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Oxford So & So: 9-Cent Gas and a 1951 Oxford Gas War

By Jay Mitchell
Coldwater, MS

*This article was originally published in the Oxford So & So.

I’m sure there are a few old timers in Oxford and Lafayette County, Mississippi that will remember the memories that I am sharing and, for you younger folks, well you might just find it interesting.

I remember one day in 1951 when I was sitting in our back yard with my Pee-Paw (my granddaddy) and listening to him tell about the old days and what things cost. He told me that he could buy a suit of clothes for $3.00 and that was with two pairs of pants, way back in the 1920s. Heck, my mom had just paid $2.00 for a pair of Big Smith blue jeans for me. Levi’s were $3.00 at Neilson’s on the square but we always shopped Cobb’s. I remember I was thinking – I’ll never have stories like this to tell my kids – but I was WRONG!

Now, back to the price of gasoline. Some might remember there was a business on Highway 7 north, at the edge of town – J.B. Carpenter and Sons Oil Co. It was a large service station and appliance store. Mr. Carpenter was a very successful businessman from Pontotoc that owned several service stations, the oil company and a Ford dealership in Pontotoc. Sometime in the mid 1950s he decided to run some of the competition out of business by lowering the price of gas in Oxford. Mind you, gas was about 20 cents per gallon at that time.

As the competition lowered their prices Mr. Carpenter would go down 2 cents lower until it got to 11 cents per gallon. At 11 cents I saw people putting gas in open buckets at Carpenter’s station. (True story.)

Now, here is where it gets good. We had a man in Oxford, Mr. Lokie Lynch (George Lynch’s grandfather) that had a gas station and probably more money than Mr. Carpenter, although nobody knew it. He was a very quiet man and somewhat eccentric, to say the least. The state tax on gasoline back then was 9 cents per gallon. Mr. Lynch lowered the price down to 9 cents and when some of the stations followed, Mr. Lynch closed his station and when they went back up he opened his station again at 9 cents.

People, this went on for several days – can you imagine 9 cent gasoline. Man, how times have changed – I just paid $5.50 for a pack of cigarettes and remembered telling a clerk at Avent’s Drug Store (early 1950s) that when cigarettes got to 25 cents a pack I would quit.

Where will it ever end?

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