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Reflections: Ole Miss – My Golden Years 1959-1963

Enjoy our “Reflections” post — one of many vignettes and stories featuring memories of days gone by. This installment is from Oxford’s Tom Brown. 
If you would like to contribute your own Reflections story, send it, along with photos, to hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

The Lyceum on the Ole Miss Campus. Photo by Steven Gagliano

Everyone who attends Ole Miss likely believes those years were golden for them and the University.  It’s very difficult to argue with that logic since all experiences as a student are personal and carry hopes and expectations as well as outcomes.  We factor how well we did individually as well as the school and its components.  So, are my four years at Ole Miss more golden than yours?  Let’s see……
My father graduated from Mississippi State, my mother and sister attended the University of Southern Mississippi.   My dad enjoyed Bulldog sports but never had much opportunity to see them play.  In 1951, he was able to obtain two tickets to the State-Ole Miss game in Starkville, and he wanted our whole family to go, me, my sister who was only four at the time and my mother.  He was very proud of us and wanted us to meet Professor Herzer who was not only his mentor but a special person to him.  We enjoyed that visit as the Professor heaped praise upon my dad and we were so proud of and for him.  Dad managed to find two more tickets to the game, but they were on the Ole Miss side of the stadium.  So, we divided up, my mother and I went to the Ole Miss side and my sister and dad to the State side.  My recollection is that it was a clear but blustery day and at eleven years of age it was my first association with anything Ole Miss.  
My father, T J Brown, at Seale-Lily Ice Cream Company in Jackson

