For over a half-century, if you traveled from the Birmingham/Shelby area to Lake Martin, you knew the Old Hickory Barbecue Restaurant in Sylacauga.

If you traveled Highway 280 to Auburn home football games, you may have pulled into the Old Hickory and bought their unique barbecue for tailgating.

The barbecue was so unusual that some folks would make a special trip just to eat at the Old Hickory. It became a destination.

The Old Hickory Barbecue in Sylacauga, famous for decades for its unique taste, has been closed since the 1980s, and the barbecue recipe was presumed lost.

Enter Sylacauga native Lamar “Mole” Humphries. The retiree (Class of ’66 Sylacauga High) took on the mission of finding the recipe and re-creating Old Hickory barbecue.

He did. He located the original recipe, blended the sauce, and barbecued with it.  Voila! A return of the Old Hickory taste and feel.

He then cooked up 17 gallons of Old Hickory Barbecue Sauce and made it his gift to friends in pint jars.

Now, “Mole,” as he is universally known in East Alabama, is taking folks on a trip to yesteryear, back to the Old Hickory era. The gastronomical nostalgic trip is on Saturday, April 27 at Blue Bell Central Park in downtown Sylacauga. Mole is bringing the Old Hickory sauce, setting up his giant commercial-grade smoker, and cooking free for all comers.

Mole will start serving around noon.

No ticket, no RSVP and no money are required. Just show up and get in line. First come, first served. Many coming that day will bring sides for all — baked beans, potato salad, chips, Cole slaw, and desserts.     

It's the second coming of the Old Hickory.

Blue Bell Central Park is located across the street from the classic entryway to the Blue Bell Ice Cream plant at 436-498 North Norton in downtown Sylacauga.­

Bluebellpark Alabama News
Blue Bell Central Park. Four Square City Guide

The occasion for Mole Humphries’ free barbecue is the annual "Frosty Inn Reunion."  The “Frosty”, the beloved gathering place for teenagers of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, has also been closed going on 40 years, but those teenagers of yesterday remember and re-create the golden days of their youth each year. The Frosty alums will gather again from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 at Blue Bell Central Park.

2024 marks the 14th straight year these Baby Boomers regroup for the Frosty Reunion. This will be the first time they and all the others there will eat Old Hickory Barbecue as their lunch in the park.  

For decades, thousands of Alabama residents drove past the Old Hickory Barbecue each day. The restaurant was located on what was then U.S. Highway 280 and 231 as they traversed Fort Williams Street in downtown Sylacauga. 280 was the main route from Birmingham to Lake Martin to Auburn and on to Phenix City/Columbus, while 231 was the route to Montgomery. Both passed the Old Hickory and then separated paths just south of Sylacauga.

Later, 280 and 231 were re-routed to a new four-lane west of Sylacauga, but the Old Hickory remained for 20 more years.

This won’t be the first time that Mole Humphries has gone the second mile for his fellow yutes of yesteryear. He is known as “Mole the Music Man” and preserved the music of the 1960s, first on a reel-to-reel, then on a cassette, and finally on CDs. Mole has given out free CDs of the music he grew up with at gatherings over the past five years. Generous.

Mole came by his love of 1960s music naturally. His family owned a music/record shop in downtown Sylacauga in the 60s. It was the cool place to go, browse and listen.

So how did Mole Humphries come by his other obsession -- to locate the Old Hickory barbecue recipe and cook free for everybody on April 27? Ask him while he’s taking the meat off the grill.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler writes about Alabama’s people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths.  He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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