A history of Cole Bin 1, Cole Bin 2, and George’s
The quest to untangle the history of these three places started with a picture of what was identified as the interior of the Cole Bin in a story in the 2015 Fall Cornell Report. I knew it wasn’t of the Cole Bin, but it had to be of George’s. I started searching through the Royal Purples for the appropriate years and gained a lot of information, but many questions were left unanswered. When I started searching through the digital copies of The Cornellian, the timing of events and relationships became much clearer.
There were two versions of the Cole Bin, which I have labeled Cole Bin 1 and Cole Bin 2. George’s was a separate structure off campus and privately owned by George and Alice Brown. Some confusion has existed because before George and Alice opened George’s, they had managed both Cole Bins.
Side note: Before the Cole Bins, there was a student gathering place called The Grill. It is mentioned in some Royal Purples dating back to the ’30s. I didn’t find much other information. I first found the Grill referenced in the 1945 Royal Purple. There is a picture that includes the caption, “Mr. Hodge made the Grill the perfect hangout and helped establish the new Cole Bin.”
Cole Bin 1 opened on Tuesday in the week of Sept. 14, 1945. The Cornellian of that date has an article on the front page headed, “Cole Bin Opens In Good Spirit,” which identifies Henry “Hank” Fujii as the general manager. This article does not mention George and Alice, but they do appear in many Royal Purple pictures of Cole Bin 1. The article goes on to describe a two-story facility which was later identified as the house that Dr. and Mrs. Cole lived in before Dr. Cole became president of the college. An interview with George in the March 13, 1952, Cornellian, says that he first appeared on campus in September 1945 when he became the operator of the Cole Bin.
Cole Bin 2 was a T-shaped, one-story wood building that was obtained from government surplus. It was located in what one article called Bowman Woods, which was south down a hill behind Bowman dorm. It opened on Oct. 10, 1947, based on Charles Milhauser’s letter in the Cornell Report for 2016. That date is confirmed by an article in the Oct. 24, 1947, Cornellian which described it as the “unofficial opening.” The official opening, by Dr. Cole, was on Jan. 5, 1948, according to a Cornellian article of Jan. 9, 1948. George and Alice Brown are identified as the managers. There is a Royal Purple picture of George and Alice with the caption, “George and the Belle of the Bin.”
In The Cornellian for Oct. 30, 1949, there is an article headlined “New Manager As ‘Bin’ Opens.” A Mrs. Austin is identified as the new manager, and George and Alice are no longer involved. Cole Bin 2 continued to operate until the fall of 1957 when Cole Library opened with the new student social center in the lower level.
The first ad for George’s appears in the Oct. 7, 1949, Cornellian. In the March 13, 1952, Cornellian, George is quoted as saying he started his own business in September 1949. For the next three years the Royal Purples contained pictures from both the Cole Bin and George’s. The broad interior shot used in the 1950 Royal Purple, identified as the Cole Bin in the fall 2015 Cornell Report, is clearly the interior of George’s. The Cornellian for April 21, 1950, contains a heading “‘George’s Grill’ Gutted By Fire During Night.” The place was described as a total loss except for the “charge account records.” (One of George’s student friendly policies was allowing students to charge their purchases.) The students started a fund to help George and Alice rebuild, and students helped clear the fire rubble away. George found a replacement building in Iowa City to replace the destroyed building. The Cornellian for May 5, 1950, has an article with the heading “Grill Re-opens For Business.” The interior was described as “rustic” but the business was open. George’s was fully open the next fall. In the ad for George’s in The Cornellian for May 23, 1952, there is a reference to student’s charging. It says “George’s charge system is for students so keep it by paying your bill now. Check to see if you have a bill with … George’s.” A column in The Cornellian for Feb. 27, 1953, references George’s financial problems. It says “Anybody got $2,000? That’s the amount of overdue bills on the books at George’s.” A large header in The Cornellian for March 13, 1953, says “George’s Era Ends.” He closed the place on March 14, 1953. The end of the article said that George has “obtained a position in the sales department of J. C. Penney Co. in Cedar Rapids and will assume his duties there on Monday.”
Was it George’s Grill, George’s Place, or just plain George’s? I don’t know for sure. References by other persons frequently used the name George’s Grill, but I looked at every ad George placed in The Cornellian and every one just said George’s. So that is what I have used.
In looking at photos of George’s and Cole Bin 2 it is easy to distinguish between the two. On the interior George’s walls had vertical knotty pine wainscoting while the Cole Bin had horizontal painted wainscoting. George’s windows were horizontal and high where the sidewall met the ceiling. The Cole Bin had more traditional double sash windows centered on the wall. On the exterior George’s had a corrugated metal roof and siding. Cole Bin 2 had a shingled roof and wood lap siding.
In summary, there were two Cole Bins. The first opened in September 1945 and closed in 1947 when the second opened on Oct. 10, 1947. George and Alice Brown managed the Cole Bin 1 for its two years. Cole Bin 2 they managed for its first two years when in the fall of 1949 the college hired a Mrs. Austin to manage the Cole Bin. In September 1949 George opened his own place off campus. George’s burned to the ground in April 1950 but was immediately rebuilt, and he continued to operate until March of 1953 when he had to shut it down. From the articles in The Cornellian it sounds like his policy of allowing students to run charge accounts became at least part of the problem in keeping George’s viable. There were also indications in The Cornellian that the Cole Bin was not always self-sustaining.
It was interesting to dig back into Cornell’s archives and discover facts that helped clear up the confusion brought by the picture in the fall 2015 Cornell Report. I hope this has brought back fond memories and some clarification of the history of the Cole Bins and George’s.