Published: June 1, 2016 By

How the Grill got its Name 

Alferd Packer A 1960s CU alum who was in the UMC’s Alferd Packer Grill recently asked a student if she knew who Packer was.

“An early CU president?” she replied hopefully. 

How soon they forget. 

OK, gather round ye who never heard the tale, and I’ll sing of Alferd Packer, and how the UMC grill came to bear his name. 

But first, confession time: I had something to do with it. OK, a lot to do with it. The naming, that is. I never met Packer. Fortunately. 

First off, Packer was not an early CU president. He was a cannibal. Like Hannibal Lecter, only with worse manners. And a better excuse — he was hungry. 

Packer was part of a six-man prospecting party that got marooned in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in the winter of 1873. Come spring, he emerged alone and surprisingly un-emaciated. He was eventually caught, tried and sentenced to hang for murder. 

His claim to fame  comes from the sentence of doom pronounced upon him — as magnificently interpreted and imparted to a credulous media by a drunken bar-keep thusly: 

“Stand up, yah man-eatin’ son of a bitch, and receive your sintince!... They was siven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County, but you, yah voracious, man-eatin’ son of a bitch, yah eat five of thim!” 

Fast forward to the spring of 1968. I’m sitting in the grill with my BFF, student body president Paul Talmey (A&S’67; MBA’78) (I’m his veep), and a couple of others. Someone at the table is grousing about the food. 

“We otta’ name this place after Alferd Packer,” I said brightly. (It was then called the Roaring Fork.) 

“We could get the Student Assembly to do it,” Talmey said. 

The Student Assembly was new. Talmey and I had started it. 

Five or six hundred students showed up for the next meeting, when I introduced a resolution renaming the grill for Packer and read the hanging speech. It passed unanimously. 

I had a day job at the time — at United Press International’s Denver Bureau, as did another former Colorado Daily editor, Bob Ewegen (Jour’68; MS’72). 

As soon as the vote happened I called Ewegen, who sent a story about it to UPI’s main bureau in New York. 

Within 20 minutes it came blasting back on the “A” wire, UPI’s premier breaking news wire with subscribers all over the world. 

The year 1968 was tumultuous. The world needed a laugh. 

And so did the CU Regents. They were so glad to see the students doing some campus high jinks instead of occupying Regent Hall that they immediately renamed the grill for Packer.