Union Building's history rich with tradition

Weber State University’s Union Building has held many events and activities during  its 50 years. Some have come and gone, while others have become tradition.

Soon after its construction in 1961, the Union Building began hosting the Miss Weber State College Pageant, where contestants were judged on their face and figure beauty, intelligence, grace and charm, and talent.

During the 1963-64 school year, the Union Building was the venue for a sophomore class party called the “Grease Hop”. Other classes had separate formals and even class “suppers.” Students regularly put on talent shows, competing in areas like vocal, piano, pantomime and hula. The building also held student and faculty art exhibits.

However, the events haven’t all been lighthearted fun. The Union Building has also served as a meeting place for discussions on serious issues. It held “Get Out of Vietnam” discussions in the 1960s. In the 1970s, others debated for and against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which intended to guarantee equal rights for both sexes by law. One speaker warned women of the “evils” of the business world and told them to stay focused on their families.

Chess Grandmaster Bobby Fischer visited the Union Building in 1964, when he played a chess game simultaneously against 40 to 50 players. Weber State College’s first four-year college graduation also took place in that year.

During the 1970s, the Union Building had a hobby cellar, where students built tables, polished rocks and made vases, among other things. Students also got their hair cut at the barber shop and had a treat at the ice cream parlor.

Dining in the Union Building has also shifted over the years, with food options changing from the Junction City Snack Bar and the Skyroom Restaurant, to Pretzelmaker, Burger King and Chik-Fil-A, to today’s Grill 155, Lotza Pizza and Pasta, and Starbucks.

In 1982, the Union Building was renamed the J. Farrell Shepherd Student Union Building after “Shep,” the Union Building’s first director.

“The Union Building also served as a home away from home for students, so there was actually a nook off of each of the restrooms that went into the back that was called a quiet room,” said Fred Meaders, Wildcat Lanes Coordinator. “In those rooms, they used to have bunk beds, and students would go crash in there to take a nap.”

For the Union Building’s fourth birthday party, students took a trip all around the world right inside the building.  They gambled in Monte Carlo, relaxed at Parisian cafés, got married in a Hindu-style wedding ceremony in India and then got divorced in Mexico. This year, the Shepherd Union Building’s 50th birthday party lasted for five weeks. There was a one week celebration for every decade the Union Building has existed.

A newer tradition, the seventh annual Wildcat Block Party took place in August and was part of this year’s Union Building birthday celebration. The theme was “Blast Back to the 60s,” the decade the Union Building was built.

“We just aim every year to do (the Block Party) better and to get as many people there (as possible),” said Nikki Nicholas, Coordinator for Union Programs. “We just continue to build on the success. Right now, the Block Party is the event with the biggest student turn out every year.”

While much has changed, some things have stayed the same. Students bowled and played pool in the Union Building when it first opened, and the tradition continues today at the Wildcat Lanes and Game Center. The Union Building has also always had a fireplace lounge.

“They are a tradition in union buildings because they’re looked at as the living room, the heart stone of the campus,” Meaders said.

The Shepherd Union Building will also host the time-honored Homecoming Dance on Friday, Oct. 14 from 8:30 p.m. to midnight in the Ballrooms. Tickets are $8 for singles or $12 for couples and are available at the information desk in the Shepherd Union Building or at the door.