Most people today identify Toomer’s Corner with lemonade and streaming toilet paper. While the tradition of rolling trees at Toomer’s Corner dates back to the 1960s, celebrations at the corner began decades before that.
“My father was born here and my grandfather moved here and married my grandmother in 1918,” said Dr. Martha Thomas, an Auburn High School and Auburn University alumna. “I grew up going to the football games here in Auburn, and for as long as I can remember, everyone would always go to the corner after the games.”
Thomas, who now has a veterinary practice on Gay Street, said congregating at Toomer’s Corner was such a natural part of the town, she can’t remember when the rolling became a part of the tradition.
She said there are other gameday traditions that have been lost over the years.
“There were always girls who sold these big huge chrysanthemum corsages for the games, especially for the homecoming game,” Thomas said. “They were amazing — yellow, orange, pink — and I mean, they were enormous.”
Toomer’s Corner has been the hotspot of town for most likely over a century. Auburn’s very first traffic light was placed at Toomer’s Corner in 1938, according to the revised version of “Auburn: A pictorial history of the loveliest village.”
Toomer’s Drugstore, Auburn’s oldest business, and its many owners have been witness to some of the biggest celebrations the town and school have seen.
Thomas said she knew and grew up with the Lipscomb family, who were some of the original druggists in Auburn and one of Toomer’s Drugstore’s first owners.
“We used to go in there and always get lemonade,” Thomas said. “They’ve always had the best lemonades.”
Former Toomer’s Drugstore owner McAdory Lipscomb told reporter Jackie Walburn of the Selma-Times Journal in 1978 that the rolling tradition started around the early 1960s.
Walburn quoted Lipscomb in 1978 saying, “It’s stayed popular for whoopin’ and hollerin’ because of tradition and the ‘small town atmosphere of Auburn.’”
One of the first known and organized celebrations at Toomer’s Corner was in 1945, when students, faculty and townspeople alike gathered at the corner to celebrate the end of World War II.
“In the past, this was where people congregated to hear the news of the town, to discuss politics and college happenings,” said Ellen Beard and Alice Cary Pick Gibson, former members of the Auburn Heritage Association, in the book.
As the school, first named Alabama Male College, The Alabama Polytechnic Institute and then Auburn University, grew in size and number, the nearby village grew as well, and Toomer’s Corner was the place to gather dating all the way back to the late 1800s.
Main Street (what is now College Street) and Magnolia Avenue became the business district in the village, and these streets were known even in the late 1800s for its oaks trees.
Up until the 1890s, livestock was free to roam the streets and owners often tethered their stock to whatever they could find along Magnolia and Main.
Eventually, new laws were put in place to protect the many oaks trees that lined the streets. It was unlawful to “willfully destroy any shade tree or fasten a horse or animal to any shade tree, awning, post or fence except regular hitching posts,” according to the book.
Fines for violating such laws varied from $1-10.
According to the book, one of the things that brought people to Toomer’s Corner originally was war. Old Main, the original structure that would become Samford Hall, was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Later, ROTC and enlisted cadets would gather socially at the corner or stop at Toomer’s Drugstore for a cola.
It’s hard to pinpoint when the celebrations at the corner became primarily for athletic events, but these celebrations began well before the first rolling in the 1960s.
The 1908 Glomerata or Auburn yearbook, as it is still named, held the following poem:
“It is the common rendezvous just after every Auburn game.
Where soothing ‘dope’ doth freely flow, ‘hot air,’ cool bev’rage just the same.
And if we’ve won the victory, we sing and yell and squall;
It makes the ‘children’ laugh and play, to win a game of ball.”