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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 annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Douglas Oliver

After two decades of smoking pork for the people of Holly Hill, South Carolina, Harold “Bub” Sweatman built his eponymous brick-and-mortar pits in 1977. Out of an old farmhouse, Sweatman’s serves oak and hickory-smoked whole-hog barbecue, dashed with the spicy-sweet mustard sauce (a now widespread South Carolina condiment that the Sweatman clan most probably had a hand in creating), Friday and Saturday only.

Douglas Oliver, who grew up on a farm down the road, started working at Sweatman’s not long after it opened. Hired as a meat-cutter, Oliver trained under legendary pitmaster Chalmon Smalls, a genius of a cook who could tell the doneness of a hog just by sniffing the air.

This interview with Oliver was taped on a late Thursday evening, when the pit veteran works from mid-afternoon until just after sunrise. Between firing the hogs with shovelfuls of hardwood embers every thirty-five minutes, he enjoys the night’s bucolic silence. “This is what I like,” Oliver reflects, “Quiet.”

Date of interview:
2012-06-04 00:00

Rien Fertel

Denny Culbert

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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.


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