Saturday, January 28, 2023

Holy Grail Of Grove Tailgating Rises Again

An Ole Miss Family
Deep roots matter at Ole Miss and you can’t go back any farther in Ole Miss football history than when you are having a toddy at The Stephens Tent. It’s a long standing Stephen’s family legacy that started ‘in the beginning’ and continues to this day.
Hubert D. Stephens of New Albany played and lettered on the 1894-95 Ole Miss football teams. It was the second year the Ole Miss Flood hit the field and the first season we played both Alabama and LSU,  beating them both. Later, Mr. Stephens spent several decades in Washington as a representative and senator.

Hubert Stephens in 1894 Ole Miss team photograph, middle left, white shirt
Hubert Stephens in 1894 Ole Miss team photograph, middle left, white shirt

Through the years and generations the Stephens family grew. Again and again the family name was printed on Ole Miss diplomas, and could always be found on the Athletic Department’s list of season tickets holders.
My earliest memories of family and Ole Miss football are those fine Saturday mornings in Oxford when you were a kid and you woke up and went outside and the air just smelled like Rebel football. These mornings, known only to Oxford kids, were akin to a Christmas morning. And for me and my brother, the great-grandsons of Hubert Stephens, it was pure Ole Miss game-day fun when all of the Stephens arrived that game-day morning.
Hubert Stephens 1894 Ole Miss "M" Club certificate
Hubert Stephens 1894 Ole Miss “M” Club certificate

Memories of my grandmother and aunts carrying in baskets of food to add to the feast. Mom finally letting us get at the best deviled eggs in Oxford. Dad mixing ‘one’ for Granddad and my Stephens uncles. ABC Sports on TV and then piling in the cars and off to Hemingway. There was that pure thrill that only kids can get. Topped only by the first time we piled in the car to head out on the real long drive from Oxford all the way to Jackson! More family, fun, food and Ole Miss football from Mississippi Memorial’s parking lot.
No matter where the Rebs have played we’ve been there and so when The Grove came into its own, it was a natural.The Stephens Tent and crew started out as two small crews of a half a dozen Rebs each. Back when you drove in at 9 that morning and picked a spot you liked and set up the card table and unwrapped the chicken and opened the ice chest…and it was on! We’d open the car door and turn up the radio, if we could find an SEC game. Mom didn’t always stay but would drive up and honk and pass her deviled eggs through the window. The first time we had to drag a coupla church tables out there to handle all our crew we knew we were ‘having fun now.’ The fun and the crew grew when  two of Hubert Stephens’ family, one grandson and one great-grandson, with card tables set up only 50 yards apart, joined forces!
Group in Grove, direct descendants of Hubert Stephens
Group in Grove, direct descendants of Hubert Stephens

“And the rest is history” works just fine when the goods times are left to be remembered. But with the Stephens of Oxford, New Albany and Jackson, as with Ole Miss football, and Ole Miss itself, it’s a continuing story of family, fellowship, football, food and good clean fun. That fun, in the Grove, started around one card table set up close to the car so we could hear the radio. It was simple, it was fun and it was all ours. And as it grew, and as the word about our fun spread through the South, we soon realized that this was going to be something big. As Andy Stuart, a ‘Grove Founding Father’ remarked, “Naw, at Ole Miss we don’t eat our chicken standing around the trunk!
Today we still don’t eat our chicken from the trunk, or even the card table anymore. A card table wouldn’t even hold the drinks these days. This last fall I preferred to dine in my wide padded lawn chair, under the tent set up just for the big flat screen, while watching SEC ball all day. Quiet generators hum, satellite dishes are lined up, the microwave heats the sausage and biscuits early and the chicken later, the crock pot chili bubbles and we get close to the TV and turn up it loud for the big crowd there. We have a great group of children who play the day away, along with their parents. Kids who were once climbing trees around the tent are now keeping an eye on their kids, in the same trees.
Now, “and the rest is history” does apply to the Stephens, and Ole Miss football and Ole Miss itself. Because the Stephens family is secure in its spot across from Farley Hall for years and generations to come and will be there every time Rebel history is made. We’ll come driving up at 9 a.m. or so, but not on Saturday morning, rather Friday morning. The growing suspicion that something real cool was happening at Ole Miss was officially let out of the bag with five little words written by Sporting News…
“The Holy Grail of Tailgating.”
In 1894, as Hubert Stephens of New Albany, along with his Ole Miss teammates, celebrated beating LSU and in the first ever meeting between the two schools, he could not have imagined the style in which his grandson, Jim Stephens of Oxford, and his tent mates in the Grove, would celebrate the last second field goal in the latest meeting between the two now bitter rivals.There have been many players in the history of this great Grove tent. The history is deep enough to cover 4 generations in some families who have yelled Hotty Toddy from that spot. Ole Miss fans have married into the tent and children have been born into it. We’ve lost several great Rebels who were among the ‘founding fathers’ of the Grove.
The Main Stephens tent as it appears today
The Main Stephens tent as it appears today

