Angel of Death
Early "cinch" notices (of academic deficiency) were not distributed by the recorder's
office, but were posted openly on the bulletin board in Old North Hall. The
man who posted the notices became known as the "Angel of Death" or the "Avenging
Angel" by the students.
Andy Smith Eulogy
The Andy Smith Eulogy closed the Big Game Rally. The
philosophies of clean living and good sportsmanship taught by Andrew L. Smith,
coach of the famous football teams of the 1920s whose sudden death in January,
1920 shocked the campus, were recounted by the radio announcer, Mel Venter at
the rally of 1948. The following year, Garff Wilson, professor of dramatic art
and speech, was asked to prepare a eulogy which was read at the rally by the
ASUC president. After that date, the eulogy was read by Wilson himself to a
darkened Greek Theatre illuminated only by the dying embers of the bonfire and
the flickering lights of candles held by the students in the great amphitheater
Axe Rally was the one occasion of the year on which the
Stanford Axe was taken from its bank vault and shown to the student body, while
the story of its capture was retold by alumni who had taken part. Previous to
1916, the rally was held on the night before the Big Game. In that year, it
was decided to hold the rally in the spring before the opening of the Stanford
baseball series, partly because the axe had been wrested from Stanford after
a baseball game, and partly because there was no other major athletic rally
in the spring. The significance of the rally died when the axe was recaptured
by Stanford in 1930.
However, the tradition of a rally the night before the Big
Game remained active. By the 1960s, the Big Game Rally became the Axe Rally
only in those years in which California was in possession of the axe.
Big "C" was built on March 18, 1905 by the men of the
classes of 1907 and 1908, who formed a human chain to relay the building materials
up the slopes through a heavy rain. The "C" symbolized California spirit and
the peaceful end of the Charter Hill "rush" formerly held between the freshmen
and sophomore classes. It was traditionally in the custody of the sophomores
who were responsible for keeping it clean and painted gold. A ceremony was originally
held each Charter Day to transfer the "deed to the C" from one sophomore class
to another. During the year, the deed was displayed in the Bacon Library, but
in the move to a new library building in 1911, the deed disappeared.
The "C" was considered legitimate prey by the athletic opponents
of California, who tried to emblazon their colors on it. The freshmen painted
it green on occasion. On the evening before a Stanford game or a coast championship
game, the "C" was outlined in electric lights and guarded through the night.
Big "C" Sirkus
"Big C" Sirkus began as a vaudeville show given by the
"Big C" Society to entertain high school athletes attending the western interscholastic
track meet in April, 1911. The show was repeated at the meet annually until
1914 when World War I intervened. In 1920, it was re-established as entertainment
on the evening of Labor Day and replaced the Labor Day observance of Leap Year
in 1932. In addition to the show, an afternoon parade was held at which prizes
were awarded for floats made by campus organizations and living groups. Proceeds
from the show were given to a worthy campus enterprise. In spite of the depression,
the Sirkus was financially successful throughout the 1930s.
Revived after the hiatus of World War II, the Sirkus lost
its Leap Year significance and was repeated annually between 1946 and 1953 as
an evening show, but the last two years were a financial loss and the affair
was discontinued. A second revival was attempted in 1962, 1963, and 1964 for
the benefit of Cal Camp, but was not financially successful and in 1965, the
Executive Committee of the Associated Students voted to abandon it.
Big Game Week
Big Game Week preceeds the playing of the Stanford-California
football game each fall. In its early manifestations, it consisted of the singing
of California songs for five minutes at the start of each class, of spontaneous
rallies between classes, and of a rally on the night before the game. It was the traditional time for alumni to
attend class reunions--usually on Big Game eve. The week featured an Axe Review
in which campus living groups competed for trophies with skits and plays depicting
humorous aspects of the Big Game and campus life; "Blue Monday," a day on which
students discovered wearing red, a Stanford color, were singled out for public
embarrassment; and the Big Game Rally.
