Oh, The Food…

I just realized that I have not given a truly autobiographical post in quite some time so here goes. This one is about my college years and particularly how I earned a major portion of the money needed to pay for my education.

cafeteria-yearsWhen I was in college now fifty years ago one of the things that almost everyone, or at least those in the dormitories, complained about is how bad the food in the cafeteria is. Its kind of like hospital food I guess. You are not supposed to like it. But, as usual, I take a different stand.  Without cafeteria food I would not have gotten a diploma from Purdue University. An so the story begins.

My first trip to Purdue in 1965 was a week before that year’s classes were to begin. In those days we had orientation programs to prepare us for college life. That trip to the campus was in the back seat of one of my high school friends new convertible.  He was not going to college but instead intended to work in his father’s gas station. Being a new minted high school graduate in the 1960s with a new car meant that he went FAST wherever he drove. This seventy mile jaunt was in the back seat of the convertible going 100 mph down a state road with me clinging to all my worldly possessions contained in a cardboard box and a small suitcase. But, I am getting off topic here so back to the subject of food.

The students were the waiters and servers. There was professional managing the food prep and planning.  Mrs. Holmes on the far left was probably my favorite, almost a mother that I never had…

When I first stepped foot on campus I had enough to pay my first semester’s room and board and tuition and a little more. I had no idea how I was going to pay for the rest of the year let along the rest of my college days.  Living in the cheapest dorm on campus meant that I ate all my meals at the Fowler House Dining Room.  I thought the food was pretty good but heard so many comment about how bad it was! Compared to my cooking it was better. I did most of the cooking for Dad, my brother and me in my high school years. Being on a limited budget and the fact that Dad only like his meat and potatoes I wasn’t subjected to much of a variety of foods.

That’s me the second from the right (with my arm around my boss!)

Anyway, I soon discovered that the cafeteria used students as the majority of the labor needed to put out about 7,000 meals a week. I was a shy guy back then and held off for a few weeks before I applied for a job there.  Within a few months or so I was working about 40 hours per week at 90 cents an hour. I would continue in that mode for the five years I was there. But I did eventually become the head waiter which was the highest student position and that paid almost $2 per hour. But it was enough, along with my summer jobs to barely get me through those years.

Some of my fellow worker who I was too shy to ask for a date..

For the first time in my life I made many friends working in that dormitory cafeteria. When I last visited there in 2015 the building housing the cafeteria was still there but repurposed into a child development center.  The dormitory buildings had been torn down and replaced in the 1970s and even that replacement building was torn down an replaced in 2010 or so.

My college years were a hard time for me but also some of my most joyous years of my life thanks to the relationships I had in the cafeteria.