Saturday, May 21, 2022

Cofield on Oxford — The Run Of The Place, Part XI

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 into own 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 mamas wanted us to just keep on peddling.

photo 1
Ole Miss Motel – Courtesy Betsy Baird

Our mamas, and moreover, our dads, knew we were boys in our youthful climb up and to the 4-corners of Oxford, and our lives. Before they were ready, we’d head out for another corner. The adult looks down University Avenue and already knows. The Oxford kid looks up and knows enough to know the shame, like the cowboy seen leading his mount, of pushing your bike up the Avenue, was just too much.
photo 2
McAlister’s Deli – Courtesy The Charger Blog

So, peddling up into Southland Service Station, as if to get air for my tire, but really to get air for me, while plopping down on the shaded and cool concrete sidewalk. Out by the pumps, Ray Parker, Sid Wolfe and Don Newcomb talk as Ray tops off the tank. Billy Childress and the McNeelys step out of the muffler shop for a word. “Come back and see us,” echoes through time and space. And Don came back, yes he did, doing Clan McAlister proud. All across America they know the name that will start there where I rest. But the rest over, I drop a quarter in the coke machine and down the cold bottle as Heart of Dixie plays on the TV. Now easing toward the street and catching view of the summit, I know my plan. The eyes of Oxford upon you, leading your mount, had an escape clause. I hung a right and began quickly pushing my way up the hill to and past the Scout huts.
photo 3
The Hippy Hotel was a hot spot through the 1970’s and ’80’s for students apartments and after hours parties – Courtesy Destanie Shea Overcash

Minimizing the scrutiny, out of sight and peddling past the Teen Center, the old jukebox spins Build Me Up Buttercup to taps of fifth grade penny loafers. On down I navigate the ninety-degree left at the primitive folk’s church and top the rise in sight of the Square. All kids acutely aware of haunted houses, I steer into the right lane. Only later to take that left and learn that indeed, the Ghost of Good Times Past had a free room at the Hippy Hotel. Those days-to-few, and the sounds of The Dead, fade in the face of concrete’s reminder of crashes past and sobers these light headed memories as I hang the hard right at the Ice House. Ten again, and taking the easy way, I skirt long side the Country Village Mall. But no short cuts are free. Digging my tennis shoe shod heels into the pavement, I must stop as the smoke from a distant fire gets in my eyes and I try to forget the scar on my father’s heart.
photo 4
The Country Village Mall – Ole Miss annual

Do you remember when the Country Village Mall was in its heyday? The Warehouse was the first time Oxford really knew we were cool. Parking on the Square and walking down with an out-of-town friend was just silent bragging. An easily palpable southern vibe 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 the Cofields.
photo 5
Willie Morris – Courtesy Jack Bales

The Mall came slowly to life about mid-morning. 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 a circa two hour lag in the afternoons as the Warehouse closed between meals. Dad liked to get his portraits out of the way early so he could take it easy after lunch. Mom would walk up to the Square to the bank, post office and whatever else. All was calm…then Mr. Morris might stroll in.
Courtesy of John Cofield, a hottytoddy.com 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 johnbcofield@gmail.com.
 

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