Good Eats: The Rocket
Sam Burnham, Curator
We’ve got a lot of loves at ABG. Among them are locally owned businesses and long established institutions. I’ve got a perfect meshing of the two for you. For this one we’re going to Jacksonville...Alabama, not Florida. This review is of a gem of a place in Calhoun County. Let’s talk about The Rocket.
I first walked into this establishment in the fall of 1993. When I walked in earlier this year it looked just like it did 27 years ago. I’m pretty sure it lookedp the same when it opened in 1958. The only change I noticed since my first visit was some of the ladies working behind the counter hadn’t been born as of then. That made me feel kind of old.
But it made me feel better knowing that this local icon was holding up to the test of time. Same furniture, same decor, same everything.
The Rocket is a BBQ joint. Let me say this, you aren’t going to see The Rocket on TrueSouth or Chef’s Table BBQ. It’s not that kind of place. Their BBQ is solid, it’s good. But they don’t have a trophy case. In fact, I don’t typically eat the BBQ when I go there. Coach Drew does and speaks well of it.
There’s a backstory to what I order. Just around the corner from our childhood home was our own local spot. They had a twin burger basket that everyone on that side of town still raves about. A simple concept: two burgers and fries in a basket. But Peyton’s is gone and their baskets (and the Evel Knievel pinball machine) went with them. So when I saw the twin burger basket on the menu at The Rocket, I had to know. It was perfect. 27 years later, it’s still perfect.
One of the best things about The Rocket is just how local it is. I mentioned there’s no trophy case but there is a plethora of local articles framed on the wall. And you’ll see people who’ve been going there since 1998, 1988, 1968. Lord willing, they’ll be going in 2028. This isn’t gourmet. It’s not an oddball joint with a cult following. This is over six decades of sustained support by the locals. It’s 100% small town phenomenon.
The dining room is pretty small. They have a strong takeout business, partially because a table is a commodity during lunch rush. We got there on Georgia time so the place was pretty empty. But we watched the crowd roll in. All the tables filled up. Folks flowed in and out with takeout orders.
They have a pickup window. It’s not a drive thru. You can walk up and place orders as well as pickup call-in orders without going inside. There is currently shielding between the few booths as well as the counter. COVID precautions are in place. The strong takeout game got them through the lockdown. It will continue to help them thrive.
And the twin burger basket was on point, just like always.
So I leave you with this tip. That little stone BBQ joint on Pelham Road South is worth a stop. Dine in or take out, it’s highly recommended. If you find yourself anywhere near it, check it out.
A Difficult Year Under the Lights
Sam Burnham, Curator
On Friday nights in the fall, high school football teams take center stage across The South. Like anything else, the big, the successful, the wealthy are the best known examples. Valdosta, Parkview, Buford. Large schools fill big stadiums every week. There’s an atmosphere that rivals the college game.
But I’d like to turn your attention to some smaller schools. There’s something about small communities that roll up the sidewalks early on Friday because the local team is taking the field. If you’ve never been to a small town high school football game, you’re missing out. The crowds both rival and resemble those at local churches on Sunday morning...because they’re usually the same people. The game is usually the biggest thing in town on a given week. It’s a social event, the place to be.
This fact has always been in my mind but it hit me hard this past Friday night. It was homecoming in Trion, Georgia. This town in northern Chattooga County has struggled against COVID-19 and a closing cotton mill. 2020 has not been kind. Trion Bulldog Football offers a distraction from bad news. The team has done ok this year but not as good as in recent years. They need a strong finish and maybe a little help to extend their season.
The visitors were from Armuchee High, some 20 miles down the highway. The Indians have picked up a couple of wins this year, better than in recent years but still struggling with a losing record. Barring a miracle, there won’t be a playoff appearance this year. What’s left of the regular season is all these kids get.
When you consider all of the game experience, teams, cheerleaders, marching bands, fans, so much of this season has been a disappointment. Games have been canceled. Many games have omitted the bands to limit crowd sizes. A lot of kids have put in a lot of hard work and practice for very little of the reward of demonstrating their craft. As a dad, it’s heartbreaking.
Last Friday was a full experience. Both schools had their teams, cheer squads, and marching bands in attendance. The homecoming court was presented. As the season’s end draws nigh, opportunities are becoming fewer. The pain stings a little sharper. But for one night, things were a little more normal.
Both sets of stands held healthy crowds. Both schools, and therefore both communities, were well represented. It was fueled by pride in our kids, in our schools, in our towns. It was seizing a chance to have the full experience. In a year like 2020 you don’t know that you’ll have that chance again, schedule or no schedule. We made the most of it.
In this season there’s a lesson. We’ve learned the importance of the moment. We’ve learned to appreciate each time our kids take the field. We are a little more aware that this time is fleeting.
As a dad, I hope next year is back to normal.
Sam Burnham, Curator
The polls closed in Georgia at 7pm on Tuesday night. There were a few extensions due to irregularities, Spalding County specifically. But for the most part, all ballots were cast by 7.
The the votes started being counted and sent in to the office of the Secretary of State. Out in the far reaches. Among the peanut fields, the pecan orchards, and in every valley in the state, the totals came in.
New England, Georgia is in northern Dade County. Like the rest of Dade, New England is cut off from the rest of the state by Lookout Mountain. It is a relatively remote place. There’s. No grocery stores or restaurants in New England. It’s a quaint place with some good people but it ain’t fancy or modern.
But their votes are in.
St. George, Georgia sits in the “Georgia bend” of the St. Marys River down in southern Charlton County. It’s cut off from the rest of the state by the Okefenokee Swamp. I’m not sure you can get a good cell signal there. My understanding is that broadband internet isn’t available there. They are surrounded on three sides by Florida.
But their votes are sitting at the state capitol waiting to be certified.
I could go on and on about these towns and counties, Parrott, Santa Claus, Talking Rock, Rising Fawn, Dixie, Willacoochee, all have their votes in. Echols County has not one single incorporated municipality in the whole county but you know what they do have? Yep, they have their votes in.
in 96% white and reliably red Walker County and 62% black and reliably blue Randolph County, the votes are in. Black votes, white votes, Hispanic votes, male votes, female votes, and even votes by immigrants from Burkina Faso have all been sent in.
So all of these places that bougie folks in Atlanta look down upon have their votes in. You know who doesn’t have their votes in? Fulton and Dekalb counties. The two closest counties to the state capitol are still trying to get things together. Sure, the population is high but that hasn’t stopped Cobb, Gwinnett, Muscogee, Chatham, or Bibb counties. The state has a high tech system to streamline things. Those “yokels” out in Taliaferro didn’t have any glitches. But the home of the Fernbank Museum and the Centers for Disease Control might have their votes in by Friday.
So I ask the question. Who are the backwards folks here? Who are the rednecks, the hillbillies, the hayseeds? If Echols County were to build a planetarium would they suddenly lose all competence in running an election? Would a busted pipe in a storage room cause cause a three day delay in vote counting in Butts County if they converted the prison into a private university?
For now the rest of the country waits for Fulton and Dekalb counties to get their act together. Among those waiting...the other 157 counties of Georgia.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire