Monday, July 18, 2011

The Great Fried Chicken Caper

I'm not sure what's in the weather but I posted a comment about Ole Miss tickets for this year on Facebook and within minutes, email communications would commence from guys I haven't spoken to in a long time. Maybe it's just the heat and we all long for cooler weather. The kind of weather that brings college football and fall foliage.

Hearing from all these guys from so many years ago would prompt me to tell a story from my college days. Now it's important to note that this is probably one of the only stories I can tell as the rest of them would get me in trouble.

And in keeping trouble under lock and key, we'll carefully venture back to Oxford, Mississippi when life revolved around a pair of lions that sat in front of an SAE house at Ole Miss.

Unlike the fraternity houses of today, the SAE house at the University of Mississippi was the epitome of old South. A little old lady by the name of Miss Carroll was our house mother. She must have been in her seventies and I recall she drank quite a bit. But who wouldn't living with 30 derelicts in starched khakis and wrinkled blazers all smoking Marlboro lights and drinking beer by ten in the morning. School was just something that got in the way of our social time.

There were two women that cooked for us under the direction of Phillip Shipp who was the kitchen manager and an upper class-man. The problems with being the kitchen manager were the continuous break-ins within our fraternity house kitchen. This absolutely rubbed the two cooks backwards and Phil caught hell for it as he was in charge. Day after day, Phil would let us all have it about the break-ins and how it was running up our food bill.

So how were they getting into the kitchen assuming the door was locked? Well it wasn't rocket science as every morning, the door lock had been beaten off with something. This was pretty common as once I saw a fraternity brother chopping down our house mother's door with an axe at three in the morning. "Come on out of there Miss Carroll! I know you're in there!"

With as much construction knowledge as a young college student would hold in his head, Phil went to the hardware store determined to create the ultimate break-in proof door deterrent. Complete with a brand new giant Master lock and hardened-steel shackle along with stainless steel chains, he spent hours drilling in new holes and fitting in a new zinc-plated hasp. This would be his finest masterpiece.

Sure enough, we came rolling in at three in the morning and that kitchen was locked down tighter than Fort Knox. No way we were getting in there that night.

We all sat down in the living room and Perry Galloway looked over at me and said, "You know they put chicken out to thaw for tomorrow. I saw them do it."

Now Perry Galloway was a kid from Yazoo City, Mississippi. He was generally quiet and never had much to say. But when he did, it was always to the point. When Perry was around, you could see him working things out in his head.

"So what do we do with a bunch of raw chicken?" I asked. 

"We fry it," he replied.

Unbeknownst to me, Perry had been watching Norvel, one of the cooks, for months. He was infatuated with the deep fryer and just by watching her, had figured out how to work it. It was a big deep fryer and quite intimidating if you really didn't know what you were doing.

"You think you can get in there?" he asked me.

I went in the dining room and looked at Shipp's new lock. This was going to be tough as the chains were thick and the lock probably weighed five pounds.

I went outside to the entrance that was on the other side of the house. It was an old white door with a three panel glass window. I'm guessing it was original to the house as it had been painted numerous times.

I looked closely at the windows and about that time, Perry and the rest of the guys came around to the outside door to see what I was up to. "Go get me a screwdriver," I said and within minutes, someone had handed me the requested tool. I eased the dowel trim from the door pulling slowly so as not to bend the finish out nails. "I need a plunger." Within a minute, I had a plunger and had applied it to the glass so as to remove it from the door frame.

They quickly hoisted me into the kitchen where I unlocked the door. We had only flashlights as we knew that turning on the main lights would bring the heat.

Perry went over to the deep fryer, lit the fire and threw a fresh match in the grease. "That's how she does it. When that match lights, that grease is ready."

Sure enough, Perry was right on about the chicken. We immediately formed an assembly line and began seasoning, dipping and flouring well over 50 pieces of chicken. Perry threw them in the deep fryer until they were golden brown then dipping them out with a wire screen strainer, laid them gently onto a paper towel.

Laughing to ourselves, we sat and ate every piece of that chicken and to me it was the greatest meal of my college career. It wasn't that the chicken was all that special but that we were all together. A band of boys from all over the U.S. that virtually enjoyed every minute of every day together. And wouldn't take one minute back if we could.

Phi Alpha


  1. After the release of this blog, Perry Galloway commented on Facebook as to this incident. Here is his comment.

    "I think it's time for the "kid" from Yazoo to comment. We did this on numerous occasions through an abandoned window on the corner of the house that led to a ventilation duct as well. Quite an ordeal getting in there. Once we got into the kitchen we had nothing but chicken thawing on the counter and a locked refrigerator. No milk to dip the chicken before the flour. Brilliant minds prevailed and we improvised using Ranch dressing to get the flour to stick. This worked out great so we decided to dip pickle slices in the dressing, then flour, and you guessed it fried pickles. This really did baffle the kitchen staff as they could not figure out how someone was getting in. I do know that after Phil moved on I was elected Kitchen Steward and held the position for a record number of years. I may still be Kitchen Steward."

  2. This is pretty funny as I just showered up after a long afternoon of frying chicken for my girls and their friends down here in alabama. I use the same old recipe my Grammy Parks housekeeper (Catherine)taught me when I was young back in Kilgore Tx. Same recipe my dad ate when he was young and the same recipe I hooked my yankee wife with who had never had fried chicken or chicken fried steak. If you ever get your ass down here I have some fryers waitin on you. Just keep your boys off my daughters.