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The Blue Bucket name was used for many campus entities, including the precursor to the university newspaper, The Argonaut. According to the 1926 campus yearbook, the Gem of the Mountains:
"A 'blue bucket' was the blue, wooden bucket that swings beneath covered wagons, drawn by slow-moving oxen that made their way across the gray sagebrush plains of the Snake River on the old Oregon Trail. In 1845, a party of emigrants reported that somewhere between the crossing of the Snake and the John Day River they had seen gold nuggets in quantity enough to fill one of their blue buckets. This statement gave rise to a curious legend of the Blue Bucket diggings, a phantom mine that spawned the occasional, however futile, search for these riches to this day in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon."
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Student Union Building - 1936-present
By Alexiss Turner
During his five-year stay at the University of Idaho, Richard Stiles ’65 said he spent most of his time in the “living room” of campus – the Student Union Building.
Between acting as vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho, SUB building committee manager and SUB program manager, along with pursuing his master's in education, Stiles said he rarely had reason to leave his college home away from home.
“It just felt comfortable there, and continued to get so,” he said. “It was a time of innocence, and I would do it all again.”
The campus hub first became popular in 1924 as the Blue Bucket Inn. The social club and restaurant was owned by Permeal French, UI’s first dean of women from 1908-1936. The Blue Bucket Inn was the unofficial student union building, even though it was privately owned.
Self-dubbed the recreation home for all social hours, the building held many events that would remain traditions for years to come including senior dances, junior prom and the popular Spinster Skip. According to the 1931 UI yearbook, Gem of the Mountains :
“Failure to receive an invitation to the Spinster Skip is one of the most chagrining blows which may fall upon a University of Idaho man. The Skip is given annually for the purpose of ‘giving the women a break’ by affording them the opportunity to invite their own escorts. …
One of the traditional customs which no woman attending the Skip may violate is that she must call for her date and walk on the outside of the walk while escorting him to the Blue Bucket. A tradition which the men insist upon, but which is not always followed, is that their dates take them to dinner and a show after the dance. Some men even require violets for their buttonholes.
Changing in Phases
In 1936, UI purchased the Blue Bucket Inn added an addition across what was then Seventh Street to become campus’ first official Student Union Building, including a second-floor ballroom. The old Blue Bucket building housed the university bookstore.
The SUB addition was expanded two more times in 1949 and 1956, including a larger dining space, new main floor entry and expansion to the edge of Seventh Street.
As building committee manager for the SUB during its 1963 remodel, Stiles was able to provide input in blueprints for the building’s expansion, known then as the New SUB, that closed Seventh Street.
The new SUB opened in phases from 1962-1963, unveiling the then-largest ballroom in Idaho – at 13,800 square feet – that could accommodate 2,400. The building also included a 12-lane bowling alley, space for ASUI, alumni and Argonaut offices, as well as a main lobby. Stiles said his crew made the push for ultra-modern Eames chairs in the lobby, complete with leather upholstery and ottomans.
The Dipper provided vending machines, coffee and a lounge area. Stiles said the coffee in the SUB left more to be desired, but it didn’t stop him from drinking it.
“It wasn’t anything to brag about, but it got the job done,” he said.
TV rooms were located in the basement and wall-to-wall carpeted stereo listening rooms also were added. Nancy Simpson '67 first started participating in on-campus activities as the manager of the music room. She said The Beatles were her go-to band.
Simpson served on the SUB executive board and activities board. Even with so many different activities going on in the SUB, a strict dress code was enforced. While Simpson was working toward her law degree from 1963-1969, women, who she said were only referred to as girls, had to wear skirts and dresses during class as well as while walking through campus buildings – and the SUB was no different.
Simpson wore cutoff jeans – which were strictly forbidden – to her last law school exam. Nothing happened, she said, and she graduated as expected.
The Blue Bucket Lives On
Even though the original Blue Bucket Inn building was decommissioned to make way for the 1960s expansion, the Blue Bucket Inn name existed almost interchangeably with the SUB as the place on campus to eat, study and socialize until well into the 80s. The usual Sunday menu at the Blue Bucket included assorted pancakes, and weekday menus featured foods from various nations. The Student Union Ballroom was also often referred to as “The Bucket.”
To celebrate the opening of the New SUB, Stiles and his team worked to organize entertainment from jazz king Louis Armstrong. Fans filled the ballroom to capacity.
“Armstrong, of course, was the premier trumpet player of his era, and I can vividly recall introducing him to the crowd and standing on the stage looking over a sea of students packed onto the dance floor,” said Pat Killien ’65, a member of the SUB activities board.
In conjunction with the event, Armstrong announced the winner of an annual tradition, the “Ugly Man.” Votes were cast campuswide for this comical title, and a crowning ceremony was held in the person’s honor each year.
Stiles said it was important the SUB join students from all walks of campus, including Greeks and independents. This was accomplished each year by the weeklong Campus Chest event. All student groups were invited to participate in this talent show and auction inside the SUB, and all proceeds went to charity.
The social hub of campus began to shift with the creation of the Satellite SUB in 1971 to give students easier access to the “center” of campus without having to make the trek to the actual SUB.
Five thousand dollars were allocated to remodel what was then known as the Faculty Club building, or the current art and architecture annex on Idaho Avenue and Pine Street.
The snack-bar menu also served as a place for refreshments for those studying at the library – that is, until the Idaho Commons was built in 2000.
The SUB Ballroom was remodeled in 2009 including a new ceiling as well as new sound and lighting systems. The second floor was most recently renovated in 2012 to update individual and group study areas.
Renovations planned for 2013 include second-floor upgrades to meeting rooms and a reconfigured floor plan ready for use by winter 2014.
Next year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Idaho. Members of the university community present and past are invited to help tell our story. Have a favorite memory to share? Email us with your discoveries!