We miss Mom, and her deviled eggs. But today, before the Stephens descendants arrive from Memphis, Jackson, Madison, Oxford…and even Starkville, it is Cousin Jimmy who makes it all happen on Rebel game day. A true Rebel, Jim’s collection of Ole Miss memorabilia is as good as it gets. Featured in articles you’ll find it all from the earliest programs and annuals to Kinard, Conerly, Vaught, Manning, Miss America and all the rest. Jim and his wife Elizabeth’s love for Ole Miss is unsurpassed. Earlier on Friday mornings before game day you’ll find them in the Grove and they’ll be in the last group of cars pulling away late Saturday night.
Finally, the Stephens family, the Grove and Ole Miss football is a ‘living history’. That history started writing another chapter this fall when Hubert D. Stephens’ great-great-niece was hugging her mother at the Tri Delt house and his great-great-grandson was yelling Hotty Toddy from the front lawn of the KA house. And that history remembered itself when I saw cousin Elizabeth pull up to the curb, honk, and pass the big plate of deviled eggs, from Mom’s recipe, through the car window.
Having our family history being Ole Miss history is as strong a family bond as you can get…and as good as it gets. The very first time I heard “The Ole Miss Family” I knew what it meant. It meant my family, the Stephens family. We don’t have an annual Stephens family reunion because we don’t need one. We are Ole Miss and we have the Grove, and it has us.
-John Cofield
*Partial story by John Cofield taken from upcoming book on The Grove by Seph Anderson
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An Ole Miss Family
Deep roots matter at Ole Miss and you can’t go back any farther in Ole Miss football history than when you are having a toddy at The Stephens Tent. It’s a long standing Stephen’s family legacy that started ‘in the beginning’ and continues to this day.
Hubert D. Stephens of New Albany played and lettered on the 1894-95 Ole Miss football teams. It was the second year the Ole Miss Flood hit the field and the first season we played both Alabama and LSU,  beating them both. Later, Mr. Stephens spent several decades in Washington as a representative and senator.
 
Through the years and generations the Stephens family grew. Again and again the family name was printed on Ole Miss diplomas, and could always be found on the Athletic Department’s list of season tickets holders.
 
 
My earliest memories of family and Ole Miss football are those fine Saturday mornings in Oxford when you were a kid and you woke up and went outside and the air just smelled like Rebel football. These mornings, known only to Oxford kids, were akin to a Christmas morning. And for me and my brother, the great-grandsons of Hubert Stephens, it was pure Ole Miss game-day fun when all of the Stephens arrived that game-day morning.
 
 
Memories of my grandmother and aunts carrying in baskets of food to add to the feast. Mom finally letting us get at the best deviled eggs in Oxford. Dad mixing ‘one’ for Granddad and my Stephens uncles. ABC Sports on TV and then piling in the cars and off to Hemingway. There was that pure thrill that only kids can get. Topped only by the first time we piled in the car to head out on the real long drive from Oxford all the way to Jackson! More family, fun, food and Ole Miss football from Mississippi Memorial’s parking lot.
 
