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The Old Snack Bar serves as a quiet study spot for stu­dents. Nolan Ryan | Col­legian

When entering the Old Snack Bar, stillness per­meates the air. Just a half dozen stu­dents quietly study at the booths on any given day. The silence is jar­ringly dif­ferent from the third floor of the library where the most social stu­dents tend to study. The phrase “You could hear a needle drop” was invented for this place. But the Old Snack Bar was not always like this.

The Knorr Student Center was built in 1964 to act as a student union as a result of increased desire for such a space among the stu­dents. By the 2000s, not as many stu­dents used the building, but the Old Snack Bar still acted as a space for stu­dents to study and hang out.

Ben Liebing ’08 attended Hillsdale toward the end of the Old Snack Bar’s pop­u­larity.

“When I was there, it was used a lot,” he said. “I could tell it was starting to tail off. A lot of the freshmen — a lot of people — still hung out there, but it was on its last legs. There was a certain group of people who would study there, and they would be there all the time.”

At that time, stu­dents ate their meals at the dining hall on the other end of the Knorr Center. They spent lots of their free time in the snack bar, according to Liebing.

“Back in the day, you could smoke in there,” he said. “It became known as the smoking lounge. If you wanted to smoke inside, you could go smoke and study.”

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Classics Eric Hutchinson, who grad­uated from Hillsdale in 2002, also recalls when smoking was allowed in the building.

“The room was often a haze,” he said.

In addition to having the rep­u­tation of being a smoking lounge, Liebing also said swing dances were held there every wek, just as they are today. But one tra­dition that has been lost through the years were student con­certs called “coffee houses.”

These con­certs were open mic nights for stu­dents and their bands. According to Liebing, who par­tic­i­pated in the “coffee houses,” stu­dents would sign up to perform in shows fea­turing several dif­ferent bands. Some­times, he said, stu­dents would host con­certs during big events such as Parents Weekend or Home­coming, at which times about 100 people might attend.

Hutchinson said when he was a student, the Knorr was the only “non-classroom building on campus.”

“Any­thing where you needed a mod­erate amount of space on campus was going to happen there,” he said.

In addition to the con­certs, the Old Snack Bar used to have a jukebox, according to Public Ser­vices Librarian Linda Moore.

“The snack bar served the same function as AJ’s does now,” she said in an email. “It’s prin­cipal function was to give stu­dents a place to eat when the cafe­teria was closed.”

While “coffee houses” are a thing of the past, stu­dents still gather to perform music in the snack bar on a regular basis. Inter­Varsity Min­istries runs Soma, a time of Christian worship through song every Thursday night. Nied­feldt Head Res­ident Assistant Alexander Green helps lead these worship nights. The Old Snack Bar is a great place to hold Soma’s worship nights and occa­sional speakers.

“We use the Old Snack Bar because it’s right in the middle of campus and because the Dow Center sup­plies some of our equipment,” he said in an email. “We often have speakers or other events, so it’s great to have the ver­sa­tility of the room whether we need fur­niture or not. Although it is not fancy, it pro­vides a con­ve­nient place to meet. The acoustics in there aren’t half bad, either.”

For Green, he appre­ciates that the room is not too fancy. If any­thing, it enhances the desired atmos­phere.

“The room pro­vides a nice place to gather closely,” he said. “I actually appre­ciate that it doesn’t have any­thing fancy because it helps me to remember that people can worship God in any setting. Paul sang in a jail, why can’t we sing in a snack bar?”

Hutchinson said the snack bar is a much less busy spot these days, but it still serves similar func­tions as it once did.

“It’s much more of a niche spot than it used to be,” he said. “People would often stay in there all night and camp out. You could go in there any hour of the night and find giant stacks of books on tables. It was one of the big non-library study spots on campus.”

Hillsdale’s campus has changed through the years, but the snack bar has held a similar role in the daily lives of stu­dents. It has weathered through the college’s history. Hutchinson recalled one time he was sitting in the lobby outside of the snack bar, which is now the com­puter lab. It was Sep­tember 11, 2001.

“Pres­ident Larry Arnn came in and briefly talked to everybody,” he said of the fateful day. “He announced that classes would not be can­celled, and we would keep doing what we were doing.”

Amidst the changes of campus and the larger national culture, Hillsdale stu­dents are still doing what they do: spending time in the snack bar studying, singing, and dancing, but cer­tainly not smoking.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    what about vaping? juuling?