This summer, many Health Sciences faculty and staff are making preparations for moving to the newly acquired Southern Progress property. Sixty-one years ago, the entire campus was in a similar state of hustle and bustle, starting to make preparations to move the college campus from twelve miles south in East Lake to Homewood. On April 30, 1955, a cornerstone ceremony marked the beginning of great things to come. Bill Mathis, an alumnus from the class of 1956, left his own account of the event:
A great day in the history of Howard. I worked on floats the night before until 2 o’clock. Our senior float was “A Tale of Two Cities” – Marion and B’ham. I blistered as red as a piece of raw beef.
Lunch was a festive occasion. There was an abundance of barbeque and plenty of cold drinks. School spirit was magnificent; Cooperation was unexcelled; classes were cut intentionally and freely to work on floats; sleep was scarce or unheard of; energy seemed to be inexhaustive; a sense of being a part of some great, momentous historical event made every heart throb “breast-burstingly” with joy; through all this there was a renewal of vows, a rededication of time and talents, and a renewing and resurrendering of the self to the purpose of higher education and to the Higher Power – God!
Thank God for Howard!! May she live long!
Thus written and signed for future generations on this day after the ceremony, April 30, 1955.
Commencement is a time of celebration, honoring those students who persevered through the trials of classwork and papers to earn their diploma. It’s also a time of community for the neighborhood, as those nearby give back to the university that helped them during the year. Modern day ceremonies can be lengthy, but the commencement of 1915 would have scoffed at the couple of hours we call commencement today. Beginning that Sunday, May 23, the celebrations lasted for four days, finally ending with the reception of diplomas Wednesday, May 26. There were field games, oratorical contests, dinners and receptions of all kinds, as well as a ceremony for those who left college in the 1860s to fight in the Civil War to receive their diplomas.
Through it all, Frank Barnett, the editor of The Alabama Baptist, recorded and wrote his reactions to the festivities. Before buying the publication in 1902, he had made a name for himself all over the world, studying at an impressive list of universities from NYU to The University of Berlin, and renowned for his excellent speeches across the South. Read on to see how this man of the world reacted to Howard College’s way of celebrating:
“At Houston we went into a man’s restaurant and took our seat on a stool and propped out feet on the rail and picked up a bill of fare, but was saved the trouble of reading it by a young man at our side who said: ‘Waiter, bring me scrambled eggs, and make ‘em red.’ Having fed in restaurants for several score of years we thought we knew most of the lingo, but his order was something new.
We turned and said: ‘Brother, we are something of a culinary artist ourselves. If you don’t mind telling, what’s your color scheme?’
Laughingly he replied: ‘Oh, out here my order meant scrambled eggs with chili.’
So we said: ‘Waiter, bring us scrambled eggs, and make ‘em red.’
We thought it impossible after 13 years of continuous attendance upon picnics, all-day singings, fifth Sunday meetings, associations and conventions to run across anything new in the way of serving dinner on the ground, but out at the Howard commencement we got as big a jar and surprise as we got at Houston. For when we arrived Mrs. Shelburne handed us a piece of pasteboard, to which was tied a string, and on the board was the letter R.
We laughingly said: ‘Well, what tag day is this?’
‘Never mind,’ said she; ‘just wait and see.’
After the exercises everybody was tagged with a letter and told to go out on the campus and find their group and sit down. This we did, and soon found the various trees labeled with large letters.
We found the one with an R and took our seat, and soon from the ventral tent there came a procession of pretty girls and charming matrons bearing trays. It was truly a bounteous feast that had been prepared by the hospitable women of East Lake and served to 600 without the least confusion.
It beat anything we had ever seen or ever expect to see, unless somebody steals the idea.
We soon discovered that the letters made ‘H-O-W-A-R-D.’
We have heard many say they would die for their alma mater, but we feel sure that it is much pleasanter to eat for one’s alma mater; and especially is this true as it happens to be dear old Howard.
