Old UA lore associated with 'Fig' name


As an alumnus from an earlier decade and (now) a longtime employee here, it alarmed and saddened me to read of the plight of Ben Rushlo, whose letter ("What exactly is a 'Fiddlee Fig'?" Oct. 23) states that he is "puzzled and frightened" by the name of this restaurant because he can't figure out what it means. Well, I have both good news and bad news for Ben.

The good news is that I know where the name came from. I know because, being an "old timer," I was around when the restaurant was so named. Here is the story as I know it.

Once upon a time, in the late 1970s, the west cafeteria in the Student Union was remodeled. No, no new furniture! But new wood floors were installed and the room was divided up into sections, on the top part of which were planters that held real not fake fiddle leaf fig plants! When Edna Labrie, who was the supervisor at that time, asked what kind of plant they were, she thought they were saying, "fiddlee fig." As many times as the word was repeated to correct her, she just kept calling them "fiddlee figs" and so, as a kind of joke, they named the restaurant "Fiddlee Fig." That way, it described the kind of plants it had, but didn't contradict Edna's mispronunciation.

Well, everything was fine and a few people asked Ben's question, but there was always someone on hand to give the answer. Now, there are few of us left to tell the story.

Now, for the bad news. As for the magician's wand, hat, and gloves part of the restaurant's logo, I have no idea where that came from. Maybe Ben will just have to think up a story of his own. Or find Ms. Labrie, now retired, but still living in town.

Students, you're only here for a few years. The wonderful history and lore of this university abound all over this campus. But much of it is stored away inside those who came before. And a lot of it is lost. What you see while you're here is just a snapshot. You won't really understand that until you go away and come back, perhaps years later. What you find when you return will astound you. What is gone will astound you even more.

Sweet dreams!

James Uhrig

Library Assistant Sr.

University of Arizona

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