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“Small Town Southern Man” Makes Granddaughter Proud To Call Oxford Home

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As an Ole Miss student, I like to think that I attend one of the most (if not the most) beautiful college campuses in the country. Like most Ole Miss students, once I came to Oxford and toured the town and campus, I was hooked. I knew this is where I wanted to begin my college journey.

As I walked around the Square for the first time, all lit up with Christmas lights, I took in all of the old-timey Southern sights and scenery. I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of home and belonging. I think this warm and welcoming feeling is what makes Oxford so unique. It is what keeps people flocking back to this quaint little town time and time again. It has a Southern charm that is all it’s own.

For me, Oxford literally is my home. It is where I can trace back my roots. In case there was any doubt after reading that first paragraph, I am a Mississippi girl, born and raised on sweet tea, lemonade and sunshine. I had always known that my father’s side of the family could be traced back to Taylor, Mississippi. I knew that many members of my family had gone to Ole Miss for years, but I had never realized how deeply involved my family had been in shaping some of Oxford’s most cherished and celebrated landmarks: more specifically, my grandfather.

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Hannah Harding with grandparents, Chuck and Joyce Harding

My grandfather, Charles “Chuck” Harding Sr., is the most respected person that I know. To say that we are close is an understatement. He is certainly a character, probably the wittiest person when it comes to jokes. But beside all of that, he is the living epitome of manhood, of strength and nobility. Grit, fortitude and courage are words that come to mind when I think of him. He is a fiercely American, John Wayne type of man. With me, however, he has always been incredibly gentle, kind and loving.

My grandfather is 80 years old. He begins each morning the same for as far back as I can remember. He wakes up at exactly 4 a.m. and drinks his cup of coffee. Then, he puts on the same faded denim, button-up long-sleeve collared shirt, no matter what the temperature will be that day. He climbs into his work truck and makes the long drive to Jackson, Tennessee, to work for a sheet metal roofing company. That is what he has always done. That is what he always will do. That is what he loves. Perhaps, this is why I call him “Tindaddy.” I could never pronounce Grandaddy with my toddler pronunciation skills, anyway; so, the name stuck. He loves to build and create things. He should have been an engineer, honestly. He is incredibly interested with the way things work and has an eye for detail. The things that I have seen him create when there is a task that needs completing could be patented and sold for hundreds of dollars, I am sure.

fullsizerender-11His story begins in Taylor. His grandfather, E.D. Hudgins, owned the general store that is in the little strip of stores that is now Taylor Grocery, which is even considered one of Oxford’s most famous attractions. Just across the street is the house that he lived in, and to the left of it is the slightly larger house that my grandfather was raised in. One of my grandfather’s earliest memories was standing between these two houses with his mother, when everyone stopped to listen to the Infamy Speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt on the radio on December 7, 1941.

Years later, he joined the Air Force. During his time in the military, he lived in California and Greenland, and then came back to Mississippi when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He then met and married my grandmother and started his career in the sheet metal roofing business. He began his own sheet metal roofing company called the Memphis Tinner and owned it for a little over 20 years. The building that was once his company’s building is now the home of the World Famous Gus’s fried chicken. His work is in numerous places all over north Mississippi, including the Tigers’ stadium. In 1980, he was hired to do the copper roof on the renovation of the courthouse on the Square, during what he says was the hottest summer.

fullsizerender-8When I hear the song “Small Town Southern Man” by Alan Jackson, I always think of my grandfather. The lyrics in the song say “your greatest contribution, is the one’s you leave behind.” The lyrics ring true in my grandfather’s case. Whether I am in Memphis on a weekend at home, walking around the Square in Oxford or getting dinner at Taylor Grocery on a Friday night, I am constantly reminded of my family and where I come from. I always think of my grandfather and smile. I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. Men like him are hard to find, and he is one of the last from what I think is the greatest generation. Oxford is much more than just my college town. Oxford is my home. It is my history… a history in which I am so proud. 

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me Hannah Harding is a senior IMC major at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media and an intern for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at hlhardin@go.olemiss.edu.

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