Mother and I had a terrific time and stayed for the whole game despite the fact that neither of us completely understood the game or the rivalry.  Unfortunately, when we got back to the car to drive back to Jackson, my dad and sister had been waiting for almost the entire second half.  I remember vividly that Dad wasn’t happy with us, but it was likely the final score, 49-7.  
Not only was it a big win for Ole Miss but Arnold (Showboat) Boykin scored seven touchdowns that day which is a one game record for Ole Miss that still holds today.  I didn’t appreciate my dad’s feelings until later when I really understood the Egg Bowl tradition nor did I really appreciate the game I had just witnessed.
My first visit to Oxford/Ole Miss was with my high school band on band day at a football game; I think we came two years in a row likely 1955 and 56 and many high school bands came from across the state to perform either prior to the game or at halftime.  For some reason, one thing stuck in my mind, and I remember it today as if it were yesterday.  Our bus came in on highway 7, and there was a large billboard for Neilson’s Department Store.  I saw very little of Oxford since we went straight to campus, had a rehearsal, ate lunch, performed at the game and went home immediately after the game. I liked what little I saw of the campus, and it occurred to me that if we were invited to perform why weren’t we given a chance to see more of the campus but didn’t think about it for very long since I was a long way from being a college student.
After finishing high school, I had planned to go to Mississippi State; primarily I think because my dad went there. I had worked in a couple of local pharmacies part time while in school and had an interest in Pharmacy as a career as well.  I stayed in Jackson my first year and went to Millsaps but didn’t do well nor did I enjoy staying at home, so I decided to come to Pharmacy School at Ole Miss.  In September 1959, I arrived on campus as a student and went to my assigned dormitory, Gerard Hall.  After helping me get settled, my Mother and Father left, and my Mother later told me that as they left they passed a large garbage can full of beer and whiskey bottles.  They looked at each other and said: “we taught him well now he’s on his own.”  I have never forgotten that.
I was a bit uneasy, frightened let’s say, about being away from home and knowing no one at Ole Miss.  I had two roommates that first semester but only one made it to the second semester and he was gone after that. Pharmacy was not an easy major, and I had to study and pledging a fraternity helped to be sure. Gene Peery made a huge difference in my life at Ole Miss.  He was an accounting professor and faculty advisor for Sigma Nu, and he did everything he could to help me.  At one time I had three jobs dormitory manager, served meals in the Delta Gamma house and worked in the Dean of Men’s office mostly with Gene’s help.  He didn’t have to help me because I wasn’t an accounting major but he was helpful to everyone who sought his assistance, and he was an outstanding teacher.  I have never forgotten what he did for me and many others while at Ole Miss.
One of the nicest things about Ole Miss in the late 1950s and into the 60s was that enrollment was only about 3000 students.  It made a difference to me because I was able to get to know a number of people and make many friends over my four years.  In fact, if you worked at getting to know people it wasn’t difficult to know most of them in one way or another.  
I had several roommates over the next couple of years including a high school classmate of mine in 1960; we roomed in Vardaman Hall.  We were good friends, but we also managed to develop friendships with several guys who like to play Boure’ and play we did.  Almost every Friday night a game would start and generally last through the weekend.  We ordered food from Kiamie’s for delivery and never left our room.  By Sunday night the room was virtually unlivable, but everyone had a great time win or lose and the friendships we had still exist today.  Everyone in the group became a success story after college.  Looking back it is amazing that we did well after graduating, but we would all do it again given the chance. Right, Ed Meek?  
My roommate and I enjoyed sports, so it was nice to go to practically every sporting event on campus that year.  When we weren’t taking in sports, it was easy to walk to the square and see a movie at either the Lyric or the Ritz and eat dinner at Seay’s Mansion, Mistilis or Grundy’s.  Food was inexpensive then compared to today.  Once in a while, we made it to the Beacon when we could find someone with a car. If we had a ride, we might also stop by the Kream Kup for ice cream and the pinball machines.  This was the year that I had the most fun without a doubt but certainly had typical college crazies as well.  I slept through a final exam taught by Dean Hammond and had to retake the course the following semester.  My close friends laughed when I walked into the exam when it was nearly over, bleary eyed, sweaty and apologetic. I got what I deserved.  
In 1961, I moved to Baxter Hall and roomed with a fraternity brother; I was also the dormitory manager. This year became a bit more serious as far as studies were concerned, so I attempted to stay on course academically. My roommate wasn’t much help since he enjoyed keeping the ladies up all hours of the night on the phone.  At that time there were faculty members living in some of the dormitories.  There was an apartment on the west end of Baxter that housed George Street who served the University in many posts.  George and I became very good friends and maintained that friendship for many years; he was an enjoyable gentleman.  
In the spring of 1962, I had another roommate with whom I served on the Pharmacy faculty years later.  It was a quiet year for the most part but being big sports fans, we didn’t miss many athletic events.  I was scheduled to return as the dormitory manager in the fall of 1962 but as things happened George was moved from his apartment, and the entire floor was cleared in order to allow James Meredith to occupy his apartment and to obtain a buffer by not using that floor for students.
The events of the fall of 1962, although awful in many ways, actually brought students closer, in my opinion, because we not only had common difficulties and experiences but enjoyed many fine things that occurred on our campus.  We all learned that if you fully invest yourself in Ole Miss, you would reap large rewards beyond your college experience.  To fully appreciate the changes that were borne out of that fateful fall day in 1962, the University had to wait until a graduate from those years became Chancellor in 1995.  Robert Khayat understood and appreciated what the University could be made a difference in the lives of all who love Ole Miss.
Many great things happened in 1962 and who can forget a national champion football team who turned adversity on the campus into a renewal of spirit and proved that during the worst of times shared enthusiasm for success defines Ole Miss.  ESPN responded to this team by airing a documentary titled ‘Ghosts of Ole Miss.”  The 1962 team is the only undefeated team in Ole Miss football history. To say that I was a student at Ole Miss during the best football years is an understatement.  The teams from 1959-1962 won 39, lost 3, and tied one.
I also remember seeing Bob Hope perform on campus.  I don’t remember the year, but he performed in the gymnasium (now Martindale) and was having trouble with blood clots in his legs so he performed in a chair that rotated so everyone could see him.  For me, personally, I remember meeting William Falkner at the home of Dr. James Silver who lived on campus.  I felt very fortunate but didn’t truly appreciate it until later.
I came back to Ole Miss in August 1969, after serving as a Medical Service Corps Captain in the Army.  I returned at the insistence of a former lab instructor then professor in Pharmacy, Dr. Mickey Smith.  He talked me into graduate school and helped me get a position on the faculty in 1970, and I will always be indebted to him for convincing me to return.  I retired in 1999 after 30 full years and then taught part time until 2014.
When I returned to Ole Miss in 1969, the University was still in recovery mode to some degree from 1962 but recover it has, and from 3000 students it has grown to over 20,000.  It has grown not only in size but in reputation.
Everyone who has attended Ole Miss has many stories both during school and after graduation.  The amazing thing is the relationships formed while I was a student continue today.  When we travel, I come across friends from Ole Miss or people who never attended who recognize Ole Miss from a cap or shirt I may be wearing.  I remember being in Norway and a man walked by, saw my cap and said in broken English “Hotty Toddy’, it makes you proud and happy to be a Rebel from Ole Miss.

For questions or comments email Hottytoddynews@gmail.com. 

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