Campus Hangouts Through the Years

 

For many former students the bastion of intellectual freedom and font of artistic expression that remains most vivid in their minds is not so much the University, but where they went to escape it. With fond, if slightly hazy, memories, they recall what characterized their favorite gathering places: locales not far from campus, cheap food and drink, and most of all, "the regulars" who made these spots unforgettable.

Joyce Thorum Skidmore BS'50 wrote in with her recollections of the CI (College Inn), "the only place to hang out between 1944 and '50." KUED's promotion director Mary Dickson BA'76 recalled how her college days at The Pub at Trolley Square coincided with her passing from innocence to sophistication. Herbert Ungricht's BS'72 MD'78 favorite spot was the LDS Institute, where he claims lots of pretty girls liked to "mother" him.

In the essays that follow, the Chrony's original gonzo journalist Richard Barnham-Reese BS'74 MS'75, political pundit Rod Decker BA'65, former golf pro and financial man Rich Lee ex'64, and the Alumni Association's own Neil Hancey B'59 tell it like it really was, at campus hangouts through the years.


A Cautionary Tale

 

When we were in the fifth grade in 1951 at Stewart Training School on campus, we started going to the Ute Hamburger on University Street for lunch. The Ute Ham had a sliding window and an outdoor counter to serve burgers to go. Inside, a short row of one-legged stools stood along the counter. Behind the counter, there was room for only one person to work efficiently, so during the noon rush, Paul the proprietor had to work quickly in the meat-smelling smoke by this grill. He cooked a dozen burgers at a time, and while they fried, he dealt with customers at the cash register. Hamburgers were 25 cents, so we could afford to buy one each with our lunch money.

Stewart Training School, a normal school where future teachers were trained, had a cafeteria in the basement of the Home Economics Building where Miss Crockett prepared nutritional meals for 35 cents. But teachers supervised our behavior in the cafeteria and the place lacked the sophisticated ambience we ten-year-olds preferred. So we slipped away, even thoughˇor in fact, especially becauseˇour parents and teachers disapproved.

The concerns of our elders proved correct, and we soon slid down from the Ute Ham to the College Inn, which stood on the 200 South/University Street corner where Kinko's is now. The CI was a large dark place, filled with college students smoking cigarettes. Non-smokers went to the cafeteria in the beige stone Union across the street. Smoking was forbidden in the Union Building, and so the CI harbored youths of various ages fleeing supervised wholesomeness.

Sometimes we sixth-graders sat at the counter and ordered a lime phosphate. The waitress pushed a tap to siphon the bright green syrup into the wide-mouthed, "Coca-Cola" glass, and then drew soda water from a faucet with an elegant, long handle. She added phosphate from a bottle with a metal pouring spout. Phosphate made the drink sour, and stylish boys ordered extra phosphate.

We watched college men play pinball. Three or four of us would gather around the machine. Some players made disparaging remarks about us to their friends, or even shooed us away, but others liked an audience, and displayed their best skills and manners. A player would suck deeply on his cigarette, then place it lightly in the corner of his mouth, release the spring-driven plunger to drive a ball into play, and blow smoke out his nose, as he shoved and jerked the machine to guide the rolling ball. We knew the pinball lingo, and would comment on the course of the game. "Good save," we'd say, or "you need a big ball." We took pride in clever banter with college men. For sixth graders in the CI in 1952, clever banter was any statement that included bad language.

"Are you going to swear when you grow up, kid?" "Hell, I don't know." That made college men laugh, and made me feel like a smart, young fellow.

We could buy a brown paper bag half-full of French fries for 15 cents. As we walked back to school, we'd reach into the bag and eat the hot fries. When the bell rang, we raced back to class, licking salty grease from our fingers.

Newsman Rod Decker BA'65 went from pinball- to political commentary for station KUTV.

 


Hanging at the Huddle

 

I served hard time at the Huddle from 1964 to 1972 in the days when a >man was a man and political correctness a mere gleam in the eye of Sherm Clow, the Students for a Democratic Society rabble rouser who, last I heard, now lives in Salt Lake's Avenues District and runs a small computer consulting business.

Just like the establishment power junkies told us it would be, we all every damn one of us self-righteous, left-of-liberal, up-the-establishment, self-styled student revolutionariesˇ became our parents.

Okay, maybe a different model, somewhat more hip, more au courant, more educated, more computer literate than our parents, but, still, in the end, the same people we figured the enemy was as we spoke in conspiratorial tones, leaning over cups of coffee in the Huddle and talking Sartre, Camus, and the self-evident need to overcome the inequities of the Establishment.

