2008-09-26 / Travel

Oxford, a grand Ole Miss

By Warner M. Montgomery warner@thecolumbiastar.com

The Historic Oxford City Hall was burned by federal troops in 1864 and rebuilt after the Civil War. The double- decker bus was purchased from the city's namesake, Oxford, England.
A short hop, skip, and jump from Tupelo is Oxford, Mississippi. The difference between the two towns is akin to the difference between Elvis Presley and William Faulkner.

Elvis, a sexy 6- foot- two, guitar- playing, hip- shaking man off the street, brought fame to dusty Tupelo. Faulkner, a five- foot- six literary giant with a pen that cut through the soul of the South, lent his fame to the home of Ole Miss. Faulkner wrote The Sound and the Fury. Elvis was the sound and the fury. Neither graduated from college, both served in the military, made and lost money, spent time in Hollywood, and became addicted to drugs. Faulkner died in 1962 at age 65, Elvis in 1977 at age 42.

Linda and I spent a day in Oxford soaking up a bit of the sleepy college town that was founded in 1837 alongside the Chickasaw Trail of Tears. The University of Mississippi, Ole Miss, was founded four years later and accepted its first students in 1848. The town's population is about 19,000 now not including 17,000 students.

The highlights of our Oxford tour are included in these photos.

Linda calls home from the English phone booth next to the Oxford City Hall . It actually worked.
This portrait of William Faulkner hangs in Rowan Oak. His most popular novels were The Sound and the Fury, Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying, The Wild Palms, The Unvanquished, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom! His last novel, The Reivers, was written in 1961.
The Lyceum was the first building on the Ole Miss campus and is seen as a symbol of the university. It was used as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War.
The Lafayette County Courthouse is in the center of Oxford's downtown square. A memorial to Confederate dead stands in front of the courthouse.
Rowan Oak was the home of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.
Oxford is famous for its eccentric eateries. Abners Famous Chicken Tenders, started by former Ole Miss football player, Abner White, has wall- to- wall sports memorabilia. The Ajax Diner has soul food with a little spice in a funky atmosphere. Mattie's Mom's Meatloaf was Eli Manning's favorite. We wanted something more upscale so we chose City Grocery, the most well-known restaurant in Oxford. Our shrimp and grits was excellent but pricey.
Warner attempts to carry on a conversation with William Faulkner on a bench next to Oxford City Hall. Warner was ignored.
Square Books on the Oxford square is a locallyowned bookstore that has been rated as the best independent bookstore in the nation. John Grisham, a resident of Oxford, was supposed to be signing his latest book while we were there, but Linda couldn't find him.
This large sculpture stands in front of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Ar ts It is the finest performing arts center in Mississippi and one of the best in the South.

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