The Years of the Rat

By Magazine Staff  |  Photographs courtesy of Loyola/Notre Dame Library Archives
                                  and Special Collections

The hair of a dog can come from a Rat.

Just ask the alumni who recall the days when Loyola students and faculty enjoyed beer together at the campus Rathskeller.

During that brief stretch in Maryland’s history—1974-84—when the drinking age was 18, the campus featured a pub known as “Mother’s” or “the Rat.” Students and faculty gathered at the campus hub between or after classes, and some alumni recall socializing there long into the night.

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Although the Rathskeller opened at 11 a.m. on weekdays, no alumni recalled (at least not on the record) being at the pub that early—“only when we got locked in the night before,” joked Brian Sullivan, ’78, MBA ’84.

“You could go in the pub anytime of the day or night for a beer and a sandwich,” said Dave Belz, ’78, affiliate instructor of writing. “It seemed like such a civilized, adult and rational thing to us. Having a pub on campus for students obviated the need to carouse along York Road and to sneak around because alcohol wasn’t contraband.”

The first Rathskeller was located in the basement of Millbrook House—now Ignatius House, the Jesuit residence. In 1975, students spearheaded the effort to move the pub to the basement of the Andrew White Student Center where it hosted disco nights, mixers and “thirst parties.”

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Tom Krisanda, ’76, was the new location’s first student manager. “I was able to persuade Fr. Sellinger to sign off on a ‘Class C’ liquor license, which allowed us to purchase beer and light wine direct from the wholesaler.”

The late Rev. Joseph Sellinger, S.J., Loyola’s president at the time, made another decision several alumni recall: the beer served at the Rat.

“Frank Sellinger, Fr. Sellinger’s brother, worked for Anheuser-Busch. While he was there, the official campus beer was Budweiser,” recalled Jane Curley Hogge, ’83, now Loyola’s director of annual giving. “When Frank left Anheuser-Busch, the beer became Schlitz. The quality of the two beers was not even close. It was somewhat of a sad day on campus, but we all understood.”

Pub as Hub

None of the alumni who shared their memories had much to say about the food, which one graduate described as “putrid” food served in plastic baskets. “They had burgers, fries, just basic stuff,” said Steve Collins, ’80. “We weren’t exactly culinary experts then.”

Alumni recall that the pub in the Andrew White Student Center could seat about 12 people across the bar in addition to seating at tables—with a separate dining room for faculty on the other side of double doors. Music was often played, but the Rat didn’t offer much dancing space—and, for the most part, students didn’t come to dance.

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Steve Polimeni, ’78, recalled watching soap operas with friends over $2 pitchers of beer at the pub where residents and commuters found common ground outside class.

The Rathskeller was part of many students’ daily routines—and at least once saved a student’s day. One alum remembered how after a long night watching football, he woke up and realized he had less than an hour before his yearbook picture would be taken. He stopped for a quick morning drink at the Rat and made it through the photo shoot with a smile.

If the Shoe Fits

Although one event is not well-documented in the campus archives and memories are admittedly blurred, the Rathskeller may lay claim to one historic first—the shoe beer.

“I’ve heard of them since then, but this was the first documented instance of them. For five cents, they’d fill up your shoe with beer,” Collins said. Asked if he ever tasted beer out of a shoe, Collins laughed. “I tried to wear cowboy boots.”

Share your memories

Were you a regular at Loyola’s Rathskeller? Did theses memories spark others you hadn’t thought of for a while?

We invite you to share your memories as comments below, or email them—with photos if you have them—to magazine@loyola.edu.

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Greg Hook, '81 | August 18, 2009

    I was fortunate that the Rathskeller was in operation during my four years at Loyola. However, I am afraid that Jane Hogge’s memory is somewhat hazy. Although Fr. Sellinger cared about Loyola and the students greatly, blood was thicker than water. Frank Sellinger was in fact the president of Schlitz Brewing Co., not Anheuser-Busch as commented by Ms. Hogge. I still vividly remember the groans and protests when they switched to Schlitz after Frank became that brewery’s president in the late 70’s. I can however agree with Ms. Hogge on one point – the quality of the two beers was not even close.

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