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The Kream Kup of the Krop

Social media is suppose to be fun, at least for me anyway. With all the thousands of Ole Miss and Oxford photographs I’ve posted its always been my goal to evoke memories and possibly a nice little stroll.

Many times I’ve written to friends and “friends” alike that the fun of it is when someone opens their browser and soon they find a photo of their, “Sister, uncle, elementary school best friend or just the hamburger joint where they hung out in high school.” And for three generations of Oxford’s sisters, uncles, best friends and high school classmates it is and will always be the Kream Kup that makes us smile when we open browsers and see photos like these here today, and take a little stroll.

Photo: Original Kream Kup - Bill Tucker
Photo: Original Kream Kup – Bill Tucker

It was late 1952 when Bill and Emma Sue Tucker started building their restaurant at the corner of University Avenue and South 18th and in early ’53 the Kream Kup was open for business. The original store had pick-up windows, a large hand painted menu board (pictured) and a gravel parking lot (pictured).

Almost as soon as the doors opened Oxford, Mississippi had its own later-to-be classic drive-inn. The Kream Kup was king not only in Oxford but in the neighboring counties as well. Many a date was begun by leaving Bruce, Water Valley, New Albany, Holly Springs and Batesville for Oxford, the Kream Kup and the Lyric or Ritz theaters.

I’ve been told that if you were smooth then it was burgers and fries before the show and a large strawberry shake, with two straws, for the ride back home. Another rider who passed threw Oxford while traveling and playing north Mississippi was Kream Kup customer, Elvis Presley. The rest of the list of Kream Kup customers would be whatever the population of Lafayette County was at the time.

Photo: Remodeled Kream Kup - W. D. & Carolyn Gray
Photo: Remodeled Kream Kup – W. D. & Carolyn Gray

Many out-of-towners have their stories about Oxford trips, but its the locals who have real memories of a lot more than a delicious .19 cent hamburger. Their Kream Kup memories are Oxford family memories. Remembering being a little girl and ordering Dixie Dogs for your daddy. Anne loved it when her momma stopped on her way home and got chili dogs and banana milkshakes.

Says she’ll always remember momma coming in the door with the bags. Linda wished she was back there with high school friends and jumbo chili cheeseburgers. And Chris remembers his daddy taking him for his very first cheeseburger while Will used to love Saturday’s mornings when he’d walk up and order at the window and feeling important when he told them to put it on his granddaddy’s tab. Vanessa loved running up and jumping on the rocky horses along the side of the building.

And remembering the long drive home from summer camp and begging to stop by the Kream Kup for a bag of burgers and fries. Dad drove a little faster than mom liked but we rolled up 10 minutes before closing time. Memories of my mother pulling out one night and barely hitting (to a kid it seemed like a major car wreck) a pole of some kind. Back when you were young enough that if your mommie cried then it made you cry too. And a few years later when I learned an ‘old south’ lesson while standing at the ‘wrong’ window. I had no idea there was one window for us and one for them.

I wasn’t even sure who ‘them’ were but I knew I could feel an embarrassed spotlight on me when me mother honked and pointed, Myra and the ladies inside shook their heads and I could feel the other cars staring at me. As we drove away mom explained what I had done while I stared at the “separate but equal windows”, and thought that it all seemed silly. The two windows were all of 3 feet apart.

Photo: Kream Kup Menu Board - Will Tidwell
Photo: Kream Kup Menu Board – Will Tidwell

The years passed and along came the next generation of Oxford kids. Along the way the Tucker’s sold to Jake Smith who later sold to Buck Zinn and Rowland Adams. Then W. D. Gray, the Tucker’s first manager, came back and joined Zinn and Adams as co-owner for another 20 years. The parking lot got paved and Jake and Rowland added the two dining rooms on either side of the building (pictured). The kids who used to ride bikes to the Kream Kup were now pulling up in cars and playing pinball while they waited on their order. My green Vega was there one night after an OHS game when mom had sent me to get a big bag for Glenn and his buddies. I was standing at the pinball machine when a popular senior OHS football player stuck his head in the door. He got ready to speak when he saw me and kind of gave an odd stare. Then he looked at the other folks and said, “Did Lafayette win?” And I wished I wasn’t at the Kream Kup that night.

I’m not exactly sure when the last burger walked out the Kream Kup door but like so many great childhood memories…I don’t think I really want to know. I’d rather think it just faded away. When I heard McDonald’s was coming to Oxford I remembering having the presence of mind to know that and era was ending. I wanted us to be ‘up town’ like Tupelo but was sad for what we would have to give up. But…for some golden years the kids of Oxford walked and rode to the corner of University Avenue and South 18th. We were little boys looking at the tanks at the Armory or running in Collin’s Grocery for candy or staying out of the way of the big trucks getting calibrated or at Shipley’s eating creamed filled donuts and washing them down with chocolate milk. But of course that Oxford corner was anchored then by those .19 cent hamburgers and now by our family memories of the Kream Kup.

–John Cofield

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