By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – This quintessential college town will celebrate recollections of itself Saturday morning when Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and the city of Oxford release “My Oxford: A Collection of Tales about Life in Our Town.”
“During the 175th anniversary celebration the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council worked with community leaders to invite residents, church groups, and students to share their experiences and memories about Oxford,” wrote Mayor George “Pat” Patterson in the book’s introduction. “The idea was to show that through our history there is a common factor, our sense of community. The stories collected reflect memories from important events, personal experiences, and the founding of our churches.”
“In reading the collected stories I think we will find understanding that our fellow Oxonians, regardless of how long they have resided here, cherish the same memories that make our community special.”
The work features remembrances from Oxonians past and present, of incidents momentous and minute.
Bishop Duncan Gray III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi tells of the question that prompted the interracial friendship between him and the Rev. Leroy Wadlington and their respective Oxford congregations.
Jeanette Thomas pens the history of the predominantly black Tallahatchie-Oxford Baptist Missionary Association.
Some writers describe how they came to Oxford as children or young adults; Jack Lamar Mayfield writes, by contrast, of the seven-generation history that his family has in the town.
Lisa Howorth’s musing reflects her own humorous history with James Food Center, the city’s last downtown grocery store, and Gerald Inmon remembers the beginnings of barbecue icon Handy Andy as a neighborhood grocery.
Anna Claire Franklin’s paragraphs recall her first Double Decker Festival; an unnamed student shares fond memories of dressing as a resident of Whoville in the Oxford Christmas Parade.
Bettye Galloway’s story eschews plot and people almost altogether, describing instead the slumbering town early on a typical morning decades ago.
Arts Council Director Wayne Andrews said there was so much great material, both writing and photos, that what was envisioned as a four-month project morphed into a year-long labor of love, but worth the extra work.
“It’s not a history book; these are great personal tales,” he said. “It’s who remembers playing with whom, how people met.”
Copies of “My Oxford” will be available for $12.50 during the Downtown Council’s Literature Day celebration Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Skipwith Cottage next to City Hall. After that, they may be purchased for $15 from Square Books or online at www.oxfordarts.com.