When you think of Jack Wingate, don’t forget the barbecue!

Published 7:10 pm Friday, December 16, 2011

Faceville’s native son, Jack Wingate, known and loved by everyone, is famously remembered for fishing and all the wonderful things he did relative and connected to fishing. He never met a stranger and would have you laughing with ease immediately.

Jack was so likeable, traits that he inherited from both his parents, “Uncle Paul” and “Aunt Myrtle.” Here I go again, referring to all my parents’ friends as “Uncle” or “Aunt.” That simply means they were “tween” being friends and family and to show my respect they became my surrogate relatives.

I have wonderful memories of “hog killing” stories, eggnog at Christmas, and fishing on the river bank. The banks were red clay and steep. We caught — or rather, the adults caught — supper and fried it right there.

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But even before fishing, the thing I will remember Jack and his family for is barbecue! Let’s not forget barbecue — the best tasting barbecue that was ever made, not to mention the Brunswick stew that was to beg for! In the 50s and 60s on Faceville Highway 97 just past the Fowlstown turn, stood “Wingate’s Barbecue.” They had the recipe!

Let me tell you about Wingate’s barbecue — it was good! First of all you got slices of meat, not shredded meat. You could taste the smoke through and through while it took on a reddish color with the outside crusty black but never burnt. The sandwiches had tons of sliced meat lathered with their homemade sauce, sandwiched between a white (not whole wheat) hamburger bun and then toasted on a grill ever so lightly. Finally, they pierced it with a toothpick, stacking dill pickle slices on top.

I have been fortunate to live in all four directions of our great country and have eaten barbecue in every one of them, but never found any as good as Wingate’s. I am still searching. For the past 20 years, I’ve lived in Texas. Sorry, but beef is not barbecue. Arkansas puts slaw on their sandwiches … Memphis is too sweet or rubbed … North Carolina’s sauce is different … New York couldn’t get salsa straight, much less barbecue … and California hasn’t got a clue! There was none as wonderful as Wingate’s!

Wingate’s Barbecue was our place in Faceville, decorated in Jack’s motif, with his collection of arrowheads on the walls alongside boar hog heads and alligators, adding to the ambience. This place had atmosphere. The whole family worked there. Uncle Paul provided and barbecued the meat with his special mix of wood. The pit was just outside their house and you could smell the smoke inside 24/7.

The house was between the restaurant and the store/filling station. Think of this — they had the whole layout right there. Aunt Myrtle (with kitchen help) was Master Chef, reminiscent of a certain “kitchen” program on prime television now. Let’s just say it was run straight! Her salad dressing would put present cooking channel recipes to shame. I remember Jack and Joyce as being such a handsome, young and energetic couple. Customers would come from all over the area in search of the best dining experience around and there you got more than you paid for. Aunt Myrtle provided colorful entertainment, as well as fabulous food from the kitchen. Many local high school students were given gainful employment either in the kitchen or waiting tables. We had hams in the freezer that Uncle Paul barbecued for us, but it just didn’t taste the same as eating at the restaurant.

I moved away in l968 and my timeline is probably not correct. I remember Jack moved the barbecue restaurant to the river and integrated it with fishing where it operated for some years, but as things change so did the barbecue.

Jack, thank you and the Wingate family for the best barbecue in the world! I for one will never forget how delicious it was and will forever continue to search for any that compares. We will miss you but we remember you in the many legacies you left.

Gail Mills Brown

Dallas, Texas