Many parents deny their children sugary cereals on a daily basis. Perhaps for this reason, the wide variety of cereal available in the dining halls has long been popular among the students, who are no longer under their parents’ watchful eyes. In February 1983, a couple dozen students protested the lack of Cap’n Crunch, the sugary cereal of choice, during dinner at South Dining Hall. This spurred Lee Brossard and his sophomore class running mate to make a campaign promise to hold a Cap’n Crunch party if elected.
The sophomore class officers initially contacted Quaker Oats for just a few boxes of cereal for their party; however, Quaker Oats was intrigued by the idea. After some back and forth between Quaker Oats and the Notre Dame Administration, a week-long Cap’n Crunch festival was scheduled, which included a visit by the Cap’n himself, treasure hunts, and cereal eating contests.
This was one of the first major corporate-sponsored events at Notre Dame. Notre Dame is often approached by corporations to hold such events and the administration often denies such attempts. Crunch Fest became a reality because the students were so enthusiastic about the idea. This particular event itself was reigned in a bit as Fr. John Van Wolvlear, President of Student Affairs, eliminated Quaker Oats’ original idea to have the Cap’n bid the students farewell from a boat-shaped float in the Stadium during the USC game. No events were scheduled for that Saturday home football game day, nor was the Stadium a venue for any part of Crunch Fest.
The growing student population in the 1920s created demand for a new dining hall, a place where the entire student body could gather in one place on campus. The result was the South Dining Hall in the space formerly occupied by the Notre Dame Farms on South Quad. Planning for a new facility began around 1925 after the fire of the horse stables.
South Dining Hall was completed in 1927 and soon became an important part of student life at Notre Dame. Previously, students would eat in the refectory in Main Building, in the Badin Hall cafeteria, or at off-campus establishments. The new dining hall would be a place for students to bond in fraternity and a place for guests of the University to dine. In addition to the two wings, there was a cafeteria in the center (the old Oak Room, which was removed during the renovation in the late 1990s), and a faculty dining lounge on the second floor.
In 1928 The Hotel Monthly wrote an incredibly detailed report on the new dining hall at Notre Dame. The page above talks about the methodical lunch hour, with students taking their cues from flashing lights and ringing bells. Student waiters served the students, who were allowed seconds and thirds, if they desired, something that was virtually unheard of at other institutions.
Notre Dame has long used students workers to help with the many tasks in the dining hall to earn money for tuition and room and board. In the 1930s, football players also worked in the dining hall.
Years ago, students were assigned seats. Today, students sit where they please, but as part of human nature, they tend to gravitate to their usual tables. You can often hear students give their friends directions as to where they’ll be sitting once they get through the chaos of the food stations. For instance, “right/right” means the West Hall on the northern end.
According to this 1940 pass, theft of dining hall items could result in suspension or dismissal from the University:
Below was a typical weekly menu for the dining hall around the time it opened in 1927 along with statistics of the daily usages of common items.
“History, Tradition, and the New Dining Hall,” Notre Dame Alumnus, November 1927
“The New Dining Hall, Architecturally,” by Professor Francis Kervick, Notre Dame Alumnus, November 1927 PNDP 10-So-02: “Impressions of University of Notre Dame Dining Halls,” by John Willy, The Hotel Monthly, 1928 CNDS 1/23 GBBY 45F/2067 GNDL 7/38 GSOL 1/10