Skip To Main Content

The Evolution of a Beloved Student Haunt

Roderick Beebe and a photo of when the Beebe first opened
Recent photo of tabor students and faculty playing on a Foosball Table
Student in the Beebe
Students congregated around a digital game table
Black and white photo of students working in the Beebe
Black and white photo of a student playing pool in the Beebe
More recent photo of students playing pool in the Beebe
Students playing on a Digital Game Table
The Evolution of a Beloved Student Haunt

The Beebe is such an enshrined institution that it is easy to think it has existed forever. It hasn’t. But the story of its origin and evolution demonstrates why it is such a special part of Tabor’s history and identity.

“The store forms an inseparable part of our school life,” one boy wrote in a 1943 scrapbook. “A little food, after sports or evening study hall, in the form of a frappe, a soda, or a sundae, will be remembered always as one of the high spots of a Tabor day.” In old photographs, the store has the look and feel of a classic ice cream parlor. Coca-Cola, the all-American libation enjoyed by wartime youth, flowed from a sparkling fountain. Student employees in spiffy white jackets served frappes and floats to their classmates. Candy bars and cigarettes were available for purchase—smoking was allowed in designated areas on campus until it was banned in the 1980s—and students basked in the simple pleasure of each other’s company.

Over the next two decades, the store flourished.

“The school store plays a very important part in the students’ life at Tabor,” a writer for The Log noted in 1960. “It is growing increasingly popular as time passes. This year, Tabor is very fortunate to have Mr. and Mrs. Gene Oliveira as proprietors of the store.” The Oliveiras owned the Rocky Nook Grille on Route 6, the current site of Fieldstone Market, and their hospitality experience made everything run more smoothly. 

The one gripe some students had with the store was its location. Trudging to Hoyt on a raw and blustery winter afternoon wasn’t always an enticing proposition. In 1963, Tabor completed construction of the Stone Gymnasium, a three-year project named in honor of former Board Chair Robert G. Stone. Adjacent to the new gym—where the Health Center is located today—was a wood-paneled room designed as a formal lounge and trophy room. When it came time to christen this space, one man seemed particularly worthy. 

Roderick Beebe retired from Tabor in 1962. He dedicated the majority of his adult life to the school, serving in a number of capacities. As a teacher, his primary discipline was ancient history, but he stepped up to fill vacancies in other subjects throughout his career. He was a dedicated administrator with stints as assistant headmaster, athletic director, and superintendent of buildings and grounds. He was also a legendary coach. A towering figure in the rowing world, he took seven Tabor crews to Henley, winning the prestigious English regatta three times. 

The bittersweet occasion of his retirement was marked in the 1962 Fore ’n’ Aft. “Rod Beebe has been associated with Tabor for nearly forty years. The two are inextricably bound together by ties of mutual affection. To many, Rod Beebe is Tabor and we could have no better representative.”

Like its namesake, the new Beebe Lounge was incredibly versatile. It was a coveted meeting spot for student groups, like the Navigators Club, and it doubled as a classroom. Most prominently, it was used to host “athletic teas” after interscholastic competitions. (You can read more about these receptions in “Memorable Meals.”)

While the Beebe operated as an exclusively formal space in its early years, the store continued to function as a more casual hangout. This changed in 1976 when the two were merged into a single student union. Funded partly by a gift from the class of 1976, the store was folded into the Beebe, and the latter’s facilities were upgraded to include a fully-equipped kitchen. The expanded food service now included snacks like burgers, hot dogs, and pizzas, but some students mourned the loss of the Beebe’s propriety.

“The surroundings have been marked by cigarette smoke and empty wrappers. The trophy case has been replaced by a TV, and the once respected room has lost its importance,” an editorial in The Log lamented. “We want to put back some of the distinction lost during the change.”

