Church of Holy Smoke, New Zion Baptist Church Interview Part Three

  • [BEGIN INTERVIEW, PART 2]
  • MH: Okay, so, this is the second part of our interview with Ms. Archie. We've had to relocate from the actual restaurant-the restaurant space-to the cafeteria in the kitchen, and you were just saying that-I mean, the cafeteria in the church.
  • You were just saying that you often have to put your overflow in here because the space just fills up. So, what happens when you have to move over here?
  • MA: Well, we only have seating over there for about sixty-two people. And when we have larger groups, we have to bring some of them over here. And what I do is I have to come then, and I take care of food over here. We just move food and drinks and everything over here. We just have to bring everything over here. And, of course, we have a stove in there, microwave, and everything, where we can keep stuff hot-and cold-refrigerator. And I just bring everything I need over here-plates, utensils, everything.
  • And serve them from here. And, you know, a lot of times, the ladies, of course, in the group, will get up and come over and help me serve [Laughter]. They sure will.
  • CK: Which-who seems to be-I mean, obviously you said it's the women that come help you. Is it certain women that come help you? Is it people you know or is it just-
  • MA: No. No one I know. Just the women that are coming to eat with the different groups. They'll just see me up there working hard, and they will say, "Come on, let us help you" [Laughter].
  • MH: They are probably mothers [Laughter].
  • MA: They are. They are. But they help, and we get it all done. And they're nice too. When everything is over, they'll help me even clean up too.
  • MH: Wow.
  • MA: They sure will. They'll help me clean this place up before they leave.
  • MH: That's pretty funny. We were at a restaurant last weekend, and our waiter disappeared. And a man in the-at a table next to ours got up to get the coffee pot to refill his coffee and refilled mine while he was at it and said, "Where's my tip?" [Laughter].
  • Something tells me that probably wouldn't happen in this space.
  • MA: No, no. It doesn't happen here-sure doesn't.
  • MH: Do you think people act differently here than they do at most restaurants?
  • MA: No, no, they don't. They don't-they just-they're just at home here. They really are. They just feel so down-to-earth and at home. And that's everybody. They have a good time here. They really do.
  • MH: So maybe-maybe they-in the fact that they feel more comfortable and at home than they would in a restaurant space, maybe they do act differently?
  • MA: Yeah.
  • MH: Or maybe not. I don't know. So, before we had to relocate the interview-let me take these off again-you said that you think that-you would say this is a progressive space. And I was about to ask you, what you-you particularly think it's progressed?
  • MA: Now, when you say progressive, are you talking about-progressive in what way?
  • MH: I think in terms-socially, in terms of, sort of, the integration of the different people of color and different nationalities. That was what I meant by progressive, but you may have a different sense or a different definition.
  • MA: Well, uh, no. No, actually, I don't.
  • People-everybody that comes here interacts with everybody. I mean, there's no such thing as anyone coming to the barbecue and wanting to move to another table or not sit close to someone that may be sitting at this table. The just all just come right in and sit down. And nobody has ever had any misunderstanding-nothing. I mean, it's all just been like one great, big, happy family. It's always been that way.
  • MH: And you raise an interesting point because of the way the tables are set up. It's almost enforced community seating.
  • MA: Right.
  • MH: And a lot of restaurants have, you know, you have your table where you and your dining companions sit. And there are some community tables. And, I know, when my husband and I go out to eat, we do not want to sit at the community tables because we do not want to talk to other people [Laughs]. But this almost, sort of-
  • MA: Forces you doesn't it?
  • MH: Forces you, yeah. But I don't want to-you know, forces is almost a negative connotation. But in this way it, sort of, I would say, encourages.
  • MA: But it's-you know what used to happen, before we took over, when Mrs. Ward founded this place? She had a group of little, old ladies around her same age working here. And there was one little lady that took care of the front-all the time, she never went in the back to do any cooking. She would-she was a greeter so to speak. She was out front and whenever people would come in, white, black, blue, green, she would say, "Come in, have a seat."
  • And if they stood around and looked as if they didn't want to sit, she'd say, "Hey there's a seat right over there. Go and sit down. And I'll be with you in just a minute."
  • So, she kind of just made people sit. And one man came in not very long ago, and he told me, he said, "You know what? Where's the little lady that used to work up front here and she wore a cap all the time?" And I showed him a picture of her and explained that she was deceased. And he was so sorry. And he said, "You know, I met a lifetime friend because of that lady."
  • MH: Oh, wow.
  • MA: He said there was a gentleman sitting at the table. The only spot that was available was next to him. And he said, "I was standing around at the door, waiting to see a seat some place, find a seat some place and she told me to go have a seat right by that man there and talk to him because I want y'all to sing with me."
  • And she came over and she made them sing a church song with her. And when it was over, he said he and that man laughed and talked for so long. They sat there for hours. And they kept in touch with each other, and they were still friends.
  • MH: Wow.
  • MA: So, you may not want to use the word force, but, I mean, you know, it was kind of like forced on them. I mean, she just made everybody, "Hey, this is just one big happy family, so if you come here, you're going to have to sit wherever I tell you to sit. You're going to have to eat. You're going to have to do whatever"-she would pray with them. She would sing with them. And she-that's what everybody is used to.
