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A project starts for ‘Old Oxford’

Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit with several members of our community that I consider “Old Oxford” residents.

Unfortunately, the only time I see many of these people is attending funerals and weddings or some other social event in our community.

We all see, when we go to a restaurant, grocery store or church that the faces of Oxford have changed and continue to change as so many new people move into our community. I knew Oxford had changed when I took my son, Pittman, to eat last Saturday night and he knew more people in the restaurant than I did.

During many of these conversations with people over the last several weeks, the discussion has always centered around how we need to get a group of these “Old Oxford” people together and record some of the history of Oxford.

There are so many people who were pivotal in the development of Oxford. One who has inspired me to try to put together this group is Dr. William Baker, longtime resident of Oxford and my dentist as I was growing up.

Dr. Baker feels, as I do, that stories about the development of Oxford need to be told and recorded for future generations to appreciate. Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi all have great history and the stories need to be told and recorded.

I have also talked with Jim Pryor, Oxford historian Jack Mayfield and several others about doing this, and they all agree that it would be a wonderful project.

I know that my father, Jesse Phillips, had Lucy Schultze, former senior staff writer at The EAGLE, document not only his personal life, but also some of the history he remembered about Oxford.

Many people have no idea that Oxford used to have an old ice house where the Ice House Condos are located now, where James Barr could take a block of ice and knock off just the right amount to put in the grinder to be placed in the large brown bags. That ice would last for days compared to the ice that melts in hours now.

How about the Ole Miss Drive-In, Villa Elena, Pasquales, Smitty’s, Otasco, Leslie Drugs, Zerk’s Sub Shop, Fudge’s Grocery, James Food Center, Smitty’s, the Co-op on University Avenue and so many other businesses that have since closed?

The growth that we are witnessing in Oxford is hard, in some ways, to conceive. There is so much more development going on now than even during the years Eli Manning was quarterbacking the Rebels. As long as Ole Miss football continues to prosper, who knows when development will slow?

My hope is that I can put together a group this spring at the Burns-Belfry Museum to hear their stories and record the conversations on video. I’m sure that it will take more than one meeting to record what people have to say.

I, as do many of you, like to remember the older, slower-paced Oxford and its days that have passed us all by. This project will give us a chance to offer that to everyone.

Tim Phillips is publisher of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at tim.phillips@oxfordeagle.com.