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John Cofield on Oxford: A Beacon

The Beacon, 1969.  Clipping courtesy Ellen Ross Blinder
The Beacon, 1969. Clipping courtesy Ellen Ross Blinder

I can write in a general way that makes anyone go, “Oh yeah, that’s the Beacon.”

But all kidding aside, the Beacon is the heart of Oxford. For the core of the people who claim Oxford as theirs, removed from Ole Miss or the county, Flem Mize named his restaurant ever so correctly. It’s a beacon for town folks.

Flem and Charlene Mize
Flem and Charlene Mize

I haven’t lived in Oxford for three and half decades. Like all who left, I’ve made a million trips back for all the things any of us sons and daughters of the town do. Holidays, family, festivals, funerals and football games, and just because the Square called. But after a decade of the fondest family visits, one year there was only Mother at the head of the Thanksgiving table and Christmas wasn’t in Oxford that year. Or ever again. And when she was gone 18 years later, there wasn’t a house to go to anymore, and we felt bad about that one.

At the time, Glenn’s eldest of his three sons was at Ole Miss. And so, a Cofield was still waking up and working in Oxford, and we felt good about that one. Number one was followed by number two nephew, and then brother made an Oxford home again. And we all feel good about that one. But while our family base today makes the relaxing at home in Oxford easy again, it can’t bring them back. But there is a place in town where you can step back in time and enjoy both the memories and your current-day wisdom of age and know that it’s not just a cliche, Oxford is special, it’s “Oxford Cool.”

Tony Mize
Tony Mize

Getting out of the car I kinda smiled inside wondering who’d be inside the Beacon. Surely Tony’s here? Through the glass, then the first door and oh yeah, there is Mrs. Mize smiling behind the register and I smile outside now. Stepping through the inside door, I walked right back into my youth.

The clinking of dishes and silverware, waitresses hurrying by talking a mile-a-minute, aight there’s Tony coming with a handshake, the Cofield boys are seeing folks left and right, that food smells good, Cousin Jimmy waves at friend Steve from HottyToddy.com and we talked some serious Rebel football! Headin for the table, Tony nods me into the kitchen and I visit and laugh with my Facebook friend Michelle while she’s cooking away. We all sat down with Big Bubba, which only matched by Angelo’s hamburger steak with onions, cheese and gravy, that I’ve loved for my entire existence. From two tables away, there’s Wade, Ann and Mrs. Leslie. We visited and enjoyed memories of everything from John Leslie’s wondrous photographic collection at UM Archives to the day I remembered my mother being really excited that Ann Leslie had pledged Kappa Delta. I didn’t want to leave.

Michelle Farrow of the Beacon
Michelle Farrow of the Beacon

Walking out, I scanned the 8×10 collection of the former Beacon coffee clubbers. I paid homage with six to seven seconds of silent reflection on each of these great fathers of my youth, and two more minutes’ travel was added to my memory lane stroll. Standing at the register and saying goodbye to Mrs. Mize, I looked at the booths and there were two of the sons of those pictured in the past room having coffee. They nodded, and I smiled inside. Shaking two more hands before I left, an older gentleman I didn’t remember told me he remembered Daddy’s long gone sister, 60 years ago, and I smiled on the outside, because I can’t get this kinda Oxford anywhere else. The stark sunlight outside is almost a fitting dividing line between then and now. Out in the car and off we went to finish today’s business, but we talked about it all the way home, and smiled inside and out.


JohnCofield

John Cofield is 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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