Monday, February 25, 2008

When was the last time you went to the library?

Well, for me it was today. But before that . . . man, it's been awhile. I went to my local library today to research a barbecue topic. I had tried relentlessly searching the net, but failed. I had in my head that if I could get to the library, they would have all of the Kansas City Star newspapers on film or otherwise, and there would be the answer to my question. Well, they did, sort of. They had information, but only back to 1991. Unfortunately for me, I knew my topic would be found between 1987 and 1990. That's usually my luck.

A very nice, but matronly looking lady in a navy cardigan at the reference desk insisted on proving me wrong by searching the internet for my topic. This time was a bit grueling, but I know she meant well. She made a call to someone somewhere else in the building, who, from their telephone conversation obviously decided to make it his personal mission to find the answer to my query. After she hung up the phone and stared blankly at the computer screen for something that surely seemed much longer than it actually was, she leaped from her bar stool type chair like she had just been shocked with a cattle prod, and motioned me to follow her. We walked a short distance to a long unassuming row of four foot tall, pale gray filing cabinets with labels that obviously had information in alphabetical order. She marched directly to AV - BR, pulled open the long drawer, reached in, and pulled out a near pristine manila legal sized folder that was labeled "Barbecue News." She promptly turned, handing me the folder, and said, "Well, this is a long shot, but every once in awhile people find what they are seeking in these." Then she walked away. If it had not appeared unprofessional, I think she would have run.

I spent the next two hours scrutinizing every scrap of paper in that folder. It was a hodge podge of newspaper clippings, close to a hundred, on all things barbeque from the early 80's to around the turn of the century. There were pictures from the American Royal and the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle. There were stories about Ardie Davis, Karen Putnam, and Paul Kirk. One story had a very large picture of Ed & Muriel Roth, the 1992 KCBS team of the year. There were some really awesome pictures as well. One of Carolyn & Gary Wells in their office with their pet pot bellied pig was priceless. It was in color and let me say, that made all the difference. There were also many, many stories about folks who have come and gone in barbeque. It was fun, yet a little sad to read about all of the entrepreneurs with sauces and restaurants in Kansas City in that fifteen or so year span. All in all, this folder contained some serious barbeque history.

Ultimately, I found what I was after. But I also found some things I had not gone looking for. I found some history of where the Kansas City Barbeque Society has been. I read some of the visions for the organization from back then as conveyed by many different sources. Believe it or not, they weren't so very different than the issues and ideas of today. I left my local library today with the answer to my question. I also left there with a new appreciation for both the library and the KCBS. I hope I don't wait so long to get back there. I also hope that finding all of those great stories will help me as I make decisions in the board room. The Kansas City Barbeque Society is a great organization. The passion of our membership is like nothing I've ever experienced. I'm proud to be part of it and hope that someday somebody will stumble across that folder again and enjoying reading about how our organization has continued to evolve.


ULIKA BBQ said...

Are you writing a dissertation to get your Ph. B?

Pellet Envy said...

No, but that's a good idea. I was looking for the name of a person who was big into bbq in the Kansas City area back then. I knew there would be stories that had the information from that time. I was right.

Dodge County Smokers said...

That sounds like a really interesting day. I can easily get lost in stuff like that. What library did you go to? I have some old sheets of recipes that my wife's Grandpa (who has since passed away) gave me when I started to get interested in cooking BBQ. The name Al Lawson is at the top of each page and I believe the recipes were given (or possibly sold?) to my wife's Grandpa a long time ago by this man. I have since seen his name a few different places related to barbecue, including an award named after him at the NKC BBQ Contest, but I still don't really know who he is. This might be a good place to start.

Thanks for another interesting post, Rod.

Pellet Envy said...

Hey Neal. I did see Al Lawson's name in some of those articles. I went to the main JoCo library on 87th St. across from where Brandsmart used to be. Walk straight in, take a right just before the reference desk and walk almost to the back. These filing cabinets will be on your right. The very first one will have that folder. If you make it by there, be sure to find that pic of Gary and Carolyn Wells. It's classic!

I need to research Al Lawson. Our Pork Rib Category TOY win is an Al Lawson award. I should really find out why the award is named after him. Great idea!