Former Herald reporter discovers original story on Guy & Mae's wall
(Editors Note: Don Lambert, former Ottawa Herald reporter and photojournalist from 1973-78, chronicles the some of his most memorable stories and photos. Don Lambert now lives in Kansas City, Missouri.)
For sure, I was eager to once again feast on the barbecued ribs at Guy & Mae's Tavern in Williamsburg. But my real reason for wanting to go there was to see for myself whether my story about Guy & Mae's is still on the wall. Sure enough, it is, 42 years later.
According to Judy Simpson, one of Guy and Mae's three daughters, this Bar-B-Q joint turned around their family, and much of the town. Five family members worked there, employees numbered more than that. The place was a hot spot not only for the locals but for visitors. These included truckers informing others on their CB radio, and traveling salesmen looking for something new.
Judy recalled recently that when she returned to Williamsburg as a young woman she intended to stay for a week. That turned out to be more than 30 years. Judy and her sister, Diana, retired from "the business" and now run a coffee shop next door. Biscuits and gravy is the fare on Monday and Friday.
Now, Guy & Mae's is run by their granddaughter, Lori Thompson, who said recently that they are selling 500 slabs per week. Recently she sent ribs to Doc Severnson for his birthday. He's been a fan for years.
Guy & Mae's, sadly, is the only business in this town of about 400 people. You have to go 10 miles to get a tank of gas.
Still, Guy & Mae's is a mecca for BBQ aficionados, like Ardie Davis, Roeland Park, who has judged and written about everything barbecue from coast to coast.
He explained Guy & Mae's is not the oldest barbecue joint in Kansas, that distinction goes to Rosedale Bar-B-Q in Kansas City, Kansas. Davis raves to this day about the food of the late Guy and Mae Kesner, especially Guy's "hookey poo" rub and Mae's secret recipe tomato-based sauce.
I don't remember when I first learned about Guy & Mae's. What I do remember is meeting them: Guy's wryness and Mae's jolliness. They hung my story on the wall. It joined other newspaper and magazine stories on the joints brag wall.
"If they don't drip from your chin and elbows, they ain't worth eating, anyway,” Guy said in my original story from 1978.
That was the sign of a man who, after many years of barely breaking even, is finally doing what he wants and enjoys. There were those days when he tried to farm. Later, he worked construction and ran a service station in Ottawa. In 1974, he bought the Williamsburg tavern. When he told his wife he wanted to put in a barbecue pit, she questioned, "Now who is going to buy barbecued ribs? And in Williamsburg?"
During my recent trip to Guy & Mae's the ribs were as good as I remembered. Except for one thing. Much to my chagrin, the ribs are no longer served on copies of The Ottawa Herald.
According to Lori, "Our ribs were served on The Ottawa Herald for many years. When they stopped printing in house, it became difficult to get the amount we needed on a regular basis. We now get papers from the Iola Register."