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(Re)Introducing the CSUN Snacketeria

The University Archives and Digital Collections in the University Library house a complete run of the campus newspaper, the Daily (and Summer) Sundial. A lot has happened in CSUN’s 64 years, and for some things our only record of them exists there. While that will hopefully change, for now let’s get (re)acquainted with the CSUN Snacketeria. 

The word “Snacketeria” was actually only used once, in an article in the Daily Sundial in November 1965. Throughout most of its years it was referred to as the Sierra South rooftop cafeteria and students in the 1980s-1990s called it “The Roof.” North facing view from the Sierra Rooftop Cafeteria after strong winds, October 16, 1968

The first permanent classroom building on the CSUN campus, originally dubbed “Classroom Building No. 1,” was completed in 1963 and consists of what is now Sierra Hall, Sierra Tower, and Jerome Richfield Hall. At that time, a rooftop cafeteria was planned for one of the three-story buildings with seating planned for 1,200, according to an article published in the December 5, 1961 issue of the Daily Sundial. And so it was, on the roof of the southern-most building (formerly Sierra Hall South, currently Sierra Hall.) The “Food With a View” (Daily Sundial, July 1, 1964) opened for business in the spring of 1964 with the installation of seven vending machines dispensing varied fare from spaghetti to cigarettes (gotta get the priorities right, right?) Accompanying those vending machines were ten tables. Soda machines were added next, making CSUN a Pepsi campus.  

An expansion, slated for a fall 1964, was to include a sandwich bar and grill. By 1965 capacity was up to 500 and the rooftop cafeteria had become “a sampling area” where Cafeteria Food Services tried out new ideas, like made-to-order soft pretzels. Later innovations followed, including kosher food options in 1969 and pinball machines in 1973.  

By the spring of 1974 a rumor that the Snacketeria would close was circulating on campus. This was rebutted in an April 23 Daily Sundial article with a quote from director of University Food Services, Lew Herbst, “The area will be enclosed, not closed.” This enclosure was planned for 1975, and included carpeting and air conditioning. The remodel also called for the removal of vending machines in order to add a small “satellite bookstore.” Herbst also explained why they wanted to enclose the space that had such a remarkable view, “We lose about 2 per cent of our sales in the winter when it’s cold out. The wind blows through the unenclosed areas, and in the summer it is too hot and uncomfortable.” (Sundial, December 2, 1975) Construction was delayed and ultimately uncompleted. 

While the California State Legislature considered mandating non-smoking sections in food service locations throughout the state, CSUN was ahead of the curve. The Sierra Hall South rooftop cafeteria already had a non-smoking section, until the summer of 1979 when it was vandalized and had to be temporarily closed. Employees of on-campus food service locations received a number of requests for a non-smoking section while they awaited a new non-smoking sign to be made for the Snacketeria. The biggest question appears to have been which should be bigger, smoking or non-smoking? (Daily Sundial, February 7, 1980

The September 23, 1998 edition of the Daily Sundial indicates that “The Roof” was shut down immediately following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. An editorial piece waxes nostalgic using words like “convenient,” “ambiance,” “quiet,” “view,” but also “salad bar,” and “Taco Bell.” The author also states that “The Roof” was initially slated to be rebuilt until it was deemed unsafe. Several factors contributed to this decision, notably inadequate fire suppression systems. The editorial notes plans to “build a new food court located near the Sierra Complex sometime in the future” but also that “The Roof” was a CSUN landmark that could be “reconstructed and reopened.” 

In the summer of 1999 campus reconstruction following the earthquake was still ongoing, and work on Sierra Hall was nearing completion. The Summer Sundial notes a Facilities Planning reconstruction bulletin that stated "The Roof" would either be reconstructed or that food service would be relocated to one of three potential sites in or around the Sierra Complex. The result was the Sierra Center, at its current location, which opened in the fall of 2003. (Summer Sundial July 14-18, 2003

“Bomb threat forces evacuation of cafeteria on Sierra South,” November 21, 1984
Two rooftop employees, Louise Mason and Grace Harrison, in the kitchen, October 14, 1981
Campus dining options, September 4, 1980
Rooftop activities,  March 19, 1982
North facing view from the Sierra Rooftop Cafeteria after strong winds, October 16, 1968
Soft opening of vending machines at the Rooftop, January 7, 1964

Read more Peek in the Stacks blog entries