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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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Dale Pettit

Opened in 1952, Top Hat Barbecue is located in Blount Springs about thirty miles north of Birmingham. The Top Hat’s second owner decided to retire after only five years in the business. She offered to sell the place to her bread deliveryman at the time, Wilbur Pettit. When the company Wilbur worked for closed, he decided it was time to get into barbecue. He purchased the Top Hat in 1967 (the sauce recipe cost him extra), and he and his wife learned on the job. Their son, Dale, started working there in 1971, the day after he got home from a stint in the Navy. Dale has manned the pits ever since. He, too, is passing the barbecue torch on to the next generation. Dale’s daughter, Heather Phillips, is the manager at Top Hat Barbecue.

Date of interview:
2006-10-04 00:00

Amy Evans


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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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