Burial of Bourdon and Minto
Burial of Bourdon and Minto, a freshman ceremony patterned
after a similar tradition at Yale, was observed from 1878-1903. Bourdon's Elements
of Algebra and Minto's Manual of English Prose Composition were freshman
textbooks. At the end of the academic year, copies were burned and the ashes
were buried by the class with ceremony. The simple ceremony gradually became
more elaborate. A long procession of appropriately garbed mourners wound about
the campus and a roaring bonfire became the backdrop for the cremation. Sophomores
made annual attempts to break up the affair.
As enrollment increased, non-students
were able to take part without detection and a playful commotion
became a riot, spilling off the campus into the town. Private property damage
and injuries among the students finally made it necessary for the University
administration to forbid continuation of the ceremony.
Card Stunts between the halves of football games had
their beginnings at the Big Game of 1908, when both California and Stanford
rooters appeared in white shirts and rooter caps which were one color on the
outside and another color on the inside. By reversing the caps, simple designs
such as block letters could be produced.
At the Big Game of 1914, sets of stiff cards of varying colors
cut to a uniform size were supplied to each California rooter. These, when held
up in the rooting section according to direction, made an effective, clear-cut
pattern. Through the years, ingenious card stunt committees evolved elaborate,
animated stunts including the traditional "Cal Script" in which a huge "Cal"
appeared to be written by a great, unseen pen gliding smoothly across the rooting
Channing Way Derby
Channing Way Derby, originated and conducted by the Sigma
Chi fraternity at the corner of Channing Way and College Avenue, was a ceremony
which introduced freshmen pledges to sorority life for over 25 years. Beginning
in 1916 as a means of keeping score on the women arriving for pledge breakfasts
in the sororities along Channing Way, with a large beer mug awarded to the house
having the greatest number of pledges, the "derby" expanded through the years
into an elaborate, though mild form of hazing. As the event became famous, all
sororities were invited to take part; Channing Way between College Avenue and
Piedmont Avenue was temporarily closed, and spectators began arriving before
dawn. Discontinued in 1942 because of the war, the "Derby" was not revived.
From the late 1870s until 1911, although with lessening
interest after 1906, the "plug" was favored campus men's wear. For seniors,
it was a black top hat as befitted their dignity. Juniors wore grey ones. Sat
upon and kicked around, a plug's distinction lay in its battered condition.
Senior plugs were undecorated, but junior plugs were painted with class numerals,
fraternity or society emblems and campus scenes indicative of the wearer's interests.
As the wearing of the high silk hat by business executives began to decline,
so did interest in the "plugs."
The "senior sombrero" was initiated by the class of 1913.
A stiff-brimmed, ranger type of hat, it was considered representative of western
spirit. A leather band worn about the crown was carved with a pattern of California
poppies wreathed about a bear, while the word "California" and the class year
appeared across the front. This dignified hat gave the senior an air of distinction
and was widely worn. It was not until the late 1920s, when it became fashionable
for men to go without hats on informal occasions, that the sombrero disappeared.
The freshmen of this period wore soft, blue felt, "pork pie"
hats turned up all around, with a narrow gold ribbon about the crown. These
were usually cut and tormented into weird shapes. Sophomores were distinguished
by jeans, and for several years, by grey, checkered caps, with a green or red
button on top according as the class year was odd or even. "Cords" (corduroy
trousers) were the mark of the upper classmen, and were worn so universally
as to be almost a uniform. The more soiled, the nearer "to standing alone" a
pair became, the more desirable it was. The decline of cords was determined
as slacks and sport coats became popular informal wear during the mid-1930s.
Following World War II, several attempts were made to establish
the tradition of "dinks" for freshmen, but without success. Currently,
there is no distinctive class clothing aside from the occassional senior t-shirt.
Each spring, for a week, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity
sponsored the Daffodil Festival, during which the yellow flowers were sold on
the campus for charity. After 1946, daffodils were flown in near Easter time
from Washington state and sold. In the mid-1960s, the recipient of proceeds
from the festival was the World University Service. On the last day of festival
week, a Daffodil Queen was crowned.
Dead Week immediately preceeds final examinations. Quizzes,
special reports, or extracurricular activities were not scheduled during this
time so that students could concentrate on studies. The week was formally requested
by the ASUC Student Affairs Committee in 1961 and officially authorized by the
Berkeley chancellor in 1963.