Hanging out at the Huddle (downstairs, just inside the north entrance to the Olpin Union) was a state of mind. Like being stuck in time, I often wondered if I'd ever actually escape the Huddle, leave the University even, and get out into the so-called real world. Thankfully, I didn't get out too early and the University, and that microcosm of the University of Utah which was the Huddle, was my social gestation, the rock under from which I sprang, knowing now as I do that I had no chance to enter the world without a good solid eight years in the womb of that place. Sure, I left my Huddle haunt for a hitchhike to South America, a vagabond trip in Europe, a little time in Berkeley and Cambridge to decipher a difference, but I always returned renewed to stir up the Huddle Weltzschmerz, get back in school, hang out.

And thank God for that. Today, I, maybe once every two years, get a chance to return to the Union Building and, help me here dear Lord!, the Huddle has become a sort of Nordstrom's coffee nook, a Yuppie Paradise instead of the Cinema Paradiso I remember. Where, I'd like to know, are the upstart college freaks standing on their chairs screaming, "It's about time we took over the means of production!" and meanwhile sign this petition for the school administration to get us the hell out of Vietnam? Where now? Or how about Stuttering Paul? Where now is Stuttering Paul who held forth, mesmerizing everyone at his special table every night, swinging his Phi Beta Kappa key while, at the same time, cackling at his own jokes as Stuttering Stan and Stuttering Dave joined in, all of them dressed in the same boots, jeans, and down-filled parkas?

I had come up in '64 as a freshman football player on a pipeline to the Denver Broncos and left with a master's degree in journalism, en route to an entirely new life, certainly a new perspective on life, and forever changed by what I had argued, written about, signed onto, and done while hanging out, smoking cigarettes, dancing the college student young-love tap dance, and all of this at the Huddle.

That's what, in part, the Huddle was like. And if I were to be honest, as I telecommute from my computer to my mind and back again in the work-a-day world I have created by virtue of my college education, I'd say that it's true my bachelor's is in Political Science, and my master's is in Journalism, but my real education came from the best part of my college experience, hanging out at the Huddle.

Richard Barnum-Reece BS'74 MS'75, a former Daily Utah Chronicle sports editor and columnist, is editor and publisher of The Utah Runner and Cyclist.


Coursework

I have been thinking about the University of Utah golf course and how it figured in my life as a campus hangout. But, the course wasn't just a campus hangout, it was a community-wide gathering place. It was where all sorts of people young and old, educated and otherwise could sneak away from the rigors of life to take their best shot at nine holes.

For me, it was an escape from the pressures of school. By both playing golf and shooting the bull with the late Vinnie McGuire (the U's golf coach, the course pro, and basic all-around golf guru), I put studying aside and completely relaxed. I started going to the course earlier, when I was 14 or so. Every day after school I rode my bike over to the course and shagged balls for Vinnie's golf students. I spent all day working for free to show Vinnie that I lived for golf, and with the hope that he would hire me as an assistant pro some day (I eventually did work for him as an assistant when I was 21). I basically grew up on the course, with Vinnie serving as a crusty, hard-talking father figure. He told me things about the facts of life my parents never would. Groups of guys were always hanging around Vinnie, who was advising them on their swings, their stances, or their girl troubles. We could talk to him about most any subject that came to mind, and truth be told, Vinnie, to many, was more the attraction of the course than the game itself.

The golf course was originally built for exclusive use of Fort Douglas Country Club members and was considered one of the premiere 18-hole courses in the West, even hosting the annual Western Open and drawing big-time golfers like Ben Hogan to Salt Lake. It became the property of the University of Utah in 1958, and Vinnie was hired away from the Salt Lake Country Club as the pro. He became the U's golf coach in 1960. Aside from his personality, Vinnie was known nationally for his abilities as a golf instructor. Before coming to Utah he worked for several years with professional golfers, including Arnold Palmer.

The course had a snack bar, where you could get a pretty good breakfast and lunch cooked up by Neil Hancey BS'59 (see One Ute Special, To Go), but mostly we went in for sodas and to watch Vinnie repair shattered golf clubs. I'm not sure if Neil spent more time cooking or golfing, but he was a permanent fixture.

