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Oxford’s Olden Days: Shoe Tying–the Southern Way


During the wee hours of the morning of August 5, 2007, my youngest granddaughter, Emma Mae Scott, age 4 remarked…in the throws of sleep while reclining on a mattress from a trundle bed, placed in front of the TV…with her arms folded behind her head she said…(at my house, noters)…Pop when we go to Sunday School in the morning, I’ll tie your shoes…with which Pop said…that’s a Deal.

I knew what she meant. She had learned how to tie a shoe/bow.

Amanda, decided last Thursday, was the day to teach Emma Mae how to tie her shoelaces. She accomplished her task, by using the shash from her bathrobe, and then tying it around her legs into a perfect, but large bow.

What seemed like several hours for both Mother and four year-old granddaughter Emma Mae Scott, age 4, mastered how to tie a Sicilian bowknot…not an Oxford seventh generation knot, but the Sicilian knot. My former wife Ginger had taught Emma Mae, by way of New Orleans, not Ellis Island, to Biloxi, and then to Oxford knot. The way to do the knot has gone through countless changes and the Vitrano/ Mayfield/way—is the best.

You know some of the best times in my life come from the littlest of things. Emma Mae had learned how to tie her shoelaces from her Mother, who had learned how to tie hers from me, a fifth generation Oxonian and her Mother, a fourth generation American, by way of the 1890s migration to New Orleans from Sicily.

Amanda makes fun of the way I tie my shoes, but I learned the process from my Grandfather, a cabinet maker, coffin maker, and one of Oxford’s home builders during the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s, John Robert Mayfield (1882-1964). The photograph with today’s column is a home my grandfather built in the 1930s on South 10th Street, just off Old Taylor Road.

In the homes later years, Dr. Charles Bruening lived there. I had had him, as a Professor, at Ole Miss in the early 1960s, the course was Sociology.

On the South 10th Street house you will note that the bricks that are veneered on the house are gray— concrete gray. My grandfather thought that it would be just fine to build a house from “gray bricks” which were really a concrete poured mixture into molds—and made the gray brick that looked like brick. I guess that Papa could change their color if he had the right amount of pigments.

These bricks were never kiled. No hot process was applied. These were the old regular gray, concrete bricks.

A great deal of the people around Oxford that have either been here for their life time—or others that migrated here…or decided that they would live here in later life because they had been here as students and remembered how nice we are…we’re are different that the Delta Folks as my Mother would say…she came from there in the late 1930s to Oxford and has never left. She’s going on 86 and still strong…except for when she gets in one of her “fussy” states….then you had better have somewhere to go and leave her alone.

My Mother has had a Garden, and I say that with a capital “G”. She and my brother-in-law’s—brother-in-law….now that’s twice removed…have had a garden together at my daughter’s home on Woodsen Ridge.   My Mother has gotten up each and every morning of the week, except Saturday and Sunday, and she went to her “pea-patch”. She and Jerry have worked that Garden to its greatest potential.

Even my Pharmacists, Terry Klepzig, has remarked about the Garden. He stated that it was one of the best he had ever seen. He remarked at how green it was. Then I told him how much my Mother and Jerry had watered the garden and I had gotten Jerry at really good tiller.

Jerry tilled the Garden more that most people do when they have a little “truck-patch” as we call it. I purchased a really good and powerful tiller from Sears (it is un-American not to owe Sears). I tell my friends that have seen the Garden…it is “what my Sharecroppers have done.” I just furnish them the implements, seed, and land, and they work with me on the “haves or better”. I have gotten the “better.”

Mayfield 34Jack Lamar Mayfield is a fifth generation Oxonian, whose family came to Oxford shortly after the Chickasaw Cession of 1832, and he is the third generation of his family to graduate from the University of Mississippi. He is a former insurance company executive and history instructor at Marshall Academy in Holly Springs, South Panola High School in Batesvile and the Oxford campus of Northwest Community College.

In addition to his weekly blog in HottyToddy.com Oxford’s Olden Days, Mayfield is also the author of an Images of America series book titled Oxford and Ole Miss published in 2008 for the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for restoring the post-Civil War home of famed Mississippi statesman, L.Q.C. Lamar and is now restoring the Burns Belfry, the first African American Church in Oxford.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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