Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Cofield on Oxford — The Run of the Place, Part VIII

Photo 1
View down University Avenue and up to the intersection of South Lamar.

We live in the Hills. We’ve never wanted to be Delta planters.
Jackson doesn’t really feel like ours, anymore, and the Coast has always belonged to the Gulf. You don’t have to go far in Oxford to find a hill. Big ones, little ones, straight and winding, and the infamous Thrill Hill. Price Hill’s San Fran vibe. The roller coaster that is Park Drive. And a coupla of those big ‘uns going down to South 18th are flat out life-threatening. It didn’t really matter which Oxford neighborhood you peddled out of, you had hills. And the granddaddy of our hill’s hills is University Avenue.
When an Oxford kid coming home on 6, tops University Avenue, there all of Oxford is laid out in the valley and the far hill. And Mom let us roll down the window because even the grown-ups knew that The Square’s Christmas Lights were special. We hesitated, flashed youthful grins, then stuck our young faces into the darkness. A mile, as the crow flies, was actually ten, maybe more, at ten years old. It’s an Oxford memory that can’t be dimmed with distance. The red, blue and green canopy twinkled like a guiding star at the center of it all. We never felt so happy with our home, than with our bright, Christmas-red cheeks stinging in the freezing wind, dropping into our valley.
Photo 2
The Kream Kup – Courtesy Bill Tucker

You could see Four Corners from the Kream Kup, but seeing ain’t peddling or walking. Staying at the bottom of the hill, literally and literarily, before the ascent to the intersection of town and campus, those .19 cent hamburgers justified further delay from appointed climb.
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 and a large hand painted menu board
As soon as the first slaw dog pulled out of the gravel parking lot, Oxford, Mississippi, had its own soon-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 or Pontotoc, for Oxford, the Kream Kup and the Lyric or Ritz theaters. Another rider who passed threw Oxford while playing north Mississippi was Kream Kup customer, The King, himself. The rest of the customer list was the population of Lafayette County at the time.
Photo 3
University Avenue and South Lamar Boulevard – Google Maps

Courtesy of John Cofield, a writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, “Col.” J. R. Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well. Contact John at