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Bradley Hilltopics

Fall 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 4

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Taste Timeline . . .

Gibben's Pharmacy1930s Drugstores seemed to grace almost every corner in the West Bluff neighborhood surrounding Bradley Polytechnic Institute. Best & Jordan, Bass’ Drug, and Gibben’s Pharmacy all had lunch counters. The favorite meeting spot for Marion Putnam Bohner ’38 and friends was Gibben’s, known to students as Gibbie’s. “We would slip into a booth between and after classes,” the Peoria native recalls.

A lack of money didn’t stop students from having a good time. While her friends usually sipped on a Coca-Cola, Bohner rarely ordered a beverage. “There was never a problem with us lingering and not buying more.” Pharmacist Paul Gibbens, nicknamed Gibbie, operated a business that catered to Bradley students. From his storefront at Bradley Avenue and University, the Purdue graduate sold textbooks, filled prescriptions, and supervised the busy soda fountain.

Hunt’s Drive-in was another place to see friends, according to Bohner. “When you went on a date, that was the ultimate,” she reminisces. Popular menu items in the ’30s were lime freezes, hamburgers, and ice cream cones.

Nearby, Kramer’s had been established in 1932. Students could choose from a vast sandwich menu. A lettuce and tomato sandwich (no bacon) and the grilled frankfurters were a fraction of the cost of a pricey triple-decker clubhouse sandwich. Sandwiches of sugar-cured ham were a specialty. “Ades” could be ordered in lemon, orange, or lime, plus there was a dizzying array of flavors for deluxe sodas and sundaes.

For “home-cooked” meals, The Tech Café on Main Street was popular among the college crowd. For years, the proprietress, Mrs. C.E. Johnson, offered student dinners, short orders, and special Sunday dinners.

1940s The late Robert Morgan ’34 led a group of Bradley alumni whose goal in 1939 was to give students something they had never had—a student union for campus. According to the Bradley Tech newspaper, the Wigwam was decorated “along the lines of a national park lodge with the Indian motif in keeping with Peoria’s tradition and the Bradley Braves.” Its soda fountain, the Tepee, quickly caught on as a favorite meeting place for students. The Wigwam also featured a lounge with a Victrola phonograph, radio, and ping pong.

Converted to barracks for soldiers during World War II, the “Wig” was moved to the basement of the horology building, Westlake Hall. Students called their new hangout the “foxhole.”

The WigwamCoinciding with the University’s 50th anniversary in 1947, the Wigwam was moved back to its former quarters, this time with more space upstairs for the popular Tepee. With a malt-shop atmosphere, students and soldiers could meet for a soft drink or a malt, burgers, or to sample Sealtest ice cream’s flavor of the month. A jukebox and smooth floor set the stage for dancing. Heartier meals were served downstairs in the cafeteria, decorated with chandeliers made from old wagon wheels.

Off campus, students continued to frequent Hunt’s and Kramer’s. Inside seating was added to Kramer’s after World War II. Kane Drug at Main and University was another popular spot for meeting and eating.

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Photographs courtesy Special Collections Center, Bradley University

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