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page title - Oxford Train Depot Restoration
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Oral and Written Histories

Dean A.B. Lewis
Dean A.B. Lewis’ Recollections as a student coming by train to the University in 1919:

“So there I was September the 16th 1919 ready to take off for the big adventure. You traveled by train in those days. Roads were gravel and ruddy and ill marked if they were marked at all and there were few automobiles around. Students had no cars at all during the entire time I was at Ole Miss. So you put your clothes in a book checked it in the baggage room of the station and came up by train. The ideal way for me was to catch number four, a limited train on the Illinois Central, left Jackson about noon. You got off at Grenada and waited for number four which was a...number twenty four which was a local coming up after number four and which got to Oxford somewhere late in the afternoon. As I later learned this business of coming by train was quite a ritual. Number four started from New Orleans it therefore began to pick up students coming to Ole Miss as it came up the line to McComb, Crystal Springs, Hazelhurst, and then Jackson. It picked up students from the little J, I don’t know what the official name of it was, we always called it the little J, coming from Natchez. Then it picked up students on the Gulf and Ship Island which came up through Gulfport and from the New Orleans and Great Northern, coming up from the Coast, I am not quite sure where it ended. And somewhere or other there was a railroad that went through Mendenhall that came up. Then the Alabama and Vicksburg brought students from Meridian west or from Vicksburg coming toward the east. And later on at Grenada you picked up kids coming from Columbus or Greenwood...Columbus and Greenwood...or was it must have been Greenwood road. Kids coming from Tupelo and Corinth, believe it or not, had to go all the way up to Grand Junction and come down. But at any rate, when the system was working right, number four would fill up with students until by the time it got to Grenada it was a mass of laughing, shouting, horseplaying students. But for this first time, for reasons that are of no interest here, I couldn’t come up on the noon train and I had to come up by a later train number 6, which left Jackson about 9 p.m. and reached Oxford about 2 or 3 a.m. Believe it or not, I had only the vaguest idea of where Oxford was or how faraway it was. But on this night, by the time we got to Grenada the car was about empty except for two or three noisy fellows whom I took to be upper classmen and two or three rather subdued characters whom I took to be freshmen. I had heard horrendous tales of hazing at Ole Miss, so I slumped down in my seat and pretended to sleep. And I got off as quietly and unobtrusively as I could at Oxford and waited there in the shadows to see which way I had to go. Gradually these six or eight boys started across the bridge. There was then a bridge at the railroad level across that ravine by the depot and it led up to the campus. You can still see the joint in the concrete sidewalk on the University hillside where the bridge stopped and the cement sidewalk started. These upperclassmen were whooping and laughing and...followed by freshmen quietly each one loaded with his own suitcase and that of his upperclassman. I followed along discretely behind them trying to be unobtrusive, until presently my noisy crowd disappeared somewhere and I proceeded on toward the only light I could see which turned out to be a building with large columns in front of it, the Lyceum. There a sleepy night watchman directed me to a large empty room on the first floor of the south wing, where he said I would find an iron cot with a bare pad mattress where I could spend the rest of the night. This room, much remodeled is where the Registrar’s Office now is. Incidentally, the room beneath the Registrar’s Office, which is now where the students sign up for classes, was at that time a swimming pool for the athletic boys. The night watchman also told me where I could get breakfast in the morning. And at seven or seven thirty I was aroused by a big dinner bell being vigorously rung in front of Gordon Hall.”

“The upperclassmen sometimes on tiresome Saturday nights would get together and have hazing parties with freshmen-make freshmen do various and sundry stunts or make them push a peanut across the floor with our nose, stopping at every crack. Pretending that they were, let’s say, an Illinois Central train coming up from McComb, they had to blow for every crack and tell what station it was and they couldn’t miss a station. If you came to Beauregard you’d better not stop because number four didn’t stop at Beauregard. But you still had to blow the old standard crossing blow--wow wow wow wow--“Beauregard, Beauregard.” And presently as they came up the line they would blow the whistle and stop, “Crystal Springs, Crystal Springs.” “What are you stopping at Crystal Springs for, Freshman?” He would invariably answer, “They take on water at Crystal Springs.” That was something they actually did, there was a water tank there but that was the wrong thing to say because at that moment he would get a cup or maybe a bucket of water right on the top of his head.”

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