Food, Glorious Food!
The ever-curious Chris Bates ’86 has also asked about student eateries, both on and off campus. In the earliest days of the college, the students could either eat on campus, or eat with a local family for $12 per month. The first official dining hall was next to Alumni Hall (now Doyle Hall) on the present-day campus. It was a small wooden building where students could eat for $6 per month. In 1908, Judd Refectory, which served students until 1965, was built. It was directed for many years by Mrs. Myrtle Hunter, and later by Vernon Powell. It was renovated for women’s physical education in 1966, and burned down in 1974.
In 1965 the current cafeteria, Greenville Dining Hall, was opened. For many years it was run by Mrs. Mildred Bowers, and then later by Mr. Vernon Powell, and is famous for the ever-friendly Blue Ladies.
Everyone knows, however, that dining hall food is a constant target of student complaints.
So there were also student canteens or snack bars on campus through the years. In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a canteen in the YMCA building, a frame house situated near where Douglas House now sits. Douglas House itself, built in 1958 as a student center, had a popular canteen, run for many years by Mr. and Mrs. Watts and Mr. James Librand. It was famous for its egg and bacon sandwiches with extra mayo, and served as a popular location for bridge games in the 1960s. In more recent years, the snack bar has been located in Springs Campus Center.
Off-campus favorites have changed over the years. It’s hard to find out where the earliest PC students ate, but the college magazine gives some clues. As early as 1894, Horton Bros. was advertising a soda fountain, which was replaced by one at the Clinton Pharmacy in 1904. By 1910, F.G. Bobo had opened a new restaurant in the old Candy Kitchen store, but it apparently didn’t last very long. Other Clinton restaurants included the Candy Kitchen Café, Jeans’ Place, The Mary Musgrove Tearoom, The Clinton Café, Pete’s Place, The Hotel Clinton, R. J. Copeland, Jr., The Elite Parlor, and Dad’s Café at the Laurens Bowling Alley.
Beginning in the 1960s, we have several reliable informants. Many of them recall a Texaco station near the old “Industrial Supply” building that was famous for the “Stewart Burger.” This delicacy was described by one alum as “pre-packaged …sandwiches featuring stuff that sort of tasted like meat inserted in sliced buns. I remember Stewart sandwiches didn’t taste particularly good without a whole lot of mustard and pickled relish, but at 1-3 a.m., nobody much cared.” Charlie’s, on Wall Street, was run by Charlie Hollis, and featured great hot dogs, burgers, beer, “scintillating personalities and erudite conversations.” Other favorites during this period included Robert’s Drive In, Whiteford’s, and Ye Olde Malt Shop. Drucilla’s on North Adair provided wonderful Sno-cones, and Sander’s Spur and Buddy Burger provided food along with beer and pinball.
In addition to these eateries, students visited some places noted more for their beverages than their food. Ma Iva’s Tearoom in Laurens was one of these. The ceiling was covered with either old newspapers or egg cartons, and it was “popular with off-duty millhands, there were lots of rednecks, white socks and Blue Ribbon beer there, along with the misguided Blue Hose. And a juke box full of great old country music hits, 3 plays for a quarter.” Similar establishments were The Kilt (later the Hound’s Tooth), Morgan’s, and the Purple Pit.
In later decades, students continued to patronize Robert’s and Whiteford’s, and the Stewart Burger was still a popular late-night item, although the Texaco station on I-26 was the place to get them. They also visited the Clinton Café on Musgrove Street, and even the Bailey Hospital vending machines, until the police ran them off. Added to the list were Hamrick’s on North Adair Street, Terry’s Fine Dining (which later became George’s, then Zorba’s, and is now the Parthenon), and Unkie’s Sub Shop on South Broad. According to one informant, “Unkie wore lots of cologne and it seeped over into the subs sometimes! No one minded too much. Unkie’s was open into the wee hours.” The Waffle House was and is a favorite late-night hangout, and at one time was the busiest Waffle House in the U.S. For pizza lovers, there was Pizza Hut and the Pizza Inn, which is now Dempsey’s.
During the 1990s, students and faculty began to gather at Coffee, Eggs-Up & Grille, which used to be the old Huddle House, to enjoy chicken pot pies and omelets. Hickory Hills Barbecue and Wise’s Barbecue are good for Saturday morning “recovery meals,” South China (beside Bi-Lo) has a good, inexpensive lunch, and Michele’s Grill (formerly Earl’s EZ Mart), is a great place for a “meat and three.” Current students also chow down at El Jalisco, Steamer’s, and the Jacob’s Highway Study Club.
(Thanks to the following for contributing to this story: Randy Randall ‘75, Dan Hartley ‘69, Bob Staton ‘68, Holbrook Raynal ‘70, Chris Bates ’86, Mitchell Spearman ’03 Robert Cook ’06 and Forrest Adair.)