One man's tell: 96 years of Ardmore history

By Mary Finley
For The Ardmoreite
Mr. Charles H. Cox Jr.
Mr. Charles H. Cox Jr.
Mr. Charles H. Cox Jr.
Rev. Mary A. Finley, M.Div.

Aside from his days in college, my Uncle, Mr. Charles H. Cox Jr., has been an Ardmoreite all of his life. What's special about that? Well, he was born November 1, 1925. Yes, Uncle Charles will turn 96 years of age this November!

Cox was raised in Ardmore, by his father, Charles H. Cox Sr., and grandmother, Amanda Canady. He said as a child he lived between two houses: either with his dad, or his grandmother.

His father and uncle owned a little concession stand called Cox's Cozy Den inside a theater down on the corner of F ST SE and East Main, where now resides a Pentecostal church. Cox said the Cozy Den sold fish, hotdogs, chili buns, and would even take cigarettes out of the package and sell one at a time to the theater-goers.

"I went to Sunday School at the Historic First Baptist Church, 16 E NE, but not often because I had to work the concession stand. One side of Cox's Cozy Den had supplies, and the other side food. And then we moved further up on the hill at the corner of F ST SE closer to Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and were able to have seats where people could eat inside. I cleaned a lot of fish, should hate fish with all I cleaned growing up. But I never learned to cook and didn't want to."

Cox attended Dunbar School and said when it was time to go to Douglass High School his class was "so big that we were moved down into the basement of First Baptist. When W. W. Duncan became the director of the band there, he taught us flashy stuff he probably picked up from colleges. I was a drum major. We had 12 majorettes and boy they could prance! The band was maybe 36 pieces. We put on quite a show. You heard us coming from blocks away and people would come out of their houses to watch us march!"

After Cox graduated from Douglass' class of 1945, he went to Tennessee State in Nashville. "I took the train at 11 a.m. Sunday and got to Nashville at 7 a.m. the next morning. I majored in business and graduated in 1949.

"When I came back home I worked as a schoolteacher with Gloria Ainsworth, and then at St. John in Newport, Oklahoma. For a time, I also worked at what was then the only Black School in Milo, Oklahoma, Central School." Cox was a part of the first Douglass Alumni Reunion. "People came from all over the world," he stated. “It was just great."

When asked how he met my fraternal aunt, Cox couldn't help but smile. "I had to go to Langston University to fulfill requirements to be certified as a teacher in Oklahoma, and Mrs. Ainsworth set that up for me. There at Langston I met Miss Bettye Finley. She would fix meals for me and that's how we began courting and finally I asked her to marry me. It has been over 70 years, but it doesn't seem that long because Bettye is such a charming lady!

"We have one child, Frank Cox Sr. Later on I went to work at the accounting department at Tinker Field, and when I came home on the weekends, I worked downtown for Everette Capshaw at Texoma Office Supply, where I sewed, did interior decorating, you know the window display. But Tinker is from where I retired. Bettye, who is now 91, is a retiree from Noble Foundation.

"She has dementia now, and physically doesn't get around as well as she used to so for the past five or six years, I've been her primary caregiver. I wouldn't have it any other way because Bettye took wonderful care of me for over 60 years! My day begins with me waking her up, making sure she has her medication, and something for breakfast. Medication is the biggest thing because she has several pills to take 3 times a day. I'm grateful for my help from the nurses that come, and the meals delivered from the local program that does that. My church family also is generous about bringing food for us. Wherever Bettye needs to go, whether to her doctor's appointments or to get her hair fixed, I take her."

Yes, at 96, Cox still drives, is an active deacon at First Baptist Church, where he's been a member most of his life, and decorator of displays inside and outside of the church building since the late 80s. "Up until a few years ago, I would take the Sunday bulletin from my church to different residents I know in local nursing homes every Sunday afternoon."

What is his advice for younger people on how to live our best lives? "Treat people the way you want to be treated, even and especially your spouse. I love my wife and that's why I do for her. I knew what I was getting but she didn't know what she was getting." He laughed. "But here we are almost 71 years, one son, 4 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren later!" He got teary eyed. "God has truly blessed me."