Dr Pepper Hour continues to evolve 68 years later

A tradition that originated as "Coke Hour" morphed in to Dr. Pepper Hour in 1953 and continues to delight students with the frosted treat every Tuesday afternoon. Lariat file photo

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

Baylor has always had a wealth of traditions, but perhaps none more beloved than Dr Pepper Hour. One afternoon a week, students come together at the Bill Daniel Student Center to take a break from the stresses of academic life and enjoy one of Baylor’s classics: a Dr Pepper float.

Jordy Dickey, assistant director of the SUB, has learned just how important this tradition has become over the course of 68 years.

“I think what’s important about Dr Pepper Hour and what makes it a beautiful tradition is the opportunity to just take a moment to take a break and be together collectively,” Dickey said. “Really the heart of the tradition is to come together as a community and spend time in the Student Union, that campus living room, and just remember that together, we are Baylor.”

The original version of Dr Pepper Hour began in 1953, seven years before the “Sic ‘Em Bears” cry was developed. Though Baylor and Dr Pepper have become so closely intertwined, DP wasn’t always the official beverage of Baylor’s weekly social hour. The tradition was initially “Coke Hour” and it was started by a staff member serving “frosted Cokes” to students in the SUB’s Barfield Drawing Room.

Waco native Dr Pepper wouldn’t let it stay that way. In 1997, Dr Pepper became Baylor’s official soft drink, switching the event’s name to Dr Pepper Hour. While it took over 40 years for the switch to happen, Dr Pepper had been ingrained in the fabric of Waco long before that.

Dr Pepper came about in 1885 when Waco pharmacist Charles Alderton began serving it to customers. Initially, patrons would order a “Waco” to get a taste of the now-famous 23-flavor blend. The drink received its modern name when Alderton gave the recipe for the drink to his manager, Wade Morrison. There has been much speculation as to why Morrison chose to name Dr Pepper the way he did, but the prevailing one is that he named the beverage after Dr. William Alexander Reed Pepper, who Morrison worked with prior to moving to Waco.

Both the drink and the event have certainly stood the test of time, and students love it just as much now as they did then. Katy freshman Brady Matthews said he values the community and respite from a busy day’s work.

“It’s a way to participate in a long-lived Baylor tradition,” Matthews said. “Although COVID-19 has affected many of our traditions this year, Dr Pepper Hour still withstands and is a great way to meet new people and have a sense of normalcy in these unordinary times. It’s a great way to take a break between classes and work as well.”

COVID-19 certainly threw a wrench in the plans of a lot of Baylor’s traditional events, but the people behind Dr Pepper Hour were determined to keep it up and running, no matter the circumstances. This year, Dr Pepper Hour has turned to a grab-and-go format, which enables students to enjoy the tradition while not bring at risk of contracting COVID-19. Students don’t gather in the Barfield Drawing Room, but instead take their Dr Pepper floats to places where they can enjoy them while staying safely distanced. Even though the process has changed, the true heart of the tradition remains the same.

“It’s really about understanding what is feasible and what we need to consider,” Dickey said. “At the core of that is just safety. How can we still maintain the essence of the tradition? Still hosting it within the Student Union, which obviously is an indoor space. At the same time, knowing that the tradition brings in a thousand people. How can you do that safe and simply? We have to be willing to let it look a little different in this season.”

That isn’t the only way the event has had to evolve over time. With the rise in awareness of dietary restrictions, new options were created to allow students with different dietary needs to continue to enjoy Dr Pepper Hour to its fullest extent. Now, students with gluten allergies have a special option, one that Dickey said is just as good as the original.

“We work very closely in this tradition with Baylor catering,” Dickey said. “They are always open to exploring ideas and kind of taking the feedback from students on what would taste good, what are some [things] we need to be considering and really coming up with solutions on flavors that will pair well and at the same time are safe.”

The gluten-free option at Dr Pepper Hour is a raspberry sherbet. For those looking for a little extra something to push their Dr Pepper float experience to the next level, Dickey has a few pro tips.

“I know people will debate this through and through,” Dickey said. “Blue Bell is kind of the secret ingredient that really pairs well with Dr Pepper Hour, but I also would say Heritage Creamery. The vanilla bean is pretty dang good as well, and if you also try their dark chocolate with it? Delicious. I know that’s not sometimes what people do, but I think it’s really good.”

Craving a Dr Pepper float but can’t make it to the SUB? Here’s how to recreate the magic at home.

For the traditional version, you’ll need one scoop of vanilla ice cream and 8-ounces of Dr Pepper. Once you’ve got that, you’ll put both in a bowl and stir until it’s all mixed in.

For the gluten or dairy-free version, there are a few other options. You’ll need one scoop of sherbet. Raspberry, strawberry and lemon are recommended. Add that same 8-ounces of Dr Pepper and stir until mixed. If that’s too much trouble, make sure you’re at the SUB between 3 and 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.