Another reason for hanging around the course was simply to be near some of Utah's greatest golfers. Because of Vinnie's national reputation and teaching expertise, many pro- level golfers played at the U. Also, Fort Douglas Country Club members continued to play the course, making for an awkward mix of serious sophisticates and sophomoric students. Some of the excellent local golfers who got their starts under Vinnie's tutelage include, from my generation, Bruce Summerhays ex'67 (still on the senior PGA tour), Bob Droz BS'63, Jon Unger BS'74 MBA'77, and Bob Osgood ex'64.

I never did take school too seriously I wanted to play pro golf. Vinnie was an incredible motivator, endlessly working with me and encouraging me to take a shot at my dream. Most everybody I hung around with wanted badly to go pro. Some took the chance; some didn't. I was pretty good, but never quite good enough to make it my life's calling.

Many of the University's coaches and athletes also called the course home. Ute basketball coaches Jack Gardner and Jerry Pimm and basketball players Ed Rowe BS'67 and Jeff Ockel BS'75 are among the many sports figures to wile away their days on the links, playing or swapping stories with Vinnie. I also remember some of the ski team members being around, mostly Finnish natives who were unexplainably attracted to McGuirre's brusque personality and inimitable humor.

A lot of things have changed at the University golf course. Vinnie is no longer around, more than half of the course grounds have been sacrificed for campus and hospital expansion, the snack shop is gone, and the talk is not as colorful. The extraordinary attractions that once made the course a home away from home for us eventually gave way to the practicalities of golf. Kids still play there, and the regulars still remember, but to me, it will never be the same. Without Vinnie and that great expanse of green which a boy could get lost in, it's just another golf course.

Richard L. Lee ex'64 was the golf pro for Paradise Valley Country Club in Las Vegas from 1971-81. He is a vice president and financial consultant for Prudential Securities in Salt Lake City and has been in financial planning for the last 16 years.

 

One Ute Special To Go

The waitresses were crusty and the food was greasy, but the Ute Hamburger Shop was a student hangout from the very beginning. Whoever said the three most important things to consider when building a restaurant are location, location, location, was talking about this place. You could have served anything and the students would still have come in bunches over from the library (now the Museum of Natural History building), frat row, or for a bite between classes.

Ute Hamburger was located in the south part of the building that is now Big Ed's, and next to the College Inn which was on the corner of University Street and 200 South. There wasn't a lot of room for mingling as Ute Ham was a serious eater's hangout more than it was a social center. There was a counter with 10 stools facing the grill and another stand-up counter behind that. Only 20 or 30 people could fit comfortably, most people took their food to go.

The rest of the building to the north was a shoe repair shop operated by a deaf-mute shoemaker. It was a daily event for him and his wife to come in and order tea. She never spoke, they both quietly drank their tea, and left. One day, the shoemaker came in alone, drank his tea, looked-up, paused, and without a trace of emotion, passed a note across the counter that said, "I'm retiring . . . won't be back . . . goodbye." That was the last we saw of him.

I started working in the Ute Hamburger Shop in the fall of 1955. It was the perfect way to work and go to college. I worked through two different owners, and each gave me the time I needed to study when classes got hectic. The Ute Hamburger Shop was originally started by Dee Anderson (of Dee's Hamburger Drive-In fame), then it was bought by Paul and Barbara Newell in the early '50s. Paul did all the cooking and Barbara and I waited on the customers. We were open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days a week. I worked at least 50 hours per week, and opened every Saturday morning. In about 1958, Sherm Fisher took over the place. Oddly enough, nothing changed.

The menu was always simple: breakfast, lunch, supper. Hamburgers, eggs, and the best hashbrowns in Salt Lake City (I still have the secret recipe in my head). The Ute Special was a hamburger with a fried egg on it; that was about as fancy as it got. You could only get coke, root beer, 7-up, or coffee. Although, we always had a secret stash of teas for the shoemaker and for Dr. Stephen Durant, a biology professor who taught pre-med biology. "The Doctor" came in every morning to drink his tea, chat, and prepare for class. He tried for five years to get me to take his Zoology 5 class, but I never did. He always joked with Sherm that he was going to bring some mutton in one of these days for him to cook up. It would bring some class to the menu, he said, and at the very least it would make the damn place smell better.

The big rushes were breakfast and lunch. In the morning diners could get two eggs, hashbrowns, toast, and all the coffee you could drink for 75 cents. Lunch was a zoo, all the kids from Stewart School came over. Since all those kids ever wanted was the lunch special, two burgers and a drink for 50 cents,we'd fry up a bunch of hamburgers in advance, wrap them in wax paper, and just stand back. Sherm made the Stewart kids stay outside,one of the waitresses served them through the walk-up window. Inside, the college kids and other campus folk were served. However, as I said, it wasn't a place for mingling. The unspoken rules were: sit down, yell your order, eat fast or take it to go, and get out.

