Campustown part 3 — 20 years ago

Carmen Leng

Brian May and his friends would come on weekends to Campustown to shoot pool, throw darts, drink cheap beer and their favorite, listen to live music. However, May’s most unforgettable experience was the 1992 VEISHEA riot.

May attended Iowa State in 1988, living a majority of his college life on Welch Avenue in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

May remembers all the good Campustown hangouts and food venues such as Pizza Pit, Da Vinci’s Pizza and Hoagies, Cy’s Roost, Thumbs and the locally famous Smiles & Gyros, Inc.

“A lot of the time on the weekends I would stop drinking to make sure I would have enough money to get a gyro on the way home,” May said.

May had many favorite restaurants and bars, but the majority of the time you could find him at People’s Bar and Grill.

“If you wanted to go see live music, People’s was the place to go. They had legitimate bands that played on weekends,” May said.

Some of the bands he watched perform were The Freddy Jones Band; The Nadas; and Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

People’s was also remembered for its great drink specials, mug nights and being the most popular Friday After Class location for students.

Below People’s was a small bar called Underwhere, the place where May first recalls witnessing the VEISHEA riots.

“Underwhere was a dingy, crappy, basement bar that had no windows but sold cheap drinks,” May said. “The Friday night of VEISHEA we were leaving Underwhere with no idea what was going on outside, until we saw the riots taking place on the corner of Lincoln Way and Welch [Avenue].”

May and his friends decided to “do the smart thing” and go the opposite direction to get home safely.

“There were mobs everywhere and a lot of fights going on that cops couldn’t even control the madness,” May said. “It was unbelievable.”

Once safely arriving home, the fraternity brothers decided to stand on their roof overlooking Welch Avenue and videotape the riot going on below them, which they donated to a Des Moines news channel.

May and his friends watched the crowds disperse when tear gas was used by the officers to break up the masses which only managed to move the students east on Lincoln Way. Welch Avenue was left with broken windows along the storefronts and trash filled the street.

The next day, the riot was almost forgotten as the VEISHEA parade took place as though nothing had happened the night before. But, for May, the uprising was the most vivid memory of Campustown and an event he will never forget.