It has always worried us because we are not an alumnus of Howard, but on commencement day we took the complete culinary course and graduated full of honor, and now have all the rights and privileges to the new degree and are entitled to write our name as follows:
FRANK WILLIS BARNETT, E.A.T.S”
So, class of 2016, go forth with your newly-earned degrees, and think back on your Samford experience. Perhaps you earned a few “unofficial” degrees yourselves!
We need your help. During the next 24 hours, we aim to raise $4000 for our Big Give project. You can help bring history to life with STORI and Special Collection by donating funds to digitize rapidly deteriorating reel-to-reel recordings of stories from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Stories turn raw data into a catalyst for action. They remind us of where we come from and where we need to go. Samford University’s Special Collection houses close to 1,000 Samford related stories on reel-to-reel tapes that are currently unavailable for public use. Digitizing these stories will bring them back to life and make them available to be shared with a new generation.
What will my gift do? Your gift will fund Samford’s initiative to digitize oral histories for the university and the greater community’s use. Preserving and sharing the shared history of our institution, as well as the larger community Samford’s serves, is integral to the university’s mission.
Who will my gift impact? This initiative will serve not only Samford, but the local community and the state at large by preserving our shared history.
Lottie Jacks has led an accomplished life. She has raised four children, published a book, led a career as a medical technician, served as president of the Samford Legacy League, won the Lolla Wurtele Wright Award, and always found ways to help others whether it was through her day to day work or on mission trips to Los Mochis, Mexico. At 85, she is not slowing down.
This weekend she will walk across the stage of the Wright Center and finish something she started in 1948. This is her Samford Story:
LOTTIE JACKS: I am one of ten children. I was born in the western section of [Birmingham]. It was unincorporated at that time. It is kind of what is Green Acres now or Powderly. . . . I . . . graduated and I got a full scholarship to Samford [then Howard College] through my church.
Mrs. Jacks began college in 1948 on the old campus in East Lake. During her freshman year she lived with three other girls in a small dorm room outfitted with two sets of bunk beds. Unfortunately she did not get to live on campus after her first year.
JACKS: I had to go back home and live, because the church that was giving my scholarship said they could not afford for me to live in the dormitory. So then I had to find transportation all the way across town from east to west, which made it harder on me. And I think I was kind of overwhelmed with trying – doing [it] all. It took an hour and a half to get across town on a streetcar, but then I finally found there were two young men that lived over there, and I finally got a ride with them . . . .
Living off campus and contending with a long commute, Mrs. Jacks was not able to experience the close knit community so characteristic of Howard College.
JACKS: I just did not blend in like I should have. I made good friends, [but] it was completely different.
A year shy of graduation, Lottie married her college sweetheart and left school. She always regretted not finishing her degree.
JACKS: I had four children and I just did not go back to school. Dr. Simon who was the head of the clinic [I worked with] offered to pay my way, but I just did not want to go to school at night and leave my children, because I had been gone all day. . . . But I have always regretted that I did not. . . so I just had this desire to [finish], just a burning desire . . . to do this.
Lottie feared that she might not fit in among the younger students. Despite her worries, she found the Samford community to be welcoming and supportive in her endeavor to finally graduate.
JACKS: Everything good that has happened to me has been through Samford. . . . Dr. Westmoreland . . . was praising me about doing this. I said, ‘Do not praise me yet. Wait until I finish!’ And he said, ‘You better finish!’ But the best part was when I started [back]. I thought, ‘Oh what are these young students going to think of me?’ I was worried about them thinking, ‘What is she doing here?’ The students have been the most wonderful part. They have been kind. They have been accepting. They help me.
Mrs. Jacks admits that coming back to school has been very challenging. While there have been many new experiences, she is amused by how the times have changed.
JACKS: I laugh now when I am here on campus. I am just amused at the way the girls dress, because when I went [to college] I had one suitcase full of clothes and I wanted so badly to have pretty clothes, you know. (Laughter) Now, they can go to Walmart and buy theirs for a dollar . . . but we wore sweaters and skirts [only]. We did not wear pants at all.
