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High Point College coeds Shirley Hemphill, from left, Cathy Miller, Sharon Baker and Ellen Law partake of the school’s free vitamin pills for a High Point Enterprise photographer in 1967. The pills were easily accessible from a gumball-type dispenser (foreground) in the campus snack bar.

HIGH POINT

Much has been made of the perks given to students at High Point University in recent years, from the free ice cream to the on-campus steakhouse and movie theater, to the arcade with complimentary Skee-Ball.

And did we mention the free ice cream?

But here’s a campus amenity you’ve probably never heard about, a perk that was offered to students more than half a century ago, when the school was still known as High Point College and current HPU President Nido Qubein wasn’t even a student at the college yet, much less the president.

And just what was this little-known Purple Panthers perk?

Free drugs! How about those wacky 1960s, huh?

Well, OK, they weren’t exactly free drugs. They were actually free vitamin pills — or, as The High Point Enterprise called them in the headline of an article published in February 1967, “Pills For Puny Eaters” — but they did, in fact, come from a pharmaceutical supplier.

According to The Enterprise, the college contracted with a pharmaceutical company to provide 20,000 vitamin capsules, which would be available to the student body at the campus snack bar. Students could easily get the vitamins from a dispenser that was similar to a penny gumball machine, except you didn’t have to insert a penny.

So why, pray tell, was the college handing out free vitamins to its students? Because they were, ahem, skipping breakfast — which, as we’ve all been told, is the most important meal of the day.

“Concern for the well-being of late sleepers has resulted in a teeny measure of what the purist would call socialized medicine,” The Enterprise wrote. “To head off reduced efficiency on the part of the non-eaters, the college has installed a dispenser in the college snack bar which produces one of those all-purpose vitamin pills at the flip of a lever. And it’s all free.”

It wasn’t exactly a campus steakhouse, mind you, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

The article included a staged photograph of four young High Point coeds gathered around the vitamin dispenser, cheerfully popping their pills in lieu of eating breakfast.

Mmm, bacon and eggs … thanks for the gumball!

“College authorities here and elsewhere have traced the occasional fainting spell to the habit of skipping breakfast,” The Enterprise reported. “And they are convinced as well that the student who starts off the day without nourishment brings something less than top learning capacity to his morning classes.”

School nurse Bobbie Thompson reiterated that point, as well as the fact that the “capsule cuisine” didn’t cost students a penny.

“Fatigue is a growing problem when students spend most of the night studying,” she told The Enterprise.

“We cannot force students to take care of their bodies, but there is no reason why they cannot take a free pill. When something is free, I cannot see why anyone would refuse the chance to avail himself of something that will help.”

So there you have it: There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in 1967 — on the campus of High Point College, at least — there was such a thing as a free breakfast.

And all you needed was a sip of water to wash it down.

jtomlin@hpenews.com | 336-888-3579