As a crowd of around 150 people gathered outside Betty’s Bar-B-Q Thursday, Robin Nesbit-Mayfield and her mother, Carole Nesbit, broke away and huddled around Robin’s smartphone to take a picture of Anniston’s most beloved sign.
“It was just part of our life, part of our history,” Robin said of Goal Post Bar-B-Q’s animated neon football player, who has kicked millions of perfect field goals for the last half century.
Robin said her family moved to Anniston in 1968, when she was 5, and she remembers going to the Goal Post with her father, Robert Nesbit.
As she and her daughter talked about him, Carole Nesbit sniffled and wiped away a tear. Robin explained that her father died last year.
“I know my dad is looking down, going, ‘There’s the sign,’” she said.
Cathy Pruett Cofield, the owner of Betty’s, said she’s been overwhelmed by the number of people who have told her stories just like the Nesbits.
Many of those people were there Thursday for the relighting ceremony. The staff of Betty’s were there too, serving free barbecue sliders, chicken fingers and lemonade to visitors.
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart told the crowd that the community almost lost the kicker shortly after the Goal Post closed in September.
Cofield bought the sign from the construction crew tearing the restaurant down in the 1900 block of Quintard Avenue to make way for a Verizon Wireless store. The kicker had been set to go to the dump that very day in January.
Cofield’s father, S.A. Pruett, opened the Goal Post in the early 1960s. He bought the custom-made placekicker from Noble Sign Co. in Anniston for $1,500 — more than $10,000 in 2014 dollars.
Cofield’s mother, Betty Walker, opened Betty’s Bar-B-Q in the late 1970s. The business has been in its current location, where the sign now stands, since the late 1980s.
The Goal Post changed owners several times throughout its life, but Roy Young and his family ran it for the longest period, from 1973 to 1998.
Locals say they went there hoping to run into old friends or perhaps to commiserate about Alabama being snubbed by poll voters for the 1966 National Championship title. Anniston High School football fans inundated the restaurant after every game.
Young’s barbecue and smoked hams brought in generals, governors and had been flown to Washington, D.C. for U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin.
The Goal Post also played host to Paul “Bear” Bryant and Joe Namath.
Stewart said it’s that history that made the sign so valuable to the community.
“We’re all here because we long for those days,” he said.