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Don't you wish we still could...

  By Blake Rasmussen '05  

Eat at Ole’s Ham & Egger at 4 a.m. on a Saturday?

If ever a restaurant qualified as a greasy spoon, this was it. Located in the Marion town square back in the ’70s , Ole’s Ham & Egger was a favorite late-night spot to “soak up the spirit and also soak up the spirits,” as Allan Ruter ’76 so eloquently put it.

Like Cornell today, Mount Vernon lacked any 24-hour dining establishments. The Ole’s Ham & Egger run was its day’s Perkins run.

Alums describe it as something out of “Twin Peaks” or a David Lynch film, complete with ’40s décor and mutant-like waitresses who would only serve you if they felt like it.

“One night my friend, Carol, started washing dishes and giving orders to the cook,” said Ruter, “and he wasn’t even fazed by it.”

Students with a strong enough constitution would trek down Old Mount Vernon Road, up 13 to 7th Avenue in Marion at all hours of the night and morning to sample some of the greasiest food ingestible by normal human stomachs.

Taste the pies at Mac’s Sugar Bowl Café?

Located in the middle of downtown where the Hilltop Bar and Grill stands today, Mac’s was a favorite of students in the ’40s and ’50s, serving family-style food, ice cream, and some of the best-loved pies in the area.

“I had my 50th reunion recently,” said Dick McKeen ’55, who worked at Mac’s and whose father was the cook and owner, “and a half-dozen girls came up to me and told me how much they loved those pies.”

Mac’s flourished early on, as it was very popular with GIs returning from World War II. It served such notables as poet Carl Sandburg and actor John Carradine, as well as serving breakfast to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra every time they came to town for the May Music Festival.

“It was a very, very busy highway restaurant,” said McKeen.

But when the highway went away, so did Mac’s business, and in 1954 it sold its last pie.

Hang out at Professor Lacey’s house?

Few professors, at Cornell or elsewhere, have garnered the admiration and accolades of his students and peers as Stephen Lacey ’65, an English professor of the highest regard.

The parties at Professor Lacey’s house were legendary in their own time. He held court with the English Club, practiced Shakespeare with students, and seared himself in the memories of nearly every student who had the privilege to learn and love English under him. When he passed away in 2000, the outpouring of grief and remembrance was testament to what Professor Lacey and his house meant to students. Stephen was “flamboyant, colorful, full of heart, sarcasm and wit and love,” as Jeanette Rattner ’83 wrote in his memory.

Students remember his house as a college away from campus, a place where dinner parties were not with a professor, but with a friend, and a place they always looked forward to revisiting.

These words, though, can hardly do Professor Lacey or his house justice. For a look at more words on the man and his influence, visit and see what truly inspired people.

...And Finally

Gone are the days of Bob’s in Lisbon and Joe’s International Airport in Mount Vernon, both once the mainstays of Cornell social life.

Back in the early ’60s, Cornell was a much different place. Women’s dorms were run by strict proctors with harsh penalties for drinking. Men’s dorms were more relaxed, but nonetheless fell under the college-wide no-drinking rule.

Since Mount Vernon bars were too close to home, Bob’s offered the nearest safe watering hole.

“Monday evenings after the social group meetings saw a large concentration of both men and women,” said R. K. Scott ’63. “Since cars were verboten for those with financial aid, the few autos available would be packed liked stuffing a telephone booth, and off to Lisbon went the repressed fun-seekers.”

Joe’s, which was sold and renamed several years ago, was a home a little closer to home for Cornellians whose fun was a little less repressed.

“Joe’s was frequented many nights, and had juke box selections that much to our amazement never wore out. (Can you say, ‘Fishin’ in the Dark’?),” wrote Jean Swearingen Wittwer ’91. “I recall there was a plant that somehow defied all laws of biology and survived in the Joe’s women’s restroom.”


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