Mrs. Jacks will complete her undergraduate career this Saturday, May 14 at the Howard College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony. She says she owes it all to the work of the Lord and the support of the Christian community here at Samford.
-by Marley Davis
Oral history interview with Lottie Jacks conducted by Marley Davis, fall 2015.
Last week everyone clamored to get tickets to Yellowhammer Media’s presidential candidate forum, held in the Wright Center. While a number of political figures have traversed Samford’s quad (Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter, Mike Huckabee, Laura Bush, and Bill Clinton to name a few), a presidential forum has never been held on site.
On Wednesday morning September 3, 1952, Major Davis was in a similar predicament hoping to catch Dwight Eisenhower during his campaign stop in Birmingham. Unfortunately for Major Davis, he was not the only person trying to get a glimpse of the candidate. According to Birmingham police chief Charles Pierce and police commissioner Eugene Connor, 40,000-45,000 people crowded into Woodrow Wilson Park to hear Ike’s speech. An additional 75,000 Alabamians lined Eisenhower’s route from the airport to Woodrow Wilson Park.
Then Dean of Women, Margaret Sizemore Douglas recounted how the Major’s best laid plans didn’t fall into place, but her lunch date with Gene Kelser at the place to eat in Birmingham – the airport – proved very fruitful.
“Major Davis was a fan of Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower came to Birmingham before he was President. . . . He was campaigning, but he made a stop down on the square in… Linn Park, which was then called Woodrow Wilson Park… [The Major] came by my office one day and he often did that just to sit and talk… he said, “I’m going down to Woodrow Wilson Park and hear Eisenhower – he’s running for President. He’s going to be our next President, mark my words.”
I had appointment with Gene Kelser, who was [the Major’s] secretary, to go to lunch. So I declined and he went by himself… Gene came by and I said, “Let’s go the airport for lunch.” That was the place to eat. There was a Mrs. Willis… she had a beautiful tearoom, one wing there, and it was a very elegant place. Brides had parties there. You could go up in planes for 5 dollars with real aces…
So we went there for lunch and we were eating and just as we finished, the doors flew open and in came Eisenhower. Well, he didn’t know me from Adam. I said “You’re supposed to be at Woodrow Wilson Park,” and he said, “Well, I stepped out a little early to get out of the crowd, because my flight’s out here waiting for me.” He sat down there and chatted with Gene Kelser and me and all his people of course, Secret Service, I guess. But we had this nice chat with him and got back to school and told Major Davis, who had not even seen him. Oh, he was so upset with us!”
This past Saturday, several candidates continued the tradition of campaigning through Birmingham. Hillary Clinton grabbed a cappuccino at Urban Standard while Marco Rubio came to our campus for a presidential forum. Unlike 1952, students, faculty, and administration had the opportunity to attend the event in the Wright Center without the stress of running downtown during lunch, hunting for a parking spot, and navigating paths through crowds of people. Samford’s abiding interest in shaping its students into global citizens had made the once small college into a stop on the campaign trail. Although, I think we are all missing out on the $5 plane rides with real aces.
Samford University, 160 Years: For God, For Learning, Forever by Sean Flynt
Some of you may have notice a new ominous figure in Brooks Hall. He made his entrance late last week, but quickly took cover beneath a blue table cloth. He emerged victorious on Saturday morning with the help of Dean Chapman, the A Capella Choir and the Howard Scholars. John Howard is the newest addition to the commemorative statues on Samford’s campus. We are all familiar with iconic Mr. Beeson who greets every visitor, but let’s review the rest of the Samford bronze and marble family.
John Howard 1726-1790
The original namesake of Samford University, John Howard, devoted his life to prison reform. Commissioned by Dean Chapman, the statue reminds students of Samford’s Christian mission. The installation includes an electronic device detailing Howard’s life, prison reform work, and the original statue in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry 1825-1903
Jabez Curry was the third president of Howard College, serving from 1865-1868. Originally part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, the statue was relocated to its current position in the University Center in 2009 after Helen Keller took his place in D.C. Now, he stands guard as students rush to class or grab a quick bite from the food court.
