4293 Mockingbird Lane, Rock Hill SC
(click on address for directions)
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Southwest of Rock Hill, in what is called the Bethesda community, for close to 50 years the onset of holiday weekends has meant one thing - somebody named Gardner is cooking barbecue.
And a whole lot more.
Beef hash. Brunswick stew. Country sausage from scratch, chickens and ribs - and all that potato salad and cole slaw
and homemade secret barbecue sauce that goes with it.
These days, Steve Gardner is the one cooking and running everything, but for so long - until Alzheimer's disease and
Parkinson's disease took his ability away - Steve's father, Jerry Gardner, was the face of holiday weekends in Bethesda.
Jerry Gardner always was "The Old Man."
It is a term of endearment. Gardner has been a legendary character whose hair has been gray-white for decades - gruff and tough and the most tender-hearted guy to ever hold hundreds of benefits for others.
"The Old Man" was Jerry Gardner's nickname for his almost 30 years with the Rock Hill Fire Department. He and a few other guys started the Bethesda Volunteer Fire Department about 40 years ago, cooking hundreds of thousands of pounds of barbecue over the years to raise money for trucks and equipment.
Jerry Gardner learned the art of barbecue and hash and all the old ways from legendary Billy Horne of Sharon in western York County - then used it to raise money for poor peoples' rent and uncountable other good causes.
The plan when Jerry retired was that he and Steve, who worked in construction, would run a part-time food business. But the diseases, which came on quickly, made it impossible for Jerry to help.
Steve Gardner did not shelve the plan. The dream of Gardner's BBQ, Hash and Country Sausage was too important to abandon.
He has built a food preparation building and old-fashioned smokehouse and more. There are Gardner iron cooking pots that are still used to cook hash and stew that have cooked hash in Bethesda since the days of John F. Kennedy.
The secret to the "famous" Gardner BBQ taste is in the Gardner sauces - only Steve knows the recipes now. Even Mary Joe Gardner, the family matriarch wasn't told the recipe by Jerry and Steve is keeping to himself as well.