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Mike's Bar-B-Q was a popular mid-20th century drive-in restaurant on Rossville Boulevard./Photo contributed by ChattanoogaHistory.com, EPB collection.

If you are of a certain age, you might remember Mike's Bar-B-Q on Rossville Boulevard.

Today, the address — 4211 Rossville Blvd. — is the location of a Dollar General store. But in the mid-20th century, it was home to the "dancing pig," a neon sign outside a popular drive-in restaurant that still animates the memories of people who grew up in the Rossville area in the 1950s and 1960s.

"It was pink," remembers Essie Bearden Morelock, "and every time my dad drove down Rossville Boulevard, I would look for the little pig."

When this vintage photo of Mike's Bar-B-Q — part of the ChattanoogaHistory.com archive — was posted on a Rossville High School nostalgia page on Facebook this week, the response was swift.

"I remember an advertisement that they had on their sign once 'Wanted, man to BBQ,'" posted Sandra Goodner Johnson. "Although I knew what they meant, I'm sure there were a lot of people that had names of people that they would like to BBQ."

Charlotte Gilbreath remembers, "They had trays that hung on the open windows of cars."

"Lots of drag racing on the boulevard," recalls Richard Shaffner. "A whole lot of muscle cars."

"They had a huge stuffed fish on the wall and the best French fries and burgers," wrote Terry Francis.

A newspaper advertisement from 1961 noted that Mike's Bar-B-Q was offering a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and dressing, three vegetables and hot rolls for 95 cents — less than the cost of a glass of iced tea in most restaurants today.

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PDF: A 1961 newspaper ad touts a full Thanksgiving dinner for 95 cents.

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Another print ad from 1950 appeared under the beckoning headline, "After the movies, follow the crowd to Mike's Bar-B-Q." It noted that the barbecue there was cooked with charcoal and hickory and that the restaurant also specialized in "steaks, chicken and chops." In the ad, the owner's name is listed as Mike Zarzour.

A help-wanted ad for Mike's from the period read, "Curb girls and waitresses. Must be neat. No phone calls."

As a gathering place for young people, there were occasional dust-ups in the parking lot, some natives remember.

Indeed, a newspaper article in the Chattanooga Daily Times in May 1962 recounts a "knife and lug-wrench brawl" in the parking lot of the restaurant that left three people hurt, including two 17-year-olds and a 28-year-old employee of a nearby service station.

More information

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is designed to preserve historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have old photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall at samhall@chattanoogatn.biz for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

On a more tender note, Beverly Williams of Chattanooga recalls that her aunt and uncle met at Mike's Bar-B-Q.

"My uncle met his future wife in the parking lot there," she wrote on Facebook. "Aunt Ruth was an immigrant from Germany, sitting in her car with her sister.

"She once told me how, sitting there with the car windows down, she heard someone going 'pssst, pssst.' It was Uncle Nolan, trying to get her attention. They struck up a conversation, and he asked for her number. They began dating and later married. They were married until each passed away. They were my favorite Aunt and Uncle, and I miss them very much."

Follow the "Remember when, Chattanooga?" group on Facebook.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com

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