Frank Park Samford 1893-1973
Businessman, philanthropist, and builder of Liberty National Life Insurance Company, Frank Park Samford served on our Board of Trustees for 34 years and was instrumental in relocating the college from East Lake to Homewood in 1957. Because of his dedication and service to the campus, Howard College was renamed Samford University in 1965. His bust greets visitors at the top of the stairs in the administration building.
Bobby Bowden 1929-
At every Samford football game, fans now pass Bobby Bowden with his playbook in hand, as they enter the gates to the stadium. Bowden served as Samford’s football coach from 1959-1962 and led the Howard bulldogs to a winning 31-6 record. His success as a coach earned him a spot in the College Football Hall-of-Fame with the second most wins in Division 1. Many of his loyal players still gather on campus each summer for a reunion with the Bowden Boys.
Dr. Martha Myers 1945-2002
Samford Alumna Dr. Martha Myers ’67 was a medical missionary to Yemen for more than twenty years where she became a local symbol for kindness and compassion. She was killed by a Muslim extremist on December 30, 2002, the final operating day of the hospital. The statue displays her passion for the Yemeni people with the words “She Loves God” written in English and Arabic.
Ralph Waldo Beeson 1900-1990
As the greatest individual donor in Samford’s history, Ralph Waldo Beeson’s gifts to the university have provided for the establishment and endowment of Beeson Divinity School, the construction of Beeson Woods, construction and equipment of the School of Education, completion of an addition to the University Center, scholarships to Samford students pursuing ministry careers and much more. An iconic Samford symbol, the statue has become the hallmark of countless selfies and memories made on campus.
Harwell Davis 1882-1977
The bust of Samford’s fifteenth president sits at the entrance to the library and offers luck to all who rub his nose. Davis led the college at a time of tumult after the Great Depression, plotting a course to avoid bankruptcy and the loss of accreditation. It wasn’t luck that saved the school, it was Davis’s hard work and dedication.
Justice Tempered by Mercy
The statue in the courtyard of Cumberland School of Law represents what students at Cumberland are defending. The inspiration for the statue came from Mrs. Lucille Beeson who encouraged the law school to “Seek wisdom and temper justice with compassion.”
Angel of Mercy
The Angel of Mercy represents the values of the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. The bronze statue was created by former Samford student Tim Britton and Italian sculptor Urbano Burratti.
The lives of the men and women commemorated by these statues remind all of us, faculty, staff, and students, that we stand in the shades of trees we did not plant. From John Howard’s work to reform the prison system to Dr. Martha Myers’s life witness to the people of Yemen we have inspiration all around us to strive to work hard, conduct ourselves in fairness, give out of our abundances, and be merciful to those in need. The world will be better for it.
Flynt, Sean. 160 Years of Samford University. Arcadia Publishing. 2001.
As part of preparations for Samford’s 175th Anniversary, the Office and University Historian and the University Library’s Special Collection and Archives have the opportunity to revitalize oral history work at Samford. Earlier this fall we launched the Samford Traditions and Oral History Recording Initiative (S.T.O.R.I.) website to provide digital access to these oral histories. The site will offer interviews from Samford and the local community to document our shared history. A new addition to the site, just this week, is the Myralyn Allgood STORI.
From head cheerleader and member of BSU choir to head of the World Languages and Cultures Department, Myralyn Allgood’s involvement at Samford University spanned nearly six decades. A passing glance at a Howard College ad in a Beta Club Journal peaked her interest enough to drive over for a visit in the summer of 1957 while boxes were still being unpacked on the new Homewood campus…
Allgood: So, one day I was flipping through a Beta Club journal. This was in 1956 or something like that. There was this tiny little blurb about Howard College, and it had a picture of the library. . . . It had all the things listed – teacher education (and I knew that was what I wanted to do), intercollegiate athletics, Greek organization, Baptist affiliation. I thought, “Yes – all the things on my checklist right there.” Let’s go see it.
