Life Stories – The Dormitory Cafeteria

A dormitory cafeteria was a prime reason I became a “man”. I know in my day and very likely today, that is not the usual statement to describe a dormitory cafeteria. It is usually described as “blah”, “bland”, “despicable”, or often much worse. 🤬 Of course this demands a life story, so that is why you are here.


I was naive country boy who was starting college in the fall of 1965. I had worked the summer at a machine shop next to where dad worked to get the money to pay for the first semester’s tuition and room & board. How I was going to pay for the second was beyond me! I knew I had to find work, I just didn’t know where or how? All this college stuff was new to me. As most kids going off to college I had never been on my own. I procrastinated for a couple of weeks on a job search, but finally started looking. Fortunately for me, the head waiter of our dormitory cafeteria resided in the same unit as I did. He happened to walk by my room and heard me talking to my roommate about a job. He suggested that I work for him. I jumped at the chance!

Mrs. Holmes (lady on the left) almost became the mother I never had.

I did most of the cooking for dad and my little brother from the age of ten, so I thought I had some experience, but found out going from cooking for three to serving 1500 meals a day was unimaginable. There were about 80 student waiters who served and cleaned up twenty meals a week. Being that I was not very good at one-on-one type things like interacting with others. I volunteered for P&P. That was scrubbing all the pots and pans used to prepare the meal. That meant I didn’t have to interact with anything but those pots and pans. Even though I didn’t know it I guess I did that job very well and got the attention of management. 😎 It wasn’t long before I was promoted from P&P to a busboy who made sure the serving lines never ran out of food.

That’s me on the right with my arm around one of my bosses (ha)

I made enough money by working almost forty hours per week there to pay the tuition for the second semester and worked out a scheme to pay off the dormitory costs on a weekly basis from my dormitory cafeteria paycheck throughout the semester. That arrangement allowed me to complete five years of college.

During my second year I joined management. That is I became a waiter captain and in the final year became the head waiter that was in charge of 80 people! My confidence grew tremendously during those five years. I finally became convinced I could do anything if I set my mind to it.

Me on the left, finally the head waiter

My college years made me a man

Little did I know that skills I learned from my cafeteria years would prove valuable forty years later. Things like cracking four eggs at a time and making meals for so many people proved of benefit during my 11 years stent volunteering at a local soup kitchen after retirement from the corporate world. Like the dormitory experience I went from P&P to running that operation a couple of days a week.