Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Run Of the Place, Part X — Oxford Memories

I knew all along I’d never make it to the top, but, age and anger knows no admission of average.
The old faces and facades glide by rapidly at first, until age and angle make the peddling of these Oxford memories harder to glimpse, looking up. Older now and easier now, from 4-Corners coming down the mighty hill, Muffalettas, Strombolis and Pizza Bob will always live there in the first dark little store front, on the right. It wasn’t right what happened to Robert Whitaker, but he can never be killed in our defiant, loving memory.

photo 1
Robert “Pizza Bob” Whitaker operated Pizza Den for thirty-one years at its original University Avenue location.

Nor can age, or anger about age, dim the remembrances of so many others who hung out a sign and made their livings, and our childhoods, on University Avenue. The Sonic boomed onto the scene in the early 70’s. A dollar an hour, plus tips, didn’t sound like much until McBryde, Oxnam and I realized they could keep the dollar for all we cared, as we got 1974 rich on the four or five dollars an hour in ‘plus tips.’
photo 2
Sonic Drive-In on University Avenue.

Coasting on down, my Park Drive crew slows to watch fellow peddler, Keith, as he steps through the door and decades, into the master of his wooden craft that is Robert Wilson. A little further on and there is the imposing figure of Mr. Noel M. Hodge, regal  in dress, refined in manner. Older now, as Sonny Mason’s boy gives him an arm to lean on. We kids got an example of dignity there and mother got all our living room furniture there. A Bird In The Bush sings as we peddle on.
Photo 3
Robert Wilson has been making furniture for the past 25 years. He’s created pieces for Eli Manning, the University of Mississippi library and a multitude of homeowners. Photo by Deste Lee

Across the way, I spy the Shaw boys loading Kroger bags and Gibson buys in Sidney’s trunk. David waves as he steps away and goes back in to run Sneed’s Hardware. Back across the Avenue and the scene blurs into a collage of college room-renters coming and going at the Ole Miss Motel. As kids we weren’t sure quite why, but knew our Mommas wanted us to just keep on peddling.
Photo 4
Present day Sneed’s Hardware is also the former location of Kroger and Gibson’s.

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

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