So Mom and Dad and my friend and I got in the car, and I’m thinking it was on . . . July 4th . . . . We came over looking for the old campus because that was the summer before the move here, and that’s where the administrative offices still were. But we got lost and wound up driving up this hill and [I] looked down and said, “There it is. There’s that library that’s pictured in my Beta Club journal.” So we turned around and came down here. There were some people beginning to move into the administration building . . . . So we walked through and got to look at [campus]. It was not a rainy day like it was in the fall when we came and [there] was mud for a whole semester. . . . We thought “Oh, this is so beautiful. We just can’t wait to get here.”
We went down to the administration building and they said, “Well, . . . we’re beginning to function over here, but in order to enroll you’re going to have to go over to the old campus.” So they gave us good directions and we got there. And when we got there, they were having a watermelon cutting under Sherman Oak. So I at least got to know Sherman Oak before the college was no more over there. And [we] went in and signed up and that was it and we were done. And I thought going home, “Man, we . . . surely are glad we saw the new [campus] before we saw the old [campus]. . . .” We may never have taken the next step because it was falling down.
And then we came in the fall. And all the upper classmen were just weeping and wailing, they so missed the old campus. And then the sorority, they said, “Okay come on, we’re going to go clean out the sorority house and move over to this place where all we have is a little room.” And so we went and we packed things up and they were crying and I’m thinking, “Why?” But it’s tradition. Wherever you are and wherever your experiences are, that’s the place that’s dear to you. Be it ever so humble. It was home. So for those folks that were sophomores and juniors and seniors coming over here it was a difficult transition. For us, as freshmen, we were blissful. We didn’t know what we’d missed but apparently missed something but that smaller college spirit was just something very special, and that’s one thing that no matter how many changes have taken place here over the years, the one thing that remains the same is that same spirit, that whether you know people or not, you smile at them and you greet them as you grow up together and when you see each other after a long time there’s this big embrace because, you know, you’re friends. You grew up together. So that’s how I got here. And I have always known that’s where I would go to school. And I loved it from the day I set foot on campus. It was home to me.
One of the last visible remains of the East Lake community as it existed during Howard College’s tenancy sold last week. The nineteen acres that house the ghostly remains of the Cascade Plunge – the splendor of the Cloud Room where East Lake residents danced the night away under wooden zodiac cut outs and the Olympic-size swimming pool where local teenagers spent sun soaked summer days – is now property of Habitat for Humanity. The Cascade Plunge was an entertainment park, a short fifteen minute walk from the Howard College campus in East Lake, that housed a ballroom and an 80 x 220 foot swimming pool fed by a natural spring.
Natural springs played a pivotal role in the development of the East Lake community and formed the heart of the city’s recreation. Coinciding with Howard’s relocation to the area, in November of 1887, the East Lake Land Company built a 34-acre lake, fed by springs in Roebuck. The company intended the lake to be the centerpiece of what was to be a resort town for the people of Birmingham. The community enjoyed East Lake Park for its “balloon ascensions, dances, . . . races, theatricals, and picnics.”Another local spring on the other side of East Lake fed the Cascade Plunge.
From 1925 to Howard’s departure from East Lake in 1956, the Cascade was a fixture for students as well as local residents. According to Alumni Chriss Doss ’57, the Cascade Plunge was “the premier of entertainment parks in Birmingham.” Writing in the 1880s, Mollie Vincent, a member of the Pierian women’s club of East Lake, detailed what would eventually become the site of the Cascade Plunge – the location “was approached by a meandering country road called the Georgia Road and Huntsville Trail. . . . The springs flowed from the ground under immense poplar and oak trees. This beautiful spot was a genuine oasis to the travelers . . . .” As the community of East Lake grew, paved roads replaced the “meandering country road” and the Cascade Plunge had its own stop on the No. 27 Ensley No. 38 South East Lake street car line.
