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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.

ORAL HISTORY

Jay Allen


811 Hash Boulevard. If that isn’t the actual address of Buffalo, South Carolina’s Midway BBQ, it might as well be. Established some time around 1941—the date is sketchy—founder Jack O’Dell was once one of nearly 50 Union County hash houses hurrying out the slow-cooked beef, butter, onion, salt, and pepper stew. Today, Midway BBQ is the only one that remains.

Growing up in his family’s grocery, the future Hash King first garnered attention as a crackerjack cattle and hog grader and buyer. “When Jack O’Dell walked in the barn,” recounts son-in-law Jay Allen, Midway’s manager since 1994, “you knew the best cows and hogs were going home with him because he only bought the best.” Though O’Dell has long retired, livestock purchases continue to stock Midway’s full-service meat counter (in old-school butcher shop fashion, sawdust still covers the floor), emerge as the hickory-smoked shoulder and ham barbecue, and fill the three 100-gallon hash pots.

“Without hash,” declares self-proclaimed barbecue science engineer Allen, “we’re done. We’re closed.” Allen, husband of O’Dell’s daughter Amy, Midway’s present owner, says that though “BBQ” styles the business’s signage, the name should read Midway Hash (it should be noted that they also sell a hundred gallons a day of their creamy, spicy chicken stew). Naturally, then, when people ask where to find Midway BBQ, O’Dell responds: “811 Hash Boulevard.”

Date of interview:
2012-06-12 00:00

Interviewer:
Rien T. Fertel

Photographer:
Denny Culbert

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