GREENVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s been 50 years since Bates House Of Turkey opened in Greenville.
“I was about 19 by the time we got it opened and I didn’t think it would go on forever,” said majority owner Becky Sloane.
The stories. The memories. The icon in Bill Bates who opened his famed turkey house on this day in 1970.
“It’s a landmark, the biggest landmark I can think of it in a small town,” said regular customer Linda Horn.
The interstate through Butler County in 1969 paved the way for Bates to expand his turkey farm near Fort Deposit to a restaurant in Greenville, unusual back in the day.
“But you know everywhere you go, no matter where you are you tell ’em you’re from Greenville. And what do they say? Oh that’s where Bates House of Turkey is,” said Greenville mayor Dexter McClendon.
The business ships an average 200,000 turkeys across the country, and not just for Thanksgiving.
“But here it’s summertime,” Sloane said with a laugh.
The photos in the diner tell the story of a simple hut-like diner that’s bloomed into a talker far beyond Alabama. The guest book near the front door is chock full of names of people who visited, places like North Carolina and Minnesota. The Bates House of Turkey became a word puzzle on the Wheel of Fortune two years ago.
“And actually somebody did win our prize. It was huge. I mean you’re getting worldwide recognition,” said Bill Bates’ granddaughter Michelle Sloane.
The celebration brought the governor to Greenville, a celebration over turkey sandwiches, cake and mimosa.
“And I like to thank Becky and her entire family for continuing this tradition,” said Gov. Kay Ivey.
After the governor’s brief remarks, Becky Sloane and dignitaries held a ribbon-cutting to begin a new era at Bates House Of Turkey.
“We’re open for business for another 50 years," Sloane said to a round of applause.
The family says the legacy will continue, a legacy firmly planted by Bill Bates 50 years ago.
Becky Sloane says her grandparents actually started the turkey farm with just nine eggs, a wedding gift given by an aunt. Bill Bates died in 2013.
The Bates provides the ceremonial turkey every year to the governor at Thanksgiving to give the governor a chance to “pardon” either “Henrietta” or “Clyde.”