As a gathering place for the community, the Cascade Plunge hosted proms, conferences, swim meets, and beauty contests. The Miss Cascade Plunge talent and bathing suit competition held every summer sent one lucky winner a year to Daytona Beach to participate in the Miss Dixie Queen of the South. Swimmers from Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia came together at the Plunge to compete in the Southeastern Amateur Athletic Union meet. Only one mile from the center of Howard’s campus, Alumni Jack Green ’50, described it as the “center of our summer activities for people that lived in that vicinity.” Rev. Green remembers the Cascade Plunge as a source of summer employment: “we had a concession stand there and big locker room and all of us guys that lived in Birmingham worked there one time or another because it was a huge entertainment center . . .”
After Howard’s removal from East Lake in 1957, the Cascade Plunge continued on, even adding an Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. But by the 1970’s, it was headed into decline and eventually closed in the 1990s. While there will never be another Miss Cascade Plunge crowned or another high school prom under the zodiac signs of the Cloud Room, Habitat for Humanity is returning something important to the community – ownership. The non-profit plans to construct 60 residential units. The fate of the pool and the current facilities is unknown, although the Birmingham Business Journal reported Habitat may look to partner with other local non-profits for solutions. These sixty new homes should result in a renewed interest in the community, sixty new families that will seek to create a vision for the new East Lake community.
“Looking Back,” The Birmingham News, October 18, 1959.
Congratulations on making it through the first full month of classes for fall 2015. We welcomed 810 freshmen, celebrated a big win over Central Arkansas at our first football game, and campus shuttle services dropped us of at our door. We enjoyed lunch in our newly renovated caf, but the Brock School of Business students were the envy of the campus as they started classes in their new home, the $25 million “next generation building” Cooney Hall.
Here is a look back at the Entre Nous summary of September 1961 when the campus experienced its first sorority rush week and “the eighth wonder of the world” – the IBM machine.
The freshmen were cordially commanded to come to school five days early for the second annual freshman orientation. The purpose of this is to assure that all the rats are absolutely confused, so that they were numb by the time registration got here. Tests… pep rallys… talent shows… tests.. “cabbages and kings”… tests… games… sore feet… tests… tests… and the climax of the week… more tests.
The first official sorority rush week in Howard’s history saw girls rushing to ice water teas and parties. The eighth wonder of the world, the IBM machine, showed his stuff for the first time at Howard during registration. This machine is almost human… so human it can’t spell either, Final count… 2,o37.
Even the cars have to register at Howard and Pinky (sometimes known as the Sherlock Holmes of the Pinkerton Agency) in his block charger covered the campus with $5 tickets.
September brought new faces… green frosh… 18 new faculty members… a boa constrictor… and Duke, a new college mascot. He proved his fighting spirit by chasing the majorettes, the waterboy, and sometimes, the players.
The first football game proved the students to be more than fairweather friends as they sat under torrents of rain to cheer the team to victory.
The $950,000 Chapel and Religious Building was completed, and work begun on the addition to the Physical Education plant. At this time students began to take more interest in the national elections.
Entre Nous, 1961.
Kennedy, Kara. “Harry B. Brock Jr.’s Vision of a State-of-the-Art Business Eduction Building Dedicated at Samford.” Samford News Release, Sept. 4, 2015.
The University’s food service is an ever-changing institution. In light of the most recent transformations in the Caf, the Bull Pup is looking back over the past century at the many different places Samford students have gathered after a long day of classes to break bread and make plans for the weekend. Constantly adjusting to student needs, trends, and space and funding availability, campus dining evolved from student run co-operatives to the modern centralized cafeteria.
The Dining Hall Council
Howard College students on the East Lake campus in the early 1900s were accustomed to more formal, restaurant-style dining. By 1919 the college dining hall was student run on a co-operative basis. Each dormitory and fraternity had a representative, with the exception of Sigma Nu, which maintained its own dining room. The school dietician, Mrs. M. L. Harris oversaw the kitchen and aided in purchasing. During World War I, students planted gardens and raised hens in efforts to become more self-sustaining.
