STORY BY SARAH FULTON & GIULIANA LAMANTIA
For 80 years Peggy’s Tavern has been a rite of passage for Drake University students.
“It is the only place that has lasted as long. There are campus traditions but they phase out,” senior Sam Lowry said. “Peggy’s is always there and the alumni are the ones who keep buying it and keeping it going.”
Alumna Annie Baldwin recently purchased Peggy’s after the previous owner’s legal issues made the bar’s future uncertain.
“Each of our predecessors has done a good job of keeping the tradition alive,” Baldwin said. “But, all the credit goes to the Drake community, especially the alumni.”
Baldwin believes that when alumni come back to Des Moines, Peggy’s is a necessary stop.
“Thousands of alumni each year come back to Peggy’s to relive their glory days and catch up with their fellow classmates,” Baldwin said.
Notably few things have changed over the years. Gary Zimmerman, ’79, visits Drake three times a year and makes it to Peggy’s every time.
“When you go there for the Relays its like a case of deja vu,” Zimmerman said. “The inside of Peggy’s just looks the same, and you get inside and it’s packed like it’s 1978 again.”
Zimmerman’s favorite Peggy’s memories came not from the crowded weekends, but spending time there on the less crowded weekdays.
“I went to study at the law school library every night, and my best memory of Peggy’s was not during the weekends when it was packed, but when we walked back from the law library back to our frat house, we stopped at Peggy’s.”
When David Beall, ’81, went to Drake, Thursday was Peggy’s busiest night, when groups from all over campus came together.
Beall’s favorite memories came from Relays and all the crowded nights at Peggy’s.
“A lot of the other bars nearby weren’t nearly as crowded and weren’t nearly as busy at various times of the year as Peggy’s has always been,” Beall said. “It’s those memories that everybody has from every generation.”
Beall stills pictures Peggy’s as it was when he went to Drake.
“It’s really fun still to be able to go back in there and instantly your memories come alive and you hear music on the jukebox that you were listening to when you were there,” Beall said.
However, small changes pop up over time. During Beall’s time at Drake the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21.
“The dynamics of it changed quickly. There were fewer people to really frequent it,” Beall said. “It changed as far as being less accessible by all of the students.”
Another Peggy’s change during the years was an expansion to the dart room.
“It was a lot smaller than it is now, and there was no dart room,” Susan Stocum, ’92, said. “The bathroom sink in the women’s room came off the wall all the time.”
The bathrooms have since been renovated along with one of Stocum’s favorite parts of Peggy’s, a former wall off to the right of the entrance.
The doorway that now serves as the entrance to additional seating was formerly a white board.
“If your sorority was having a date party there, you could draw all over that board and write your names and your letters all over it,” Stocum said.
Changes Stocum noticed as an alumna were apparent to Nikki Syverson ,’03, during her time at Drake.
“When I started as a freshman it was a beer only bar, and I believe it was my sophomore year that they got liquor, so it was kind of a big deal,” Nikki Syverson, ’03, said. “The Peggy’s Relays comp was ‘Peggy’s Gets Liquor, Priceless.’”
Peggy’s changed owners Syverson’s junior year, and current favorites such as Twofers Tuesdays and Wednesdays Mug Night resulted.
“They experimented for a little while with hot dogs, that didn’t go over very well and it didn’t stay long,” Syverson said.
Syverson’s favorite memories included playing cards in the booths, listening to Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” on the jukebox and connecting with people from all different groups across campus.
“I know there have been little changes throughout the years, but for the most part when alumni walk in they still feel like it’s just like it was when they were in college,” Syverson said. “It’s just a place of great nostalgia and everyone had great memories there.”
Current students like Lowry are now making their own memories.
“Peggy’s is sort of a timeless Drake landmark,” Lowry said. “It is the one place where alumni come back and hang out and it kind of unites the students and alumni.”
In order to keep the Peggy’s tradition alive for students like Lowry, current owner Baldwin has no intention of changing it.
“Outside of a coat of paint and some new equipment not much will change,” Baldwin said. “Ask me again in 2095 with another 80 years of history behind us.”