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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Johnny Goins

Pat's Snack Bar

Johnny Goins was nine years old the first time he walked through the doors of Pat’s Snack Bar. His grandmother visited the pool hall every day to eat and visit with neighbors and friends. Often, she would bring Johnny with her. As a young boy, Goins would watch the older men play pool and spend time with James “Preacher” Cottrell, who racked pool. As he got a little older, Preacher even let him rack games of pool.

Pat’s became a second home for Johnny. He developed close friendships with owner Pat House and manager Juanita Hilbert. Johnny would get to work early, before anyone else to sit and talk with Pat. He remembers House as a tall, kindhearted man, attired in galluses, a black hat, and a black leather jacket. If a customer didn’t have money for food, Pat or Juanita would still feed them.

As a young man in high school, Johnny worked odd jobs and racked pool for a dime a game at Pat’s Snack Bar. One night, Pat’s manager Juanita Hilbert told Johnny that he would be cooking instead of racking pool. Johnny had never set foot in the kitchen before. To this day, Johnny works as a cook at Pat’s, serving their signature cheeseburgers and chili buns.

Eventually, Johnny decided to start his own restaurant, J&J’s. After a two-year stint running his own establishment in London, Kentucky, Johnny returned to work at Pat’s Snack Bar. Today, he uses Pat and Juanita’s recipe to make Pat’s famous chili. He prides himself on continuing the legacy of the place he calls home.

Date of interview:

Sara Wood

Sara Wood

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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