Starting in 1896, the students at Luther College began a Boarding Club to feed their fellow classmates.
In June of 1896, a small number of students got together and wrote a constitution for the Luther College Boarding Club. Afterwards they elected the first set of officers for the club setting the job precedent for the years to come. At the top was the manager who was in charge of the hirings and firings as well as the general overseer. Next came the treasurer who collected the students fees and paid the bills, after which came the buyer who was in charge of buying the food from wholesalers and Decorah businesses. Finally there were two to three directors who met with the other officers to determine menu and policy. The first officers were as follows: Manager - H. J. Wein; Treasurer - Oscar Strom; Buyer - Ola Ordal; an added Secretary - C. M. Hallanger; and the board of directors - Chr. Thompson, J.M. Peterson, K.M. Hagestad (Chips, 1896). The average cost per week was $1.30 (Chips, 1897).
As any look through the Luther College Chips will show, the Boarding Club received a flood of support from the faculty and Decorah businesses. Each donation was marked by a thank you posted in Chips. Some examples are apples from Rev. V. Koren, as well as buns and butter from Rev. M. Borge (Chips, 1898). Some faculty would even donate food in honor of certain events, e.g. Prof. T. E. Thompson providing the boarding club with ice cream on the arrival of a new baby girl (Chips, 1909). One notable donation was from George Lommen, a Luther graduate and classmate of Pres. C. K. Preus, who donated a 175-pound reindeer for Thanksgiving dinner. Then living in Nome, Alaska working as a lawyer and partner in a reindeer business, his mother was the first housekeeper of the boarding club when it began in the basement of Main (Chips, 1917).
Elections were held on during chapel in the early years of the club before being moved to Saturday afternoons. When the Boarding Club started, these elections were moments of great oration from the students because officer positions came with several benefits. These included free board, free laundry, line-crashing privileges, free coffee, cream instead of milk, and $5 a month (Chips, 1962). However as the years went on, these elections lost much of their competition as only one student would run for each office losing the “high-flowing outburst of oratory” that had previously been common (Chips, 1913).
Until 1917, the Boarding Club was located in the basement of the Main building. It was lost during the fire of the first Main building and rebuilt into the plan of the second building. In 1908 there was also a fire in the club's bakery, southwest of the Main building. Some damage was done to part of the interior, some flour, and a heating box (Chips, 1908). Improvements were made with the aid of student fund raising and by 1920 the fee was up to $16 a month (Chips, 1975). However this location soon proved inadequate for the growing number of Luther students.
A new building was soon built, named Loyalty Hall, and dedicated on Dec. 20, 1917. The entire student body and faculty were invited to the first dinner held in the new dining facility. Over 200 people were served a six-course dinner put together by Boarding Club management and the superintendent of cuisine, Miss Marie Stephenson (Chips, 1917). The building was paid for by month assessments on the members of the Boarding Club. Not long after this, in 1932, the school took formal control over from the students.
In 1936 co-education came to Luther college but it did not come easily. During the years before, the female members of the Decorah College for Women, while allowed to participate in most college activities, were not allowed into the Boarding Club, a males only area. In order to placate the women, they were given a small lounge area in the Main building with very little furniture and were allowed to bring their own food (Chips, 1972).
By the end of the 1960s a new building had been built, the Centennial Union (now the Dahl Centennial Union), which for the first time since World War II could accommodate all the Luther students for meals at one time. Also added was a small cafe called Dante's for a more informal, lounge setting. This marked the official end of the Boarding Club, although the argument could be made that it ended when the college took control in 1932.
June 1896, Vol. 13, No. 6, pg. 83-84
June 1897, Vol. 14, No. 6, pg. 81-82
Sept. 1898, Vol 15, No. 7, pg. 110
Sept. 1906, Vol. 23 No. 7, pg. 101, 181
1908, Vol. 26, No. 4, pg. 45, 69
1909, Vol. 26, No. 8, pg. 78, 178
Feb. 1913, Vol. 30, No. 2, pg. 101
Jan. 1917, Vol. 34, No. 1, pg. 29, 31
Oct. 12, 1962, Vol. 80, No. 5, pg. 5
Nov. 10, 1972, Vol. 90, No. 8, pg. 3-4
May 16, 1975, Vol. 92, No. 25, pg. 6