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Maralyn Bullion: A Look Back to Oxford’s Yesteryear Through a Letter

By Maralyn Bullion
Special to Hottytoddy.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Southern So & So. Maralyn Bullion is a 96-year-old native Oxonian and frequent writer for Southern So & So.

(The article below is a letter that I wrote to my granddaughter answering a letter she wrote me concerning an article about movies she wrote for a publication in California.)

Dear Linnea,

Thank you so much for sharing your article. It was such fun to read and brought back some memories of my old movie days at the Lyric and Ritz theaters in Oxford, back in 1943.

Photo from the 1940 Ole Miss annual. Photo by J. R. Cofield

I think the tickets may have been 25 cents and popcorn maybe a nickel but one of my friends ran the popcorn machine in the lobby of the Ritz and was generous. Another best friend’s brother owned the Ritz so she would take a friend now and then. One of my high school classmates was in charge of running the projector and sometimes the reel would break and we would have to wait for him to repair it.

Photo from the 1940 Ole Miss annual. Photo by J. R. Cofield

There was a nice little balcony at the Lyric that was a special place to sit if you had a date with someone special. After the movie and when we were in college we would go to the north side of the Square to the College Inn for pie and coffee.

The College Inn. Photo from the Cofield Collection at UM Archives and History. Photo by J. R. Cofield.

Then we would have to walk to the campus and get back there before the curfew at 11 p.m. I did not live on campus but would often spend the night at the sorority house. Only a very few people, maybe two or three, had cars and taxis cost a quarter but my date usually had spent his pocket full of money and it was unthought of that a woman would pay for anything on a date.

No alcohol…none, except from a bootlegger and that was expensive and way out in the country to Johnny’s place. You will not believe this but I had never had a drink of alcohol until my senior year in college when I went with a sorority sister to her home in New Orleans. Her brother took us to the Roosevelt Hotel and we had a rum and Coca-Cola.

Oh, I forgot…when I was elected President of the Student Body in 1943 my three very best friends decided we needed to celebrate so somehow we got a bottle of champagne from Johnny’s and we managed to get it open and filled our paper cups with the fizzy stuff and were we disappointed! It tasted terrible…so we tried putting some sugar in it and some lemon juice but it never was what we imagined champagne would be…we probably poured it out. You would not believe how naïve we were. Lafayette County was dry…no bars, no beers, no liquor stores…and it was not until a good many years later that that changed. Can you imagine Oxford Square without bars?

But this was the war years and many things were rationed. I did have a car in college. When my brothers went into the Army they left their little beat up Model A Ford with me. It first had no top, just a little two seater painted green that we named “The Green Hornet.” It got me and my three best friends here and there and me to Ole Miss and back. We could ride all afternoon on a gallon of gas that cost less than 25 cents. Later when my brothers were home on leave they got a different body for the little car and it became a roadster with a rumble seat.

Let me tell you the story of the day I soloed. Ole Miss had a company of soldiers training to fly small aircraft and one of them told us that if we would come to the airfield that afternoon that we could have a plane ride. Wild horses could not have kept us away from that airfield which was just an unplowed field on the Markette Farm. When we got there and marveled at the little overgrown grasshoppers one of the pilots asked “Who wants to go first?” And guess who did?

I got buckled into the back seat and the pilot was outside to turn the propeller to start the engine. The engine started but did not give the pilot time to get in so off we went! Maralyn toward the wild blue yonder. Some brave and bold fellow soldiers came running out and were able to direct the little craft into a small shed that stopped it. I don’t even think about what might have happened but I felt no fear. I was busy waving good bye to Margie Black, Ruth Sneed and Martha Lee Lyles.

We wasted no time getting into the little car’s rumble seat and heading back to town. Instead of my solo, it was my air crash. That poor soldier. We never heard from him again. I hope he was not court-martialed. I kept a part of the broken propeller for years. I think my dad used it to start a fire after I moved to Memphis for my first job.

I have gotten carried away…that’s the trouble with memories. Once they start flooding back there is no stopping them. You are a sweetie to stay in touch with your grandmother. It is time to say good night and walk Rufus, my little Wheaten Terrier, and end this day. Stay healthy and happy.

Much love, Grammie.

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