I like to say that I became a barbecuer as a boy
of 60. I actually started out in cooking contests
by entering chili-making competitions. In the
late 1980s I recruited an old student of mine
fromWilson High School, Jim Erickson, to be
the head cook for a team to compete in barbe-
cue events. (Jim and his wife, Lois, are the par-
ents of twins Justin and Jessica, who graduated
from UPS in 2012 and whose careers at the col-
lege my wife and I have followed closely.) Our
barbecue crew became known as “The Road
Team of the ’90s” because we’d fly out of Seattle,
pick up equipment, meat, and maybe a team
member, and compete all over the Midwest,
Southeast, and Texas. We were the only team to
qualify every year for the American Royal and
Jack Daniel’s invitationals the first 10 years of
their existence. In 1994 we won the Oregon and
North Carolina state championships on con-
secutive weekends.
I started writing about barbecue and got
better at it after I kissed the Blarney Stone in
1990
on my way to judging a barbecue competi-
tion in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland. I’ve covered bar-
becue for the KCBS
Bull Sheet
and the
National
BBQ News
,
and from Singapore to New Zealand,
including 17 years at the American Royal in
Kansas City, 11 at the Jack Daniel’s Invitational,
and 20 at the Bob Roberts Memorial Barbecue
in Terlingua, Texas. Along the way I co-founded
the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association and
its newsletter,
Drippings from the Pit
.
I’m co-
author of
Paul Kirk’s Championship Barbecue,
now in its 12th printing. Most of the photos in
the book are mine, with some of my rhetoric
still distinguishable after the editor expanded
the book to its present size and scope. I’ve even
brought barbecue to my Issaquah retirement
home, giving pulled-pork and brisket sandwich
parties. My final Puyallup Fair demonstration
occurred in 2010, giving away pulled-pork and
brisket sandwiches for 45 minutes each in the
pavilion. An 87th birthday is a good time to
retire.
Bob graduated from Tacoma’s Stadium High
School in 1943. He then entered an academic
program that resulted in a degree in naval science
and tactics, and a commission in the Navy Re-
serve. Returning to college in Tacoma, he finished
a Bachelor of Education degree at Puget Sound in
1948
and taught briefly at Auburn High School.
After an 18-month diversion during the Korean
War aboard the
USS Lenawee,
he began teaching
in Tacoma in the fall of 1954, progressing through
Lincoln and Mount Tahoma high schools.
He created the humanities program at Mount
Tahoma in 1962, then was a John Hay Fellow at
Columbia University during the 1964–65 school
year. In 1967 he received a Master of Arts in lib-
eral studies at Reed College. Other academic for-
ays took him to the University of Massachusetts
(
Amherst), the University of Hawai‘i, Western
Washington University, and Cambridge Uni-
versity. Following his wife’s retirement in 1988,
the two began participating in the International
Society for Contemporary Literature and Theater
and traveled to the Netherlands, Germany’s Black
Forest area, northern Spain, France, and Poland
during summers from 1999 to 2004.
First-person
The two lives of Bob Lyon ’48:
educator and champion barbecuer
GRILL TEAM There’s Bob (in the Jack Daniel’s apron), his wife, and barbecue-team member
Jim Erickson P’12, a former Wilson High student of Bob’s.
Courtesy Bob Lyon
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