  • I had a customer tell me also, not long ago, she came in and we had done a little painting on the wall or something. And she noticed it, and the place has, kind of, fallen a part.
  • You know, let's face it, it's not a very nice looking place. But we were trying to do some repairs. And she said, "Well, just don't do too much."
  • And I said, "Well, why? We're thinking about getting a new barbecue place here." And at the time, we were. My husband and I were talking to the pastor about it.
  • She said, "Oh, no. No, no, no." She said, "If you do, you're going to lose an awful lot of customers.
  • She said, "This is the reason we come to this place. Because this is the way it was, when we first started coming, and it's still the same way."
  • So, they don't wan to see any changes made. They don't want a new building. They want it just like it was from day one. It's amazing but it's true. It really is.
  • CK: How old is the building? And what was it before it was barbecue.
  • MA: Well before I think it was like a little-the building was built for Mrs. Ward. When she first got started, she came here with her husband who was working with the pastor building this church. They were building this church.
  • And she was making barbecue for the pastor and her husband underneath an umbrella with the little barbecue pit and a table.
  • And men were driving by and they smelled the barbecue and they started coming back asking her if they cold buy a sandwich. And she first said no because "I'm just cooking for my husband and the pastor."
  • And so many people stopped that the pastor finally told her, "Well, you know, maybe you should start selling. That will be money for us, so maybe you should start selling them sandwiches." So, they started getting enough for her to cook and started selling sandwiches.
  • And the business got so big that they had to put her up a little building. I don't think it was that one, but they put something up for her.
  • And then, it went from that, to what you see there now. And as far as how many years it's been here, I'm sure it's well over, I'd say, twenty-five for sure.
  • MH: When was it that Mrs. Ward started selling the barbecue?
  • MA: That's what I cannot remember.
  • MH: Oh, I see.
  • MA: I don't know the exact-she didn't even know to tell me because I tried-I tried to find out from here. But it had been so long, she didn't know the exact date.
  • But the pastor can tell you probably the nearest. He can probably get closest to it than anybody else. It's been well over twenty some odd years.
  • MH: So, you mentioned the women who would direct traffic and facilitate new relationships. And you mentioned that she had passed. What-how does the-does the restaurant close down when a member of your congregation passes? Or-
  • MA: Uh-huh. Yes. We certainly do.
  • MH: Is yours an aged congregation? Is everybody kind of-
  • MA: Yes. Everybody-we don't have a lot of youth at all. We-we don't have a lot of-we have some college students that come here under watch care, but most of our congregation is settled people that are older folks like me and my husband-older than us. So, that's what were made of.
  • MH: Can you talk a little bit-I know this community is really important to you-can you talk a little bit about what the community is like and why it, you know, what it's meant for you?
  • MA: Well, you know what, before I got married and moved to this church, I didn't really know much about this part of town because I always lived on another end of town.
  • So, once I married my husband and came out here and started coming to this church, that was the first time I actually knew anything about this end of town.
  • And, as far as the community is concerned, I think it's close-knit.
  • The people are all loving people, they really are.
  • There's not a lot of people left out here really.
  • I've seen pictures of the church from years back, and the people that went to church here, and I've talked to some of the decedents of those people, and they're all just kind of died out. So, it's not very many left. Those that are have moved away. There's a lady across the street there-a couple of ladies and some down the street a little bit further.
  • They don't go to this church at all though. But I happen to know them.
  • So, it's not a lot of people in, say, this community per say.
  • MH: What has-you-you mentioned this part of town. I get the sense that this is kind of on the outskirts of Huntsville proper. Is that correct?
  • MA: Yes, it is.
  • MH: And so, is this sort of an older part of town?
  • MA: Yes, very old. It sure is. As a matter of fact, this-this Montgomery Road has always been called Possum Walk Road [Laughs].
  • During all my childhood days, it was called Possum Walk Road. And I just didn't know people out this way. So, that's why I didn't-didn't come out this way.
  • I was from the other end-you know where Eleventh Street is in Huntsville? Are you familiar with Huntsville?
  • MH: Not terribly.
  • MA: No. Okay, across town on the other side is the area that I lived in. So, I didn't know much about this side of town out here at all.
  • MH: What is your favorite food item here at New Zion Church Barbecue? If you came in to order a meal, what would you order?
  • MA: I would say brisket. The brisket it my favorite. It really is. Of course, without the sauce.
  • MH: And why is that?
  • MA: Well, I'm diabetic.
  • MH: Oh, okay.
  • MA: I can't use the sauce.
  • CK: That's a good reason [Laughter].
  • MH: And so no pie either?
  • MH: Well, no. No. Not any pie either. Every now and then I get a piece of pie [Laughter].
  • CK: Which pie is your favorite?
  • MA: The sweet potato. I like the sweet potato pie.
  • MH: I was just thinking about taking some of it home with me today [Laughter].
  • Okay, is that? I think that pretty much wraps it up. Thank you so much for your time today.
  • MA: Welcome. Thank you for coming.
  • [END OF PART 2] 00:13:49 [END OF INTERVIEW]