Ask Ole Miss Rebels what they recall about the Ole Miss Drive-Inn, K’s BBQ or Rebel Deli and you are likely to hear about many culinary delights dating back to the 1950’s as they were students at that time.
HottyToddy.com asked readers for memories of these historic Oxford eating establishments, and the replies represent several generations of former students.
Hot steamed sandwiches not seen before or since, lemon icebox pie, taco salad, hot dogs, 21-shrimp in a basket, club, turkey and rye, ham and melted cheese served up at midnight or later are just a few of the culinary delights recalled. Not to mention rolls of quarters and lines formed to get to play the Astroid pinball machine, or Pac-Man, the popular early video games that launched a multi-billion dollar industry that flourishes today.
Mayo Flint of Jackson, now head of ATT Mississippi, writes “best sandwiches I ever had were from the Rebel Deli. My favorite was turkey and cheese they put on the small grill that heated the sandwich until the cheese melts…Yum!”, Flint said.
Actually, that melting cheese process was something special brought to Oxford by Grey Sellers, now of Memphis, who operated the Rebel Deli from 1979 until 1985.
“I was hooked on this new steamed sandwich I enjoyed at UT Knoxville, and when we opened the restaurant at Ole Miss I brought the idea to Oxford,” Sellers said. “We were open 14 hours a day from 11 a.m to 1 a.m.
“I remember students coming after class and staying until closing to play games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Frogger, Missile Command and Pole position,” Sillers said.
Lisa Dalton Campbell of Oxford remembers “Ruben on Rye, lots of mustard, late nights, and Blake Tartt, Houston, Texas and Oxford developer, recalls “turkey with cheese and (they) would melt them in that steamer! The bread was AMAZING!”
Debbie Woodrick Hall of Tupelo remembers “good friend chicken and club sandwich. While Marsha Leech Tapscott of Tupelo says, roast beef with smoked cheddar comes to her mind.
But Danny Cooper of Ridgeland loved the “Giant Chef Salads. Good whiskey convinces you that it was a noncaloric treat about 1:00 a.m.”
“That (Rebel Deli) was always a stop for my group around midnight or later especially since I lived next door at the old Oxford Square Apartments. We ordered STEAMED ham and cheese sandwich” said Scott Coopwood, Cleveland publisher of Delta Magazine.
When I worked there they had steamed sandwiches and your choice of white or wheat for large, or white or onion roll for small, “ said Oxford attorney Frank Hurdle, a former editor of the Mississippian.
“I can’t remember all the meats but roast beef, turkey, ham, corned beef, kielbasa, also hot dogs, plus five or six cheeses,” he said. Hurdle seems to have never really separated from Rebel Deli, having produced for YouTube.com “Steamed Sandwiches Rebel Deli Style.”
Life was simpler than when the Ole Miss Drive-In was one of the few places to eat in Oxford from the mid-1950’s. The Ole Miss Drive-In was operated by Mac and Ruth McMillan.
“In the late 60s, we used to have dances in the basement of the Ole Miss Drive-In. There was also a golf driving range just to the east,” says Mike Smith of Oxford who recalls “the skating rink was within sight of the Drive-In. They ran cartoons at intermission,” he added.
When the Ole Miss Drive-In burned down, the McMillans opened K’s BBQ on West Jackson. “I loved the lemon ice box pie,” said James Hall, pastor of Winborn Chapel United Methodist Church in Gulfport.
The McMillans sold K’s BBQ to Grey Sellers who changed the name to Rebel Drive-In. K’s and Rebel Drive-In were located in the white two-story building on West Jackson Avenue where Sam’s Cell Phones is now located.
There were no chain restaurants in the days of the Ole Miss Drive-In, just home grown folks dishing out what food students enjoyed . . . from noon until early morning.
By Jim Roberts, a HottyToddy.com contributor