From the Archives: The Quest for “Bob’s Place”

This week, dear reader, I present to you a mystery. Don’t worry, no one was murdered.

On Thursday, I was indexing as per usual when I noticed that “From the Corner,” a weekly column from the 1963-1964 school year written by Tom Crum, often includes mentions of “Bob’s Place.” I think I’d noticed it before, but it really struck me on Thursday and I decided to try and figure out what “Bob’s Place” was. Here’s an example of how “Bob’s Place” was mentioned (from The Trail, 1963-1964, no. 6, 6 November 1963):


I started by trying to figure out if it was mentioned anywhere else in The Trail and other publications. It did show up in one letter to the editor in the October 16, 1963 issue:


The people who wrote this letter were both writers for The Trail at the time, so I briefly thought that it could have been a group or meeting that was specifically for members of The Trail. But if that was the case, wouldn’t it be mentioned elsewhere in The Trail?

I word-searched several issues of The Trail to find out if others had talked about it. However, “From the Corner” was the only place it ever came up, and it never popped up before or after 1963-1964. So, it wasn’t a column in The Trail or an established school institution. I began to think that maybe Tom Crum made it up as a rhetorical device. But that didn’t quite fit.

After rereading every article where Bob’s Place was mentioned, I began to think that it might have been an informal student discussion group that took place somewhere called Bob’s Place in Tacoma, like a coffee shop or a barber shop. I did a quick Google search, and there was (and still is) a coffee shop called Bob’s Java Jive, so I began thinking that it could have been a student group that gathered there and talked about current events. I couldn’t figure out how to confirm it, though.

This past weekend was Summer Reunion Weekend for the alumni, and we had a couple of open houses here in the Archives & Special Collections. I seized the opportunity to ask everyone who was at the school in the 1963-1964 year about Bob’s Place, but no one knew anything about it. I was getting desperate.

I talked to John Finney ’67, who had no idea at all and recommended that I call Bill Baarsma ‘64, the editor of The Trail for 1963-1964 and former Mayor of Tacoma. I called Bill on Monday, who gave me two possibilities: it was either a group that met at Bob’s Java Jive (as I suspected) or a group of people involving Bob Sprague ’64, a basketball player. He couldn’t be sure and recommended I call Tom Crum himself to ask about it (why didn’t I think of that first?!).

Finally, I called Tom Crum yesterday and had a brief yet pleasant conversation with him. I was burning with curiosity at this point but tried to contain my enthusiasm as I asked him “So what was Bob’s Place anyway?”

The answer is simple: it was a group of people that sat around in a specific corner of the Student Union Building smoking and talking about whatever they wanted. This group did in fact involve Bob Sprague, and the corner came to be known jokingly as “Bob’s Place”.

It took a lot of people and a lot of time, but I finally nailed down what Bob’s Place was. What a cool tidbit of trivia about the students in the 1963-1964 school year!

By: Jillian Zeidner

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