The supper crowd was more mellow. Patrons usually stayed a little longer, gossiping over their hamburger steak dinners (three hamburger patties, fried onions, hashbrowns, toast, and a cottage cheese salad), for which they paid 60 cents.

The late Utah basketball player Pearl Pollard BS'62 and his wife Marlyn were well-known as regulars at Ute Ham, but also for holding the record for eating the most consecutive hamburger steak dinners in one sitting. They almost always ate two apiece, but one evening Pearl must have been especially hungry, as she ate three, followed by apple pie à la mode. It may be worth noting that he was 6'10" and she was 6'4". Another group of regulars in the place was the engineering students. At that time they attended classes right above Kingsbury Hall.

A running joke with the engineers-to-be was to razz the waitress, who was pretty ditzy anyway, about the pie. Every day the same bunch of students would come in, eat their lunch, and then call her over (we'll call her Doris to protect the "innocent"). "Hey, Doris!" one of them would shout, "What kinda pie ya got today?" Every day the same question, every day the same response, "Apple, cherry, blueberry, banana cream, and coconut cream . . . what'll it be?" Well, those boys never ordered any pie, they just wanted to see how long Doris would keep telling them what kinds we had (we always had the same five).

One afternoon, it was business as usual, and the engineering students sidled up to the counter and ate their lunches. After going through the normal pie routine, and restraining their laughter as much as possible, one of the kids asked, "Hey, Doris . . . ya got any dingleberry pie back there?" Doris looked momentarily confused, then yelled very loudly, across the restaurant to the kitchen, "Hey, Sherm! We got any dingleberry pie today?," just as if she were asking for the most normal thing in the world. Sherm also looked confused for a second, then saw the engineering kids, and broke out laughing. Pretty soon the whole place was laughing. Sherm chased the boys out, and patted Doris on the shoulder. We wondered for a long time if she ever figured out what was going on.

The Ute Hamburger Shop was a haven for Ute athletes,lots of food for little money. Notable regulars included Art Bunte BS'56 and Morris Buckwalter BS'56 from the basketball team and football players Charles "Tiny" Grant BS'54 MS'68 PhD'75 and the Dublinski brothers Tom BS'53 and Jim BS'53.

One of the most memorable football players to hang out at the Shop was Frank Strocchia ex'59. Much to the nausea of the other customers, his habit was to stop in every morning for a raw hamburger patty, or what the Ute Hamburger staff fondly referred to as Steak Tartare, "seasoned" with a little salt and pepper.

One Saturday morning, Dr. Durant was at the front counter having his tea, when Strocchia sauntered in. He must have had a rough Friday night because he was in worse shape than usual. He was unshaven, dressed in a ripped t-shirt, barefoot, and just generally unkempt. Instead of his usual, "Hey!," he grunted and asked for his breakfast. This he seasoned, picked up bare-handed and gulped down. Then, he left.

Dr. Durant, a dignified, button-down sort, stared after Strocchia, mouth agape. He turned to the cook and said, "Sherm, do you realize what we have just seen here?" Sherm, smirking and wielding a spatula, said, "No, what, have we just seen Doctor?" "Why, my God, Sherm I think that was the missing link!" After a small, grease-filled pause, the restaurant erupted in laughter. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Neil Hancey BS'59

Managing editor's note: After 25 years at the University of Utah (not counting his stint at the Ute Hamburger Shop), Neil Hancey retires this month. Neil and his wife Claudia Canady PhD'89 are moving to the island of Oahu, Hawaii, where she will teach at the University of Hawaii. Few men or women at the U who have become as ingrained in campus culture as Neil. From planning extraordinary events for the Alumni Association, to his days as color commentator for University athletics, Neil has been the quintessential U ambassador. The Alumni Association will indeed miss his contributions, his connections, his loyalty, and most of all his sense of humor. For his farewell celebration Neil chose to forego the traditional campus-wide reception, but instead to celebrate with only the Alumni House gang. How fitting, that for his last U of U hurrah, the Alumni staff will be hosting a breakfast, and Neil will cook. As always, he will whip up a batch of the famous hashbrowns he perfected at the old Ute Hamburger Shop. He might just divulge the secret recipe he's stored in his head all these years. Good luck Neil . . . you're one Ute Special to go!