letters | maps | histories | photographs | posters / postcards | documents
Oral and Written Histories
Interview with Mr. Thomas Ethridge, former University student and long-time Oxford resident.
There was a superstructure outside and covered places to stand and a walkway under the tracks. When students would come in they would walk across to the University through a tunnel going underneath the tracks. They filled the tunnel up years ago- it was a concrete walkway.
In 1901 Mr. Ethridge’s father entered the University as a freshman. When the students arrived in those days, the fraternities pledged them at the depot. The classes were not big then and they knew who was coming. His father pledge Phi Delta Theta at the depot.
Mr. Ethridge’s uncle came to school in 1929. There were only about 700 students at the University at that time. In 1936 when Mr. Ethridge entered the population had grown to 1400.
The passenger waiting room and freight depot were connected. There were often mail cars connected to the trains. There were usually two mailmen who wore pistols on either side of their waist. As young boys, the Ethridge’s thought this was terribly exciting to view.
Some names Mr. Ethridge remembered were Ralph White, a local fellow who worked as a mailman on the cars and later went to law school. Lloyd White was another mailman. Mr. Ethridge remembered that Mr. Frank Futrell was the agent at the depot for some time and Mr. Deuce Goforth delivered the freight to individual homes and businesses. Mr. Ethridge remembered that even through the 1950s, if you had freight come in Mr. Goforth would bring it up to you, but this had limits. When Mr. Ethridge worked in the U.S. Attorneys Office in the old Oxford Courthouse, Mr. Goforth would only bring freight to the front steps of the courthouse and leave it there. Most of the custodians for the courthouse were WWI vets and many had injuries from the war. So Mr. Ethridge brought up his own freight and that of many others into the courthouse.
Mr. Ethridge remembered having one train a day each way up through the 1950s, as this was a busy line. He recalled that it was an exciting time when the train came in. At that time most students did not go home until Thanksgiving break, and before WWII only seniors could have a car on campus. As a result Oxford had a plethora of taxis in the 1930s and 1940s. He remembered having as many as thirty six taxis at one time. When the trains would come in the taxis would line up outside the depot looking for business.
By the late 1930s and early 1940s students would increasingly take their own cars or taxis when they wanted to travel. Mr. Ethridge remembered pooling his money with several other students to take a taxi to Memphis for $1 a piece, but they also had to pay for the taxi driver to accompany them to any plans they had for their outing.
Mr. Ethridge remembered that the waiting room of the depot was heated by a hot pot-bellied stove. This stove would become very hot and make the air almost thick inside the building at times.
There were special trains that left from Oxford going to ball games. New Orleans was a big came, when the University would travel to play Tulane. There would be two or three baggage cars and the University cafeteria would set up a food and beverage stand. They would usually get to New Orleans around midnight, if the train left Oxford early. They would then all parade down Canal Street.
Mr. Ethridge remembered that these special trains were crowded but fun. A few mischievous folks managed to slip a drink in occasionally. There were chaperons on the train and sometimes they had Pullman cars.
He also remembered traveling down to New Orleans with his parents as a high school student in Oxford. They ordered a drawing room car, which could sleep up to four people.
The football team at the time of Mr. Ethridge’s student days, still played a good many games up East. They would travel by train on Pullman cars and were accompanied by their tutor.
Mr. Ethridge remembered one distinct scene getting on a special train to travel down to Baton Rouge to play Louisiana State University. No one on the train really expected to beat LSU and it was not very comfortable for many of the students to travel down there with 70to 80,000 people sitting in a stadium. Mr. Ethridge remembers one of the football coaches getting up at the depot on the baggage cart and shouting, “Not only are we going to play LSU, we will beat them!” And to everyone’s surprise they did and continued to do so for several years.