looking back

old black and white photograph of students eating in the old Swarthmore dining hall
friends historical library
Until Sharples opened in 1964, the College’s main dining area was on the first floor of Parrish.
GONE ARE THE DAYS of austere dining at Swarthmore, when formal dress was required and waitstaff offered table service. Until Sharples opened in 1964, the College’s main dining area was on the first floor of Parrish. As the College celebrates the opening of the new Dining and Community Commons (DCC), we reflect on some of Swarthmore’s earlier dining experiments and entrepreneurs.

In 1971, an enigmatic figure referred to in the archives only as “Sandwichman” operated on campus, slinging ham-and-swiss and roast beef sandwiches as well as hoagies and cheesesteaks for under a dollar each. Students had to call him on his landline and leave a message if he wasn’t home. Hopefully they called early, as his advertisement indicated he struggled to meet (meat) demand.

A 1973 lunch menu laments that inflation has increased the cost of meat, and a patty melt — the most expensive sandwich on the menu — now costs a whole dollar. The menu also boasts a new item, a 30-cent burrito, and lets students know they can have these, and many other foodstuffs, delivered to them between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. nightly.

A story from the May 13, 1973 issue of The Sunday Bulletin revealed that cheese fondue and roast duck used to be available for purchase on campus, as well as a treat called “amoeba cookies,” described only as “brownie-like.”

The story also let readers know that “natural foods,” like yogurt and salads, were now standard fare in the cafeteria.

In 1987, a Sharples renovation was completed, and students were invited to dine at a discount (for $2 instead of $3) at the grand reopening on September 15. The event advertised unlimited seconds, a new grill area, increased vegetarian options, and ice cream in both hard and soft serve varieties.

Though the DCC has replaced Sharples as the primary dining room on campus, Sharples will remain a space for students to gather and build community in its newest iteration.