Custard

If you knew “Custard” Mize (I never knew his real name) I’m sure you would agree that he was one of the special characters in Fayetteville’s History. I never remember seeing him inactive. He was a human dynamo. He was an active member of the Fayetteville Methodist Church and served on the Fayette County Board of Education. He also had several businesses over the years: a couple grocery stores, a restaurant, and an Easter lily farm.

I was in his restaurant one time at lunch and witnessed an almost bizarre sight. I’m not sure why I was there because I was only 6 or 7 and should have been in school. This was in the late 30’s and the older high school students were allowed to leave the school campus and come to Custard’s restaurant on the courthouse square to eat. Suddenly a crowd of high school students (mostly boys) filled the small restaurant. In a few minutes, Custard came from the back with a large circular tray piled high with hamburgers. As he walked among the crowd of students he took their nickels as they grabbed the burgers from the tray. After distributing one tray, he went back and brought out a second one. Drinks costing 5 cents were in a large drink box covered with ice from which students served themselves, depositing their nickels in a container provided.

About this same time Custard played baseball on the town’s team. He was a good hitter but not the fastest runner. We knew he was distantly related to the very famous Johnny Mize but he did not emulate his baseball playing. I can still see him running the bases with his cap in his hand.

He served in the Army during World War II in the European theater. His division was captured by the Germans and for several years his family didn’t know if he were dead or alive. His wife Ruby never gave up hope and to her delight he was liberated near the end of the War. He had been an army cook and told stories about cooking for his fellow prisoners while captured. He would take potato peelings that were being discarded and make soup. He said it was difficult for the German guards to keep an account of the cats in the prison.

After coming home he and his wife Ruby ran a grocery store on the courthouse square for many years. He also raised and sold Easter lily bulbs. My daddy worked with him one season, planting bulbs in our garden.

His wife Ruby was a strong Baptist while he was a devout Methodist. Each Sunday they would part to attend their own church. The churches were just across the road from each other and for years they had shared their Sunday evening service alternating churches for the service. At a business meeting of the Methodist church Custard voiced his objection to this practice but the membership strongly disagreed. This had been an activity that had started early in the history of the churches and Custard was defeated in his suggestion for each church to provide the weekly evening services. At the next joint service Custard went to the front and joined the Baptist church. This made Fayetteville news.