The Levy’s purchased the original Jitney Jungle (located on the Square where University Sporting Goods used to be) in 1945 for $2500.00. The first Jitney measured only 17 feet across and 80 feet deep –– approximately 1,360 square feet.
The store had only one check out stand then. The freezer section consisted of one frozen food box about six feet long that held vegetables, a tiny juice cabinet and a two-square-foot, home style freezer.
The Jitney Jungle was the first grocery store in the history of Oxford to allow African-Americans to shop there. The Jitney moved to the spot on North Lamar in 1960. After moving to North Lamar, the store was expanded three times until it covered the entire city block.
Leonard Wallerstein Levy was born in Paducah, Kentucky, to Jewish parents (also the grandson of a Rabbi) and remained a devout Jew his entire life. Isabel Heiman was a Pine Bluff, Arkansas, native and from a Jewish family. They were married on April 4, 1931, and honeymooned in Chicago at the famous Palmer House.
Both Isabel and Leonard lost many family members in the Holocaust of World War II. Till his death, Mr. Levy could not talk about it.
The Levy’s kindness to the citizens of Oxford is related in stories told be many through the years. But probably their greatest gift to Oxford and Ole Miss came in their last few years. In his late 70s, Mr. Levy could be seen, everyday, walking to Golden Years Retirement Home. There he entered, passing men five and ten years younger that he was, and then wheeling Isabel out to Van Buren for their daily walk.
His devotion to his wife was the ultimate example of “To death do us part.” The sight made men tighten their lips and slowly nod their heads. It made Ole Miss coeds, who never knew that old Oxford couple’s name’s cry. I know a few of those girls –– now mothers and grandmothers –– who still talk about Leonard Levy’s love for his bride, Isabel.