Food Riots

Now, I’m not sharing this bit of Wofford’s history to encourage anyone, especially today’s students, to do anything in particular.  In fact, let me say this at the outset: please don’t start a food fight in Burwell or anywhere else if you read this.  Or as they say on TV, don’t try this at home.

So, with that disclaimer, we begin.  I came across an article in the files today about a food fight in Burwell from 1970.  There’s a lot of legends about food fights in the cafeteria in the 1960s – but this article helps untangle some of them.  It’s from the Old Gold and Black of Feb. 27, 1970.

It began at 5:25 pm Wednesday [February 25] with the harsh clank of knife against tray in the dining hall as an unusually large group of students sat down to enjoy steak night.

Suddenly a piece of bread flew through the air, then it was joined by grapefruit, potatoes, and then by glasses, plates, and trays

It was over as quickly as it had begun, but not before nearly $1,000 worth of damage had been done and a tremendous mess had been made.  One student had a minor injury but was treated and released at General Hospital [now Spartanburg Medical Center].

And as of Wednesday night, the administration was out looking for the instigators of the fracas, the first real dining hall difficulty at Wofford since the Great Food Riot of 1965.

At that time, Wofford students made national news by a spectacular food throwing exhibition and later proceeded to Converse only to be turned back by police dogs.

Unlike that riot, which appeared to be a spontaneous reaction to a bad meal, this one was obviously preplanned and seemed to merely reflect the desire for students to let off steam.  It also ended very quickly when the crackle of broken glass was heard.

“There didn’t seem to be as much an attitude of anger as there was of just plain horseplay,” one student said.  “It started out as just a way to end boredom but it got out of hand.  Nobody will condone the vandalism that came right at the end of the food-throwing.”

The story made the local paper as well, with much the same description, and comparisons to the 1965 food riot, which the paper noted had “made Walter Cronkite” before it was turned back by the police dogs of the SPD.  And it concluded with the line “They just don’t make food riots like they used to.”

By Phillip Stone

I've been the archivist of Wofford College and the South Carolina United Methodist since 1999. I'll be sharing college, Methodist, and local history, documents, photographs, and other interesting stories on this blog, which I've been keeping since December 2007.