Q: I’ve heard that the concourse area on the Waterloo campus (some people call it the Torque Room), was once the location of a fifties-style diner. What’s the story?
A: Today’s concourse is a highly functional, open-concept space featuring a Starbucks and plenty of seating, but once upon a time it was a different sort of space more suited to an age of letterman jackets and poodle skirts. Fitted out with a diner-style food counter, where the computer lab is now situated, it was a place where students could enjoy a cup of coffee or a sundae (price: 20 cents) while chatting with friends. It was also briefly the site of controversy: in the 1960s, the “Christ or coffee scandal” erupted when the university’s administration locked up the Torque Room during chapel hours to encourage more students to pay their holy respects. First opened in the 1950s, the Torque Room was originally located on the bottom floor of the Arts Building, but was later relocated to the site of today’s concourse. In the cafeteria’s heyday, The Cord published “Torque-Room Tallies” and “Torque Talk” gossip columns, written in a conversational style, as if transcribed from conversations overheard in the space. In the summer of 2000, the computer lab was put in and the concourse took on its present form, more or less, with separate lounge and study areas and an upscale coffee bar (the forerunner of the Starbucks). Today’s concourse is a lively and popular spot for students to study and catch up between classes, but it’s hard not to feel a little nostalgia for the old-fashioned charm of the Torque Room of yore.