Cora resided on the third floor of our rooming house on Normal Street. Like other “older and wiser” residents of this and adjacent houses, she seemingly knew a little bit about everything — such as popular places to eat, drink and make merry; where to go to escape the mounting rigors of academia; where to go and what to do on dates; and where others of your incline were likely to hang out.
Cora didn’t attend SMS, although she probably did at one time. Instead, like so many others living in the area surrounding the 40-acre campus, she rented a room on a weekly basis and worked nearby or downtown.
Cora came to mind recently when an alum from the 1950s asked if the Cat and the Fiddle eatery still existed on south Glenstone Avenue. No, the fiddling cat on the colorful neon sign fiddled his finale some years back. In response to other questions, I had to inform the alum that the Shady Inn no longer exists, nor does Hamby’s, the Pig ’n Bun, Half-a-Hill, Dent’s, The Italian Villa, Coleys, the Garden Room in the Kentwood, the El-Var Tea Room and on and on.
Casper’s, a popular favorite of the time, still exists. It has moved from Glenstone to west Walnut Street, but yes, Casper’s famous chili still oozes over the top and down the sides of the bowl.
Cora, of course, was familiar with all of these eateries. Her pick was the Shady Inn. It was that special place for a really important date, she pointed out. If you really want to impress her, she stressed, “order the sirloin for two.”
Her favorite place to watch a movie was the Mozark Theater on the southwest corner of the Public Square. For a 15-cent ticket you could always sit through a double feature (second- or third-run), and yes, you could even sit through both features two or three times. Springfield, at the time, had plenty of other movie houses. Downtown were the Electric, Gillioz and the Landers theaters, while the Mulliken and the Granada were on the north side.
Yes, there was plenty to do off-campus. Bowling, billiards, skating, Doling Park, Phelps Grove Park, Fassnight Park, Brebner Walker’s popular dance studio and on and on. All were favorites.
Most importantly, Cora advised, “Find your place to hang out, especially in the evenings.” She once dated an SMS student whose favorite meeting place was the Music Bungalow. If you attended SMS before the 1960s, you’re familiar with the Music Bungalow. A former residence, it was located south and east of the “A” Building at the site of what is now Pummill Hall. It was as popular with the music students as the Home Ec House on National Avenue was to the home economics students.
As for me, favored out-of-class hangouts were the Standard and Ozarko offices located near the south entrance of the “A” Building auditorium. Cora was right. Those small offices became almost a home-away-from home for me. There were many favored student spots — the fieldhouse, the north and south libraries, the student lounge in the “A” Building, the College Inn and on and on. There was even a regular meeting place for many “under the clock” on the main floor of the “A” Building.
And then there’s the most popular of all off-campus spots: the College Inn. Cora warned against eating chili at the C.I. on consecutive days. If you eat chili at the C.I. on Monday night, she advised you eat chili at the Just Rite Cafe on Tuesday, at the Hav-a Cup on Wednesday and at Charlie Riley’s Varsity Drug on Thursday. “Remember, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet,” she said.
Alas, none of those eateries is still in existence. Come to think of it, probably few of those who followed her dietary advice are either.
Don Payton, ’50, is former information services director at Missouri State University.