Friday, December 2, 2022

OXFORD, Back in the Day…

Martin Luther King Jr. / Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
First Presbyterian Church Photo courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archive
John Cofield’s mother from the Cofield collection

Sadly, most generations have a “where were you” moment. Pearl Harbor, Kennedy in Dallas, Reagan shot or 911. I was almost ten years old in the first week of April, 1968.

I don’t know if youth groups still meet in the basement of First Pres., but back in the day, many groups had their meetings there on Van Buren. It was an Oxford thing, and it didn’t matter if that was your church or not. And on April 4, 1968, I was there. I can’t remember what the meeting was for –– youth group, cub scouts –– I don’t know now. Someone’s mom was in charge, and we were meeting and drinking ten-cent cokes from the machine. Suddenly, the door on the street at the top of the stairs opened quickly and someone’s mom came down the stairs. Fast! She whispered to the lady in charge, and I saw her face change.

The worried mom gathered up her child and took off up the stairs. Then a few minutes later, another mom came running down the stairs. Then another one. Then directly here came MY mother. She and the leader exchanged worried nods. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew we were leaving.

Mom grabbed my hand and said, “Come on.” She was scared. That made me scared. We headed up the stairs and she was pulling me so hard that I began to trip and I yelled. “Momma what is wrong?!” She said, “Martin Luther King has been killed in Memphis and we’ve got to get home.”