Amazing stories: And astonishing facts you never knew about your alma mater
in which you will find that Paris, Britney, the ghost of Elvis, and Area 51 thankfully have nothing to do with UPS!
Compiled by Kristen Dodd ’07, with special thanks to Serni Solidarios
Dizzy gasps: ‘PeeU!!’
Close encounter with a whole different kind of Tacoma aroma
In his first visit to Tacoma, jazz immortal Dizzy Gillespie had the dubious distinction of appearing in the UPS fieldhouse the day after the Shrine Circus left town. Students from the event committee worked overtime to transform the venue from a three-ring circus to a performing arts hall in just 24 hours, and the place looked pretty good. But after being home to lions, tigers, and bears for a week, its essence was another story. When Dizzy walked onto the fieldhouse floor he nearly passed out. “What’s that smell?” he said. It was back to work for the committee, this time with Lysol, bleach, and incense.
Cheeky star befuddles bank manager
Like other jazz and blues performers of his era, Dizzy required his fee in cash. The day after his performance he picked up his check, and the university accounts payable office called the bank at 19th and Union to alert the staff there that Dizzy would be coming in to cash it. Incredibly, when he got to the bank and presented the check, the teller asked for identification. Dizzy didn’t have any, so the teller called the branch manager to approve. The manager apparently was not a music fan. He told Dizzy he absolutely needed some sort of identification, at which point Dizzy put his finger to his lips like a trumpet mouthpiece and puffed up his famously large cheeks. The manager looked confused. He kept saying, “Sir, I need to see some I.D.,” and the cheeks just kept getting bigger. The manager finally relented when one of his employees clued him in.
The names that might have bean
Coffee shop back story revealed
Loggers of the last decade, bleary-eyed from a long night of reading 200 pages of Ulysses, can count on morning salvation at Diversions, the campus coffee shop in Wheelock Student Center. What they might not know are the, er, perky titles for the café that were passed over after a naming contest in 1998. Among the 543 suggestions that went out with the grounds: Bean Me Up Shotty; Bean There, Done That; Café Puge; Cool Beans; CUPS; Deja Brew; Espresso Yourself; Java the Hut; Puget Grounds; Starbooks; To Bean or Not To Bean; Wake UPS; and Unbearable Lightness of Bean.
The exemplification of lamination
Who wooda thunk?
Plenty of people remember that Kittredge Hall was the original student union and are proud that its construction was financed in part by a two-day “Bricks Krieg,” in which students went out into the community and sold bricks to townspeople and businesses. But we Loggers also can take pride in the structure’s obscure standing as an example of innovation in the wood-products industry. When Kittredge was built in 1941, plywood was gaining popularity in the construction trade and, since funds were tight and war looming, President Todd convinced lumber companies that Kittredge would make an excellent project to showcase the uses of plywood. As a result, 18 different kinds of plywood were used in the building.
‘What happened to my shoes?’
Famous footwear caper a hoax?
It’s autumn 1983. In his role as Pee-Wee Herman, Paul Reubens takes the fieldhouse stage wearing his signature white, elevator shoes. During the performance he takes them off and puts them aside. One of the rabid fans runs up and grabs the shoes, then exits stage left with students and security staff in hot pursuit. Fleet of foot, the thief gets away, but Student Programs Director Serni Solidarios says he found it interesting that minutes later he saw Reubens’ manager on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter: “Someone stole Pee-Wee’s shoes!” We wonder, was it a crime or a brilliant PR ploy?
Water, water, everywhere
Buried alive! Shocking tale of survival
The area of Tacoma’s North End now occupied by the university was once called Spring Hill, for good reason. The remnants of a stream and other water sources run under the campus. That’s why in some places the lawns are often saturated, even in summer. At one time there was an 86-foot difference between the highest point on the campus and the lowest point. Karlen Quad was a ravine, and a feature known as Huckleberry Hill at North 11th Street and Union was flattened to fill it. When this was done, rather than cut down the beautiful firs in the future quad, the trees were buried partway up their trunks—not a good thing for tree health, yet they have miraculously survived for more than 50 years! Careful observers can spot the buried trees: They are the ones with trunks that come straight out of the earth like giant fence posts, rather than having roots extending at right angles just below ground level, which is normal.
The mummy returns (to the Washington State Historical Society)
The rumor that the university once displayed a genuine Egyptian mummy in Thompson Hall is true. The Washington State Historical Society loaned the mummy to the university in the ’60s. Along with its elaborately painted, hieroglyphics-covered wooden sarcophagus, the mummy was encased for viewing near the biology department on the fourth floor of Thompson. According to physics professor emeritus Frederick Slee, it was a popular attraction that drew school children and adults alike. A request from WSHS prompted the return of the mummy to the museum about 20 years ago. The mummy was originally donated to the WSHS by museum board member and local land developer Allen Mason in 1891. Mason acquired the mummy of Ankh Unnefir, an 8th-century-B.C. priest, while visiting Egypt. A recent CT scan revealed that the priest was 25 to 35 years old at the time of his death. Ankh Unnefir will rest in peace at the WSHS research center; there are no plans for further exhibition due to the museum guidelines regarding display of human remains.
