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Warehouse Iced Tea

From left to right: L. W. Thomas, Charles & Cornelia Henry, Frances Kopp, Willie Morris, Stacy Doolittle, Martha Cofield (hidden) and Jack Cofield / Photo by Mike Floyd
From left to right: L. W. Thomas, Charles & Cornelia Henry, Frances Kopp, Willie Morris, Stacy Doolittle, Martha Cofield (hidden) and Jack Cofield / Photo by Mike Floyd

Do you remember when the Country Village Mall was in its hayday? The Warehouse was the first time that Oxford really knew it was cool. Parking on the Square and walking down to the Warehouse with an out-of-town friend was just silent bragging. A southern vibe one could feel, smell and taste lived there.

The first owner, Patricia Young, and Dad had been friends since childhood and when they worked out a lease and we set up the studio there…it was just fun for us. Mom used to get tickled and say that dad had a crush on Tricia, and she had one on him too!

The Mall would slowly come to life about mid-morning. But by lunch it was up and running strong and it didn’t end until the last drunk students and tired bartenders closed down J. W. Forrester’s. But…there was about a 2 hour lag in the afternoons when the Warehouse was closed between meals. Dad liked to get his portraits out of the way early so he could take it easily after lunch. Mom would walk up to the Square to the bank, post office and whatever else.

All was calm…then Mr. Morris would stroll in. Mom was gone so Dad had no problem at all just walking off from the studio. He and Willie would go through the Warehouse kitchen and dining room and end up at the bar. There was usually someone there prepping for dinner and the bar crowd.

But ‘no help’ never got in the way of two tall scotch and waters at 2 in the afternoon! At first Mom thought it was cool that the guys were visiting. And let me say that Glenn and I knew all along that when she got the skinny on this little tea party that we would make sure we were somewhere else. Because Mom created the line…”Did you know about this!” And she knew if I was lying, always. But…when it happened I was there. She went over to ask Dad something and smelled it. She’d thought it was ice tea in the ice tea glasses. Mom wasn’t a lady to freak out and make a show but she damn sure wasn’t having them drinking liquor at 3 p.m., midweek. I saw her through the Warehouse window wagging her finger and wearing them out. She walked off, wheeled around and went back to dish out more. They just had their heads down. I couldn’t believe it. When she came back in I was like…Mom you can’t talk to Willie Morris like that! Mom said she didn’t care who they thought they were, that this was ending right now and did I know anything about this? “No I did not!”, I said over my should as I left wondering where Glenn was.

This should be the end of the story, but no. Dad and Willie weren’t to be underestimated. So from that point on, on those afternoons when Mr. Morris strolled in, they sat at a table by the windows and drank tall glasses of real iced tea. Mom would taste it. She was satisfied. But all the while the waiters were putting the Scotch & waters on the men’s bathroom lavatory. Everyone was happy, back when The Warehouse was in its hayday. Oxford First.

–John Cofield

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