‘We may not know it’s Friday anymore’
By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE – They came from behind bank counters wearing button-down shirts, down from ladders leaned high in the August sun and from their homes just a couple miles down the road. They came in two-door BMWs, Toyota trucks too large for the parking spaces and mid-size SUVs with the crimson script “A” stickered to the back windshield.
They came because the smell of barbecue hanging thick in the summer air is impossible to drive through. They came because the abruptness of it all. They came because within these old South Chalkville Road walls it feels like a family gathering, and on Friday, Aug. 12, it was the final outing.
Golden Rule Bar-B-Q and Grill, a staple in Trussville since 1992, closed its doors for good at 3 p.m.
“It saddens us to let you know we will be closing our doors at 3pm tomorrow,” the restaurant posted on its Facebook page on Aug. 11. “We appreciate your support and will miss you dearly. Please stop by and say your farewells to the team.”
That last sentence, that call to action, was heard well by the community. Not even a train blocking the railroad crossing beside the restaurant – shockingly, it wasn’t blocked at lunchtime – could have stopped the parking lot from overflowing Friday. Many parked in the lot where Kemp’s Kitchen once stood, before it burned. Others found a space on Beech Street. They converged on Golden Rule, moths to a flame.
“Best baked beans and burgers around,” said 2016 Hewitt-Trussville High School graduate Garrett Terwilleger, who walked over from work in downtown Trussville.
Terwilleger said he went to the Irondale location as a kid with his dad. When he heard the Trussville spot was permanently closing, he had to go back for one more burger.
“I guess nostalgia [brought me here today],” he said.
Long before it was lunchtime, Anita and David Dobbs ate their final breakfast in the same booth they’ve slid into for more than two decades. For 20 years, David Dobbs, the longtime Hewitt-Trussville track and field and cross-country coach, ordered the same breakfast – egg and cheese sandwich, grits, bacon and coffee. He was always interested to see which coffee mug his coffee would come in.
“We even donated all my mother’s and dad’s mugs from their travels after they passed away,” he said.
Anita Dobbs said that it was sad to walk out the doors a final time Friday morning. Their booth was filled with memories of family, friends, former students and former athletes.
“It wasn’t just about breakfast,” she said. “It was about relationships. Watching kids grow up, our granddaughter included, catching up with old friends, and making new friends.”
Students often asked the Dobbses, both retired Hewitt-Trussville teachers, on Fridays if they had been to Golden Rule. They didn’t even have to ask.
“They could smell it on us,” Anita Dobbs said. “It will be hard to replace somewhere like this, especially since there are no straight-up breakfast places with eggs and toast and grits. Thanks Rick, Britney, Pam, and all the others who have been there. We will dearly miss this tradition.”
Comparing a barbecue joint, even a little bit, to church might be somewhat sacrilegious, but this is Alabama, and a little bit of sacrilege seems allowable for barbecue and college football, but the line stops there.
“You know, it was a little like church,” David Dobbs said. “Everyone had their own place to sit. We have had people we didn’t know ask where we had been if we were on vacation. They knew we were gone because our booth was empty.”
The Dobbses just drove back home from Tennessee, and the question was obvious: “What are we going to do next Friday?”
“It was something we always looked forward to doing,” David Dobbs said. “We may not know it’s Friday anymore.”
One man, who said he moved to Trussville in the late 1970s and ordered from Golden Rule at least once per month, waited for over half an hour for his to-go lunch Friday, and he sat patiently and happily on the black bench just in front of the register. One man waited just as long, if not longer, and was told his food was free because of the wait. The man laid a $20 bill on the register and walked out with his food. No wait was too long this Friday. It was about the food, sure, but it was more about the patronage, the people.
“It’s kind of sad, you know?” said one man.
Sometimes, it’s that simple. Sometimes, it’s deeper than that.
One longtime Trussville resident said that after her father died, she stayed with her ill mother for a while. Her mother had a standing weekly hair appointment for decades so she’d take her there and pick her up. One day, that daughter had to be somewhere after dropping her mom off, so she called her sister to see if she could pick up their mother. She couldn’t but sent her husband, a big guy with a big heart who rode a Harley-Davidson. He was new to the family and was told he could take his new mother-in-law through the Sonic drive-thru for a burger to eat at home. Instead of taking that easy route, he took her to Golden Rule, a restaurant she and the family always enjoyed, and sat with her while she had lunch.
“I was blown away by his kindness, and it’s a bittersweet memory because that’s the last time she got to eat there,” said the woman’s daughter. “He made the effort to give her that joy one last time.”
On Friday around 1 p.m., the noon rush created a line almost the width of the building to pay for their lunch a final time, to say goodbye. Customers hugged waitresses and waved to cooks. “I love you” and “We’re going to miss y’all, too” were overheard dozens of times. Finality, even the closing of a barbecue restaurant, is hard. One older patron, after she paid, turned and looked out over the seating area, as if she was taking a mental picture. When she headed for the exit, she did so slowly, perhaps because she was elderly, or maybe it was the strong pull that nostalgia has.
Said one woman, “At least [Golden Rule] leaves knowing people love them.”