Buck's Ice Cream, official ice cream of the Missouri Tigers

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Flavor resurrected

How Mizzou's ice cream shop came back

It was front-page news in 1989, with TV crews arriving from as far away as St. Louis: The University of Missouri's ice cream shop was back.

Dairy Students 1910 with Josephine

Dairy Students, class of 1910, with Josephine

After a 19-year hiatus, students, faculty and staff could again stroll over to the east side of campus to sample any of the 16 ice cream flavors the Eckles Hall Ice Cream Shop offered. The reopening brought back a tradition that MU students had enjoyed from the 1920s to 1972, when the store was closed for fiscal reasons.

From the '20s to the '70s, the shop functioned as both a student-training laboratory and a dairy-program income stream. It also enabled researchers to try out new flavors and manufacturing techniques. Generations of students indulged in ice cream cones at bargain prices: a nickel for a single, a dime for a double and 15 cents for a one-pint triple-decker.

The store was a visible part of a larger dairy operation at MU. The dairy science department's herds grazed where the College of Veterinary Medicine now stands. A retail store in Eckles Hall sold milk, butter, cheese and three flavors of ice cream: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The department also supplied MU cafeterias with dairy products packaged in glass bottles and paper cartons.

Dairy program graduates went on to careers with corporations and in research. New products developed at MU boosted sales of Missouri milk.

After the dairy plant was closed in 1972, sales of MU dairy foods, including ice cream, stopped. The connection between dairy research and the state's economy suffered, too.

Ice cream came back to Mizzou because of a donation from the Arbuckle family. With his wife, Ruth, Wendell "Buck" Arbuckle, an MU graduate known as "Dr. Ice Cream" for his breakthrough research in the area, made the first gift to an endowment to bring ice cream research back to MU.

How Much Things Cost in 1989

  • Ice Cream Cone: 65 cents
  • Yearly Inflation Rate: 4.83 percent
  • Year End Dow Jones Industrial Average: 2753
  • Year End Federal Reserve Interest Rates: 10.5 percent
  • Average Cost of New House: $120,000
  • Average Income per Year: $27,450
  • Average Monthly Rent: $420
  • Average Price for New Car: $15,500
  • One Gallon of Gasoline: 97 cents
  • Postage Stamp: 25 cents

With donations from alumni and the ice cream industry, the funds grew. Scholarships were established, and the old dairy plant was refurbished and equipped with state-of-the-art production equipment. The new ice cream store was named Buck's, in honor of the donor.

The Arbuckles were no strangers to the retail ice cream business. After retiring from their careers in education, they operated Arbuckle's Ice Cream Parlor in Columbia's Broadway Shopping Center from 1962 to 1974.

Years before Ben & Jerry came onto the ice cream scene, Arbuckle's offered the whimsical favorite Hippie Sundae, made up of two scoops of ice cream, sliced bananas, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and crushed nuts. Another treat was the Love-In Sundae, touted as "being able to fill a tummy with beneficence, gladness, honesty, love and non-violence." A sign from that establishment, "The Place to Go—Arbuckle's Ice Cream Parlor," now resides in Buck's. Buck's also has an awning over its door, just like the one that the Arbuckles' establishment used to have.

Dairy Students 1910 with Josephine

Buck's Ice Cream

The three-hour 1989 reopening was a celebration of fun and ice cream. Ruth Arbuckle played a piano outside the store. Students sampled flavors such as grass and sweet potato and got two scoops for a quarter (the price charged in 1972).

Celebrants at the reopening enjoyed the then-hot ice cream at Mizzou, the Tiger Special — two scoops with the works for 65 cents. Tiger Stripe, the store's signature product today, was invented three years later. It debuted at Union Station in St. Louis during a "Scoops O'Fun" fund-raiser for Cardinal Glennon Hospital.

Like its previous incarnation, the ice cream store was not the busiest part of the dairy operation—just the most visible. Nearby teaching and research projects covered areas including food chemistry, food microbiology, sensory analysis, nutrition and process engineering.

Today, Buck's is where you can get a taste of more than 30 flavors of premium ice cream—a tasty tradition generations of Mizzou alumni can relate to.

Story: Randy Mertens