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Reminiscing about old Oxford

We all enjoy reminiscing. It’s been awhile since I last reflected on how Oxford has changed since I was younger. A chat with a friend at the Ole Miss football game caused me to think about the ways our little town has evolved.

I’ll attempt to take a step back in time to recall some of the different restaurants and businesses that seemed to play a role in the development of Oxford. My Dad would provide better insight, but unfortunately his ailing health has left him unable to communicate.

Growing up in the 1970s on Johnson Extended off of South 18th Street, riding our bikes to the Kreme Cup, and chasing the fog spray from the mosquito truck on our bikes occupied much of our time. Our street was a dead-end — perfect for football and whiffle ball. Walter Denton, Alan “Perk” Parker, and Jimmy “Fat Jack” Jackson always loved to play any sport with the kids on our block.

Two-hand touch football usually progressed into all-out tackle football; someone usually left with a bloody nose. The Gayle Wilson baseball park, at the end of South 18th, was only a bike ride away at night. We played baseball and always hoped that girls would show up, even though we didn’t know what to say to them when they did.

“Fun” at night meant riding around and going to Sonic, much like the kids do today. “Square squatting” was frowned upon but we still always seemed to end up by the Confederate monument. Pasquales on University Avenue was a favorite place for us to eat while skipping lunch break in high school. Many nights we would go to the Ole Miss Drive-Inn to watch a movie. It was located where Office Depot is now. We would attempt to sneak as many people in our car as we could.

We pulled the normal pranks, greasing the halls at school and doing the other dumb things that kids do for senior pranks. Our graduation party was held at the old Ramada Inn on West Jackson Avenue. It was located next to the Old Johnson’s Motor Inn near where National Menswear was located. I will never understand why our parents let us spend the night there with 10 of us in one room.

Most of us knew that we would attend Northwest Mississippi Community College or Ole Miss after graduating from high school. I lived at the old “McCall House” on Jackson Avenue, presently the home of Jones at Home. The Square didn’t have the bars and restaurants that it has today. James Food Center was only a block away for groceries. I knew I could always count on a visit with Mr. Paul James to talk about duck hunting.

Our bars and restaurants consisted of the Warehouse, The Gin and J.P. Forrester’s located in the basement under the Warehouse. Many good nights were spent visiting with friends in these places, listening to some great music. Later, we would have Ruby Chinese, Villa Elena and Cafe Ole as favorite restaurants.

People my age have fond memories of late nights at The Gin. After closing time, we would walk across the street to the Hoka to get something to eat. We always hoped to talk with owner, Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro, Barton or some of the literary giants from Oxford over a late-night drink.

Who could ever forget The Tangents playing at The Gin with people dancing on the tables? When The Gin closed and then burned down, many fond memories were lost in the flames.

Oxford is now home to so many of the alumni I shared memories with during my years at Ole Miss. All of us know that we can’t stop the growth of our little gem, and it is nice to remember days and nights from the past.

One thing we have learned, too — nothing lasts forever.

Tim Phillips is the publisher of the Eagle. Contact him at tim.phillips@oxfordeagle.com.