Naming the Suites

Recalling the first time I entered the DU house on 505 Princeton St, one unique aspect I immediately noticed was the names on the suite doors. When I eventually moved into the house I continued to get amused by the names, thinking, “I wonder why they are named like that?”. I was aware that many, if not all, were an homage to the original DU house on 515 Oxford Street. However, no one had ever fully explained the origins of the names to me. Since our brotherhood is entering a new era in living arrangements, I thought it appropriate to investigate this portion of our history.

First, some background on the original North Dakota Chapter house on 515 Oxford Street as regaled by Brother Fred Mitchell.

In January 1960 I transferred to the University of North Dakota from Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin. I had been an active member of the DU chapter there and was recruited by DU International to move to Grand Forks and take the lead in forming a new chapter. A year later we had an active chapter with close to 30 members. DU International then directed me to focus on procuring a house, the final requirement to secure our charter. They offered no financial help. However, they did agree to finance, either through a grant or a loan (I don’t recall which it was.) any renovation the house required and to furnish it.

The first step was to create a housing corporation which would be the purchasing entity. Neil West, now Dr. West, and Jim Wickham worked with me. Jim had been a member of the DU chapter at the Uni. of Colorado, prior to transferring to UND. We located a DU alumnus in Fargo that was an attorney. He agreed to create the housing corporation and found one or two other DU alums who agreed to be the directors of the Corporation. Jim was probably the person that found our Fargo attorney.

We now had the legal entity but no money. The chapter then engaged in several car washes in Grand Forks, on a main street using water from a fire hydrant. I should add the owner of a local car wash close by was understandably quite angry. I don’t recall how we got access to city water. That effort raised a few thousand dollars. It was probably less than $5,000, still a significant sum in 1961.

515 Oxford St.

Next, we got in contact with the owner of a 4-unit building located at 515 Oxford Street that was for sale. Our Fargo attorney was probably the person that came up with the idea of using “a contract for deed.” As best I can recall, with that instrument the seller retained the deed until the contract was satisfied. To get a clear title to the property the Chapter had to make regular monthly payments for 5 years as I recall. If the Chapter made timely payments it had the rights of ownership.

Once the contract was signed, we received funds from DU International to convert the 4plex into a chapter house. I do recall a Saturday morning in the spring of 1961 when the seller stopped in. The renovation work was well underway, and he was horrified by the work in progress. I suspect he expected us to default and he would reclaim his property, now not rentable as a four plex. His concern was misplaced because the Chapter never missed a payment and ultimately got a clear title to the house. The seller must also have retained a first mortgage on the property, but I don’t recall how that was arranged.

Brothers Kip Cranna, Warren Halvorsen, and Lynn Luckow were very helpful in providing more insight and information about the original DU house and the room name origins.

The building was originally a two-level apartment complex with four 2- bedroom/1 bath apartments, two apartments on each floor. When you entered the building from the front door on Oxford St., you could go right or left from the entryway into either of the former apartments on that level, or you could take stairs down to the lower basement level where the other two converted apartments were.

In the apartment on the upper right the original living room, along with the dining nook, were used as a living room by the chapter, and what had been the kitchen was a card room for the chapter. Of the two bedrooms in that apartment, one was named The Two-Man but the other we can’t recall.

In the upper left apartment, the former kitchen continued to function as such for the chapter, and the combined dining nook and living room served as the dining area for the chapter. Of the two bedrooms in that apartment, one was The Office where the Chapter President and Treasurer lived. Incidentally, the other bedroom was sometimes nicknamed “The Necktie Room,” because if a brother had a “special guest” in that room he placed a necktie on the doorknob outside as a sort of “Do Not Disturb” signal.

Downstairs in the apartment on the right, there was The Kitchen, because for some reason the original kitchen cabinets weren’t removed from that apartment and served as clothes storage. Of the two original bedrooms in that apartment, there was The Blue Room, a small room painted blue. If I remember correctly it was coined when someone was showing a prospective pledge the house and mentioned, “this is the Blue Room”. The other original bedroom in that apartment was The Liberal Corner, named for its inhabitants, two of whom included Warren Halvorson and Mike Moum, who were known to have liberal political leanings. I believe it was eventually occupied by brothers who had a more conservative political ideology and therefore the room was renamed The Conservative Corner. The former living room in that apartment was deemed The Four Man, since it had two sets of bunkbeds that would accommodate 4 occupants. In a related manner, this room was occupied at one time by Brothers John McClean, Louie McClean, and Coleman Quill who were members of the now defunct UND pep group, Golden Feather. The room may have been appropriately renamed The Feather Room.

In the apartment on the left side of the downstairs there was The Fireside Lounge (the former living room), so named because a fireplace from the original architecture was a predominate fixture of the room. Next door was The Waterhole[CC1] [CC1]. (probably the former kitchen). There is more than one possible origin of this room name. One explanation is that the room had some foundation or plumbing issues and therefore leaked. A more interesting story is that Brother Rollie Severson got especially tired while showering in the adjacent bathroom and plugged the drain by sitting on it, causing a flood. The Nursery (one of the original bedrooms in that apartment) was so named because the walls were painted light blue and had several paintings of characters from the Peanuts cartoon series. (Peanuts was VERY big in the 60’s.) The final room on that side of the floor did not have a formal name that could be recalled.

515 Oxford did originally have a garage as part of the property, and it was converted into living quarters. It could be accessed from the ground floor of building by entering the front door on the upper level on Oxford St. and going down a flight of stairs, or from the alley side of the building. Two 3-man rooms were placed in this area named The North and South Annex.

As for The Red Room, the best the brothers could surmise is that some room was either painted red or had red furnishings, since “even though we were a fairly liberal group there weren’t any commies!” Finally, rooms called 3 Man and The Dungeon may have existed, but this isn’t certain, possibly Brothers Tom Dolan and Charlie Schultz lived in the latter.

One last tradition that needs to be mentioned is Lloyd Bratlund’s profanely brilliant call to Snack Bar (so ably carried on by Bob Alexander) most every night around 10:00 or 11:00.

There you have it brothers, an exhaustive (as possible) history of the origin of the Suite/room names at the current 505 Princeton Street. Undoubtably there were many fond memories and “interesting” times at 515 Oxford, as well as, 505 Princeton. Maybe the names can be incorporated into the new Princeton Street DU house.

Thank you again to the many brothers who contributed to this article, if I have failed to mention you by name, I profoundly apologize but recognize your valuable additions.

Finally, if any brothers have more stories about 515 Oxford, or stories/recollections about 505 Princeton, I would be happy to collect them and publish in an upcoming Open Visor.

John M. Balintona, MD ‘92