Monday Menu: Warm memories and a side of cereal.

March 9, 2009


Everyone has to eat.

At Milligan College in the 1980s (1988 in the above photo), everyone had to eat in the dining hall on the first floor of Sutton Hall. There really wasn’t any other choice. With only 500-600 students back then, it was simple: if you lived in the dorms, you were automatically on the meal plan. Just show your student ID at the door as you enter, and go get your food.

id1Here is a picture of my student ID. It barely survived all four years (thanks to a lot of careful ironing, and to a couple lucky times of finding it just before I had to have it replaced for being lost). I’m not sure how anyone could tell it was me in the photo after the first year or so, but I put the little stickers on it each semester, and they bought me access to all-I-could-eat college food. Whoohooo!

Much like the lobby of our dorm, the dining hall was a central part of campus life. Instead of MTV, though, we watched each other. And what a show it could be! Some of my favorite memories…

  • My sophomore year, when Pioneer Food Service first took over the cafeteria… They brought in a cereal dispenser that was made of plexiglass and held about eight different kinds of cereal, which replaced the prior method of having several large cereal boxes sitting on a table. Suddenly, all you had to do was pull a handle, and WHOOSH! out would come your Cocoa Puffs. Whether you had a bowl or not. And, they just kept coming until you pushed the handle back in place!  Needless to say, there was an adjustment period that involved a lot of cereal on the floor.
  • Stacking the salt and pepper shakers on top of each other, then seeing how far you could tip the stack before the top one fell off. Despite overwhelming evidence that you could not turn them all the way sideways, trials were constantly being conducted to prove otherwise.
  • Waiting until the person next to you was in the midst of saying grace, then leaning over and whispering “tell the Big Guy I said hello.”
  • Steak night once a week… all fancied up, with candles on the tables. Who knew that powdered coffee creamer was flammable?! We did!
  • Turning your soft drink over really quickly onto your tray, so that almost all the liquid stay trapped up in the tumbler. I don’t know what the purpose was here, other than to make more of a mess for the people back in the dishwashing line… but it gave us something to do.
  • The big toaster! You put your bread in the top, and then watch it come out the bottom, magically toasted. And sometimes it would get caught in the back somewhere, and start to catch fire.
  • One incident of steak sauce being set out in a bowl along beachparty86with all the ice cream sundae toppings. It did kind of look like chocolate sauce…
  • Freshman year when we threw a beach party. Blankets instead of tables and chairs… sunglasses and hawaiian shirts… whoohooo!

Probably the best memory of the dining hall, though, is just the memory of seeing everyone there. If your best friends were majoring in completely different areas of study than you were, you knew you could catch up with them in the cafeteria at chow time. Freshmen, seniors, musicians, scientists, writers… we all picked up those brown trays and went through the line together to get our spaghetti. We all kept track of who was sitting with whom, and who put ketchup on their scrambled eggs. And we all poured our hearts out to our classmates in those conversations that are best had while fidgeting with those carrots that we didn’t want anyway.

Nowadays, I believe the dining plan is very different. I think it involves a limited number of meals in the cafeteria, with more students eating at the Student Union or even off campus as part of their normal routine. I just hope that everyone is spending at least part of every day sliding their trays along an entrée line, filling amber colored plastic tumblers with soft drinks, and occasionally spilling Captain Crunch on the floor. It just wouldn’t be right any other way.


  1. Wow! What a flood of memories after reading this! I am honored to be in both of the pictures you posted. In honor of Milligan I shall be serving tonight’s dinner off brown trays and we’ll be drinking from amber colored tumblers.

  2. Poor Marty,did someone steal his tray,and food ,and drink? I used to replenish the milk in that little machine that had the lever that you lift up.After one time Dave didn’t let me do it again.

  3. The cafeteria was really the heart of MC. I am sad to read that the meal plan thing is different now! Some of my fondest memories include instantly becoming a coffee drinker the second I walked into Sutton; eating grapefruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner and rarely getting sick (and also staying skinny); on the other hand, eating granola on top of chocolate ice cream for dinner; those steak and shrimp nights!!; Boston cream pie; pecan pie. Also, we used to make a lot of night trips into Sutton to fill our nightly eating habits. Eats were especially good right before a banquet. AND the white coffee cups served very well as a water bowl for my gerbil!

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