‘Let ’em wait!’
Several years ago Albert Brooks was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and Oprah asked the comic what was the worst experience he’d ever had in a performance. He instantly responded:
“University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington.”
In the fieldhouse in 1971, it was Brooks’ unfortunate task to open for the ever-tardy Sly and the Family Stone. There were two sold-out shows that night, each packing the fieldhouse to its capacity back then of 6,000. In a 1999 Playboy magazine interview, Brooks filled in the details:
“Just before the show, Sly’s manager knocked on my door and asked, ‘How long is your act?’
And I said, ‘Well, normally I do, like, 30 minutes, but I’m a little concerned here. Maybe I should do 20 minutes?’
And he said, ‘What is the longest you can do?’
He said, ‘Sly is in Ohio.’”
The first show didn’t begin until the second show was supposed to start, leaving a huge crowd outside in the rain and dark, getting more and more impatient. By the time ticket holders for the second show finally made it to their seats, they were not exactly in a laughing mood.
Grizz’s secret life
Arches caught up with Puget Sound mascot Grizz the Logger at his summer home in the Cascade foothills for this brief interview.
Arches: My, what white teeth you have. Are they veneers?
GTL: Grin and bear it, eh? Heh, heh. A little ursine humor there. Seriously, you make me out to be so vain. I’m just a very conscientious brusher and flosser.
Arches: Don’t you get hot wearing those long pants all the time?
GTL: Hot? You wanna talk about hot? Bear in mind I’m wearing flannel on top of fur. And, like, I’m a volunteer. I can’t afford a different outfit for every season. [Plus, sources say his legs are a little mangey.]
Arches: We’ve heard gossip that you are considering making the jump to Division I and are in negotiations with UCLA. True?
GTL: Ridiculous. Do I bear any resemblance to a bruin? I think not. Once a Logger, always a Logger, I say. Besides, this UPS Loggers beanie is stitched to my head. I can never defect.
Arches: Your body seems out of proportion. It’s your head, frankly. It’s kinda big.
GTL: Well, I am smarter than the average bear.
East view is best
When Memorial Fieldhouse was under construction, after the cement for the balcony seating on the west side was poured, President Thompson sat down to test the view of the court. He was dismayed to find he couldn’t see the near sideline area very well. To avoid the same problem on the opposite side, the east wall was built 12 inches lower. Note to fans under six feet tall: If the balcony front row is your favorite vantage for cheering on the Loggers, sit on the east side.
Jazz kings rule a different court
Band on the run
In February 1984 the Cultural Events Series hosted jazz artists Wynton and Branford Marsalis for a fieldhouse concert shortly after Wynton became the first to win Grammies in both the classical and contemporary categories in the same year. But the band lost the key to the padlock on their equipment trailer just before their sound check, and while university staff sweated out finding a locksmith on a Sunday, the band seemed unconcerned. In fact they were downright delighted to be in a gym instead of their normal performance venue. They said shooting hoops seemed like a fine use of their time—just as good as a sound check. The university’s basketball players and others in the fieldhouse for a workout that afternoon had no idea they were watching some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world having a ball as they tried to convince bystanders to join in their pick-up game. We knew he was cool, but this?
Fabled Bill Cosby Jell-O sculpture is real … and it ’s still intact after 29 years!
Flash back to March 1978. Comedian and longtime Jell-O spokesman Bill Cosby is performing at Memorial Fieldhouse. An art student from Pacific Lutheran sculpts a likeness of Cosby in raspberry Jell-O and appears backstage to present it to him. Cosby, at first speechless, finally finds his voice and politely declines to take the Jell-O with him, saying it would be difficult to carry on the plane home. A kind-hearted university staff member says he’ll hold on to the work of art until Cosby can make it back to Tacoma. That was 29 years ago. The staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, confirms that the Jell-O safely sits to this day in a refrigerator at an undisclosed site. Which causes us to wonder: What is the half-life of Jell-O?
P.S. Ok, we can tell you’re skeptical, but we swear the Cosby Jell-O mold lives. We saw it ourselves. It even smells a little like raspberry. Still don’t believe us? You can read about it in the Tacoma News Tribune’s March 16, 2001, article or in Jell-O: A Biography by Carolyn Wyman (page 67; Harcourt Publishers).