East Lake Eateries
The East Lake campus, situated on a limited quadrangle in the eastern portion of Birmingham, was hemmed in by commercial property and residential developments. It lacked acreage necessary to construct larger buildings able to accommodate a cafeteria to serve the entire student body. Fortunately, America’s dining landscape expanded in 1930s and 1940s to include diners and small affordable eateries. Howard College students frequented local establishments like the Co-op, Charlie’s Place, or the Hash House. The Co-op was a quick stop for sandwiches, cold drinks, cakes and ice cream, while Charlie’s Place catered to, “male boarders and those desiring plate lunches.” When word got out on campus that the new proprietor of the Hash House was an excellent cook, male students hustled for a spot at the dining table for breakfast and dinner at the low price of fifty cents a meal. Lowell Vann ’57 recalled the fellowship at the Hash House:
Lowell Vann: Twenty-eight of us ate at the Hash House and felt very fortunate. Breakfast and dinner. Dinner was two tables, had 14 to a table, I think it was. Twenty-eight people was all she would take and she had six or eight people, maybe ten, living . . . in the rooms upstairs, so they got in and that only left about eight more places for people to get in, but we had good fellowship around that table, lot of good jokes . . . . Everyone would go into the parlor and [hear] “time for first table!” And [they] would go and eat and [then], “Get up and get out of here!” And here comes second table. Everything was passed around and if there was 14 of you, there were 14 pork chops or whatever, but it was good fun . . .
East Lake Cafeteria
“The dining hall will mean a great deal not only to the students but to those who prepare the meals as well, for on completion the kitchen will be ranked as possibly the best equipped and most sanitary in the entire city of Birmingham. For the students it will be the ideal place to take visitors and friends.” – Samford Crimson 1946
By 1946, Howard had the economic stability to upgrade and expand the kitchen facilities and dining room. Even in its new location on Second Avenue in the former Home Economics classroom, the cafeteria was just large enough to cater to male students and faculty. The Crimson boasted the new equipment purchased from the War Surplus Equipment Agency in Mobile, “ would quicken the heart of any housekeeper.” The new building even allowed for a screened back porch, “to keep flies to a minimum.” In the spring of 1949, a “new rockola” brought music to the cafeteria for added atmosphere.
While most can appreciate music and efforts to keep flies at bay, some additions to campus dining proved more threatening. In 1949, the Co-op obtained a new vending machine. One student lamented, “Machine is replacing man. Proof of this now can be seen at the Co-op where a new coke and coffee vending machine has been installed. This contrivance is strictly modern… And the machine has brains. It can make change for a dime, change for a quarter, mix a coke and pour a cup of coffee…all at the same time.”
“The Caf” on the Homewood Campus
With Samford’s move to Homewood in 1957, the cafeteria became a more centralized gathering place for students. To accommodate a growing student body, changes came more quickly. In 1961, students could buy a meal ticket for one dollar. But by 1969 to counter financial losses, meal plans were required. Students were limited to a “meat, vegetable, salad or dessert, bread, butter and beverage” for lunch. At dinner, they were allowed both a salad and dessert. An anonymous gift to the university brought air conditioning to the cafeteria in 1963. But cooler air did not allow cooler heads to prevail in 1972 when conditions drove the student body to protest.
In March of 1972, students planned a boycott in protest of poor conditions ranging from flies and dirty utensils to hardened meringues on day old pies. Student leaders canceled the boycott once they worked with the administration to remedy their concerns and accepted that some issues were beyond control for a cafeteria that was designed to accommodate 600-800 students but was then serving 1500. Student body growth and university food service capacities have not always been in sync.
The university initially envisioned the dining hall as an idyllic establishment that would bring students together – they probably did not imagine it would cause them to gather in protest. Although students still like to complain about the caf, the 1919 Howard College Dining Hall Council could never have imagined the Class of 2019’s dining options in our newly renovated caf. Regardless of how each generation of students and administration revamp food service on campus, community and friendship grow out of the places we gather to eat together.