitts Grill in Washington D.C. training under the auspices of Head Chef, Hector Andrews. Several years later, he returned to Greensboro, and began working for E.C. White's grill that later became Jones Barbecue in the Phillips Avenue Area of Greensboro. It was during his association with White that he got his little brother Arnold a position there and that's how it began.

The restaurant on Summit was the first business to open by Jess, and not long afterwards, with a the help of his Mom and Dad, Arnold opened the "Drive In" as it was called on 29N.


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 landmark of Northeast Greensboro.

Over the course of years, the business, would play host to a large variety of customers and quite a few from the Entertainment world. During the early 1950's Elvis Presley reportedly made rounds of the Paragon and our restaurant while on the road during his early promotional tours. George Lindsay of "Andy Griffith" fame frequented the restaurant 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 Architecture 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.


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 to fast, and chicken is definately not a meat to be eaten medium well or rare!


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 cooked to perfection. 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. Vegetables were prepared 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. Mom and Dad, along with my sister, strived to make the customers feel at home. While my sister remained with the Restaraunt moving into the position of Manager, my work was only part-time, as I left to become a Member of the NC National Guard, and eventually did a lateral move to active duty in the US Navy, serving as the base Aviation Medical Tech and member of the Navy Search and Rescue Team.


Our restauraunt 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.


Their "Stand" would always exist there 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. Shortly after the business finally closed, Mother passed away at the age of 82.


As for me, my residence is in the southern coastal region of North Carolina. My entourage consists of three sons, and my Cat.
My oldest sister resides in Charlotte, NC, and my middle sister, lives in Greensboro and is retired along with her husband.


The property is on the market, and the building is looking much older and decrepid. The parking lot is empty and the area is ever changing, hardly recognizable to me, and we can't just stop in and get a Barbecue, or a gravy sandwich anymore..but the energy is there, because, if you ever knew Mom and Dad, they left their memories behind, and will forever be in our memory, Past through the Present..and we'll be missing them!



Copyright © 1999 Deborah Nuckles
All rights reserved. Please do not copy or reprint without express
permission


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

1 comment:

DON OAKLEY said...

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING THINKING OF A JESSE NUCKLE'S GRAVEY SANDWICH, AND WENT LOOKING ON THE INTERNET FOR THE RECIPE. I'VE TRIED OVER THE YEARS TO MAKE IT AT HOME, AND MADE SOME GOOD CHICKEN AND GRAVEY, BUT NOTHING LIKE JESSE'S. MY WIFE MOVED HER IN 1980 FROM PENNSYLVANIA AND BECAME A GRAVEY SANDWICH CONVERT ALSO. THEY ALSO MADE THE BEST ICED TEA I'VE EVER HAD. I DIDN'T FIND A RECIPE, BUT DID RUN ACROSS YOUR BLOG, WHICH BROUGHT BACK A LOT OF MEMORIES. THANKS!