All men can look back on their youth and tell you about a man, other than their father, who impacted their lives. Someone they looked up to. Someone they respected. Someone they wanted to be like. A man who was in their parents generation, but that didn’t matter. Someone you knew was on your team, no matter what.
For two generations of Oxford, Mississippi kids, that man was Mr. James Purvis, known to all as just Purvis. He was a Lafayette County native and a true legend, an icon and a character. A mentor, adviser, friend, and a man who practiced tough love before it was popular.
Purvis owed Purvis Recreation Center from the late 60’s until the mid 90’s. But to us it was just Purvis’… the pool hall. Not to be confused with those seedy joints made famous on TV. Oh, but it was a pool hall for sure. Six 8-foot Century tables and two 10-foot Snooker tables, pinball machines, and later, video games, snack machines and the well-know old red Coke machine with a big map of the United States on the wall beside it. Tradition was for two guys to each buy a Coke, and then you checked on the bottom of the 10-ounce bottles to see where it was bottled. The bottle that was the farthest from Oxford won, and the other guy paid for both.
The respect that all us guys had for Purvis is never ending, as witnessed by the quotes here from the boys, now grown, and parents themselves, and from the parents of those days … all those years ago in Oxford, Mississippi.
“James Purvis, a true icon of Oxford and most boys that grew up there. He let us play and grow up in his pool hall, but he also made sure we behaved and respected each other. I saw girls in there twice. Purvis never said anything about them being there, but he did make sure they were safe and treated well.”
“Coolest. Man. Ever. And very kind. Whenever the “righteous” start talking about the evils of the world like a game of pool or betting on whose coke bottle was from the farthest off location, I think of Purvis and what a wonderful influence he was on my life. My mama was a tad Christian conservative and worried about my time in the pool hall. But I was an Eagle Scout, earned the God and Country Award, never missed Sunday School or MYF, and I can say my experiences in the pool hall were as good a place to learn about life and character as anything I experienced. A damn fine man in my book –– one of the very best.”
“They should have received a stipend from the county for putting up with those hooligans, or at the very least a publc service award!”
–Betsy Ann Coffey
“Some of the fondest memories of Oxford I have revolve around Purvis’ poolhall. That was the coolest place to be.”
–Brent L. Pruet
“My dad considered him a very good friend and when I was a young girl/teen…I thought he was the best looking thing I had ever laid my eyes on!”
–Cindy Price Huntington
“The pool hall was the best place for young kids to gather and have a good time. Mr. Purvis and Mr. Baxter kept it a wholesome environment for all of us. What wonderful memories I have of that place. My high school days would not have been the same without that great gathering place. Rack ‘um Baxter still rings in my head.”
“A lot of Mamas owe him a great deal for looking after our boys!”
–Kaye Hooker Bryant
“I don’t think icon says it best. If it hadn’t been for the pool hall, we would have gotten into more trouble than we did. He was always willing to teach the young folks how to catch and hit a baseball, shoot a basketball, run a rack of nine ball, draw a bottle, always good for some philosophy, and most importantly, he helped teach us how to grow up and be men. A large portion of my childhood memories include him in some form or fashion. So just a simple thanks big Purv for coming our way and to Ms. Bonnie for sharing him with us.”
“When you’re growing up there are people that you learn are on your team, plain and simple. Purvis was on my team.”