For nearly two decades during Masters Week, the Julian Smith Casino was transformed into a Southern garden with a large mural of an antebellum home, magnolia leaves and Spanish moss flanking its stone walls. Teenage girls wearing hoopskirt dresses helped their mothers serve supper to Augusta families and out-of-town visitors.
The Old South Barbecue was conceived by the Chamber of Commerce to help relieve the handful of Augusta restaurants. Originally, it was held Friday night, and after a few years a second dinner on Saturday was added.
The Women’s Board of University Hospital put on the first dinner in 1960. Tickets cost $2.50, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives.
“Back then, there were very few places to eat,” said Ann Boardman, a former Women’s Board member. “(The barbecue) was so great because it was a place to take your company.”
Boardman remembered standing behind long tables serving food to large crowds. Men were sitting around the barbecue pit basting pigs, she said.
“There were long benches. You took a seat wherever you could find one,” said Peggy Capers, of Augusta.
Besides the barbecue, which was served “family style,” people entertained in their homes or ate at The Augusta Country Club or the Elks Lodge during Masters Week, Capers said.
The Old South Barbecue continued annually, with proceeds from the annual barbecue helping modernize University Hospital. Electric beds, wheelchairs, furnishings for the lobby and maternity wing, and a color television were among the upgrades.
The Optimist Club took over sponsorship of the dinner in the late 1970s. The barbecue eventually stopped, but a dinner event
was later held at Sacred Heart Cultural Center.
Teeny Newman, the wife of former Augusta Mayor Lewis “Pop” Newman, remembers taking two friends who were visiting from New England to the barbecue.
It was the first time the guests had eaten pork barbecue, which was unique to Southern states at that time, instead of beef barbecue, she said.
“They were probably stunned. They couldn’t help but say something about the pork,” Newman said with a laugh. “I don’t think they disliked it, but I don’t know if we ever went again.”