Most students, however, were thrilled by the new lounge’s potential. The Beebe had been a central but underutilized space, and the absorption of the store gave the student body an opportunity to transform it into a swinging destination. In the years that followed, various student-led initiatives helped realize this vision. 

The Captains Club was a group whose membership consisted of the school’s varsity athletic captains. Their primary function, as described in a 1983 Log article, was “to raise money and buy presents for the school.” Their successful fundraising efforts brought a new grill and television to the Beebe. Student government also played a hand in the Beebe’s emergence as a venerable social hub.

“‘The student council doesn’t do anything’ is a familiar complaint around campus, but if you’ve walked into the Beebe,” a Log journalist wrote in 1984, “you’ll find that complaint to be false.”

Beebe improvements were a pillar of TASC’s agenda that year, and the student government came through. They raised money for four restaurant booths as well as new lighting and sound systems, and they convinced a local bar to donate a pool table. With invested student leadership, the Beebe became a profitable business. More importantly, it flourished as a space where students continued to reap the benefits of a Tabor education. Yes, it was an informal setting far removed from the rigors of academic life, but it provided a space where students could have some of the most formative experiences and interactions of their Tabor careers.

Jonathan Hall ’88 spent four years working in the Beebe as part of the school’s student work program. 

“It was the best time I ever had,” he says. “It was great because we had keys to the grill and would be allowed extra privileges at night after curfew. The benefits included free food while the downside included having to stay late and clean up and always smelling of french fries.”

But even the late shifts weren’t so bad.

“Campus used to have a strict 10 p.m. curfew where everyone had to be in their dorms,” Hall says. “But since we worked at the Beebe, we would be allowed to stay out late ostensibly to clean up. After cleaning the place, we would always just turn the lights out, cook up some good food, and hang out for an hour unbothered by campus security.”

What made the Beebe so special for Hall—and many others who spent time there in the ‘80s and ‘90s—was the presence of a single individual. In 1983, Tabor hired Gene Larkin to be the lounge’s new manager.

“Gene was a Navy veteran and became best friends to most everybody in the school,” Hall says. 

Within his first two years running the Beebe, Larkin upgraded the furniture, secured a pinball machine and jukebox, and introduced several new menu items—none more iconic than the Beebe Riser breakfast sandwich. Under Larkin’s leadership, the Beebe unlocked its potential as a vibrant student-centered space. He was adored by all for his humor and kindness, but those who worked alongside him formed particularly strong bonds. 

“He was the best boss you could ever ask for,” Hall says. “Working at the Beebe was my first real job and I learned a tremendous amount about what it meant to work a hard job for a living.” Hall and his brother Christopher Hall ’86 stayed in touch with Larkin after they graduated, and they remained close until Larkin passed away in 2011. 

With the opening of the Fish Center, the Beebe moved to its current location and was officially renamed the Beebe Grill. The improved setup, made possible by members and families of the class of 1998, fortified its status as the beating heart of Tabor’s social scene. In 2016, Uncle Jon’s, the local Marion coffee shop, started operating the Beebe on behalf of the school.

The forthcoming Campus Center will once again transform the Tabor experience. Its grand first floor will house a student union with ample space for all aspects of student life, productive and social. A cafe will offer healthy food and drink options; a fireplace and cozy furniture will create a coffeehouse ambiance. Rest assured that this exciting project does not spell the end of the Beebe, which will continue to thrive as a lounge and grill. 

On winter Saturdays, for example, one will always encounter this comforting picture: the Fish Center packed with athletes and fans, families and visitors streaming through the concourse, gleeful students soaking up coveted time with friends, and the Beebe humming with activity—a riser or two sizzling on the grill.Before there was the Beebe, there was “the store.” Located on the second floor of Hoyt Hall, the store was originally built as a trophy room in 1928 before being converted to a lounge in 1943. This was one of James Wickenden’s first projects as Tabor’s new Headmaster. For students whose lives had been upended by the outbreak of World War II, the new hangout provided a welcome and luxurious distraction.