 
No matter where the Rebs have played we’ve been there and so when The Grove came into its own, it was a natural.The Stephens Tent and crew started out as two small crews of a half a dozen Rebs each. Back when you drove in at 9 that morning and picked a spot you liked and set up the card table and unwrapped the chicken and opened the ice chest…and it was on! We’d open the car door and turn up the radio, if we could find an SEC game. Mom didn’t always stay but would drive up and honk and pass her deviled eggs through the window. The first time we had to drag a coupla church tables out there to handle all our crew we knew we were ‘having fun now.’ The fun and the crew grew when  two of Hubert Stephens’ family, one grandson and one great-grandson, with card tables set up only 50 yards apart, joined forces!
 
“And the rest is history” works just fine when the goods times are left to be remembered. But with the Stephens of Oxford, New Albany and Jackson, as with Ole Miss football, and Ole Miss itself, it’s a continuing story of family, fellowship, football, food and good clean fun. That fun, in the Grove, started around one card table set up close to the car so we could hear the radio. It was simple, it was fun and it was all ours. And as it grew, and as the word about our fun spread through the South, we soon realized that this was going to be something big. As Andy Stuart, a ‘Grove Founding Father’ remarked, “Naw, at Ole Miss we don’t eat our chicken standing around the trunk!
 
 
Today we still don’t eat our chicken from the trunk, or even the card table anymore. A card table wouldn’t even hold the drinks these days. This last fall I preferred to dine in my wide padded lawn chair, under the tent set up just for the big flat screen, while watching SEC ball all day. Quiet generators hum, satellite dishes are lined up, the microwave heats the sausage and biscuits early and the chicken later, the crock pot chili bubbles and we get close to the TV and turn up it loud for the big crowd there. We have a great group of children who play the day away, along with their parents. Kids who were once climbing trees around the tent are now keeping an eye on their kids, in the same trees.
 
Now, “and the rest is history” does apply to the Stephens, and Ole Miss football and Ole Miss itself. Because the Stephens family is secure in its spot across from Farley Hall for years and generations to come and will be there every time Rebel history is made. We’ll come driving up at 9 a.m. or so, but not on Saturday morning, rather Friday morning. The growing suspicion that something real cool was happening at Ole Miss was officially let out of the bag with five little words written by Sporting News…
 
The Holy Grail of Tailgating
 
 
In 1894, as Hubert Stephens of New Albany, along with his Ole Miss teammates, celebrated beating LSU and in the first ever meeting between the two schools, he could not have imagined the style in which his grandson, Jim Stephens of Oxford, and his tent mates in the Grove, would celebrate the last second field goal in the latest meeting between the two now bitter rivals.There have been many players in the history of this great Grove tent. The history is deep enough to cover 4 generations in some families who have yelled Hotty Toddy from that spot. Ole Miss fans have married into the tent and children have been born into it. We’ve lost several great Rebels who were among the ‘founding fathers’ of the Grove.
 
 
We miss Mom, and her deviled eggs. But today, before the Stephens descendants arrive from Memphis, Jackson, Madison, Oxford…and even Starkville, it is Cousin Jimmy who makes it all happen on Rebel game day. A true Rebel, Jim’s collection of Ole Miss memorabilia is as good as it gets. Featured in articles you’ll find it all from the earliest programs and annuals to Kinard, Conerly, Vaught, Manning, Miss America and all the rest. Jim and his wife Elizabeth’s love for Ole Miss is unsurpassed. Earlier on Friday mornings before game day you’ll find them in the Grove and they’ll be in the last group of cars pulling away late Saturday night.
 
 
Finally, the Stephens family, the Grove and Ole Miss football is a ‘living history’. That history started writing another chapter this fall when Hubert D. Stephens’ great-great-niece was hugging her mother at the Tri Delt house and his great-great-grandson was yelling Hotty Toddy from the front lawn of the KA house. And that history remembered itself when I saw cousin Elizabeth pull up to the curb, honk, and pass the big plate of deviled eggs, from Mom’s recipe, through the car window.
 
 
Having our family history being Ole Miss history is as strong a family bond as you can get…and as good as it gets. The very first time I heard “The Ole Miss Family” I knew what it meant. It meant my family, the Stephens family. We don’t have an annual Stephens family reunion because we don’t need one. We are Ole Miss and we have the Grove, and it has us.
-John Cofield
*Partial story by John Cofield taken from upcoming book on The Grove by Seph Anderson
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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