Founders' Rock was located on the north side of the campus
near the corner of Hearst Avenue and Gayley Road. On this outcropping, 12 trustees
of the College of California stood on April 16, 1860 to dedicate property they
had just purchased as a future campus for their college. In 1866, again at Founders'
Rock, a group of College of California men were watching two ships standing
out to sea through the Golden Gate. One of them, Frederick Billings, was reminded
of the lines of Bishop Berkeley, "Westward the course of empire takes it way,"
and suggested that the town and college site be named for the eighteenth-century
English philosopher and poet.
On Charter Day, 1896, the senior class commemorated the dedication
of the campus by placing a memorial tablet on Founders' Rock.
Freshman Rally in September welcomed the new class. A
great bonfire was built by the freshmen, but a continual demand was made for
"more wood, freshmen!" and class honor required that the supply of wood never
Freshmen-Sophomore Brawl was organized in 1907 after
the banning of the Charter Hill rushes. The men of each class dressed in their
oldest clothes and met on an athletic field for push-ball contests, jousting
and tying matches, and a tug-of-war. The competition was supervised by members
of the Big "C" Society to prevent undue roughness. The brawl continued to be
held each year, but by the mid-1960s, women students took part along with the
men, and the affair was conducted by the Californians, an honorary spirit society.
Golden Bear is the oldest, active
tradition of the University. In the spring of 1895, a 12-man track team was
sent to the east coast and was the first University athletic team to compete
outside of the state. It carried two blue silk banners bearing the word "California"
and the state emblem, a grizzly bear, embroidered in gold.
The team was successful beyond expectations, winning four
and tying one out of six dual meets, and winning the Western Intercollegiate
Meet at Chicago. At the jubilant homecoming reception, the team's banners were
proudly displayed and inspired Charles Mills Gayley, professor of English, to
compose the lyrics of the song "The Golden Bear." The song ended:
"Oh, have you seen our banner blue?
The Golden Bear is on it too.
A Californian through and through,
Our totem he, the Golden Bear!"
From then on, the Golden Bear became the mythical guardian
of the University.
Hanging of Danny Deever
Hanging of Danny Deever was mournfully tolled by the
Campanile chimes on the last day of regular classes in a term. After it was
played, the chimes were silent for the entire examination period. Played for
the first time by chance at the end of the spring semester of 1930, an encore
was requested by students at the end of the following semester. The custom still existed in the 1960s as one of the oldest surviving campus traditions.
Labor Day as a Leap Year holiday on which the men of
the Berkeley campus turned out en masse to improve roads or landscaping, while
the women students prepared and served a lunch, was first held on February 29,
1896. That year, the area around North and South Halls was in need of improvement
and legislative funds were not forthcoming. Regent Jacob Reinstein '73 called
upon the students to dramatize the need for funds by donating a day of labor
to the University. The response and results were so satisfactory that the event
continued to be held for three decades. The result most evident by the mid-1960s
was the trail to the "Big C," complete with drains and culverts, which was built
in the course of three hours on February 29, 1916.
The need for such activities diminished and in 1932, Labor
Day was replaced by an enlarged Big C Sirkus and parade.
Through the years, the campus had any number of informal
mascots. In the 1920s, a Springer Spaniel named Contact was adopted as the
campus pet and became the center of a small controversy when the University
administration barred all dogs from the campus.
The career of Ludwig von Schwarenberg was considerably smoother
and more honorific. When the Student Union complex opposite Sproul Hall opened
in 1960, the fountain between the Union Building and the Dining Commons became
the favorite haunt of a German Short-Hair Pointer named Ludwig. In a few months,
Ludwig had appropriated the fountain for himself and would stand in it haunch-deep,
waiting for a friendly student to throw a tennis ball or feed him. Ludwig's
day began early in the morning and ended about five-thirty in the afternoon
when he would promptly head for his home in Berkeley. In 1961, by Regental decree,
the fountain was named in his honor, the first location on campus to be named
after an animal. Ludwig's tenure at the fountain ended, except for visits, in
the fall of 1965, when his owners moved across the Oakland estuary to Alameda.
North Hall Steps
North Hall Steps in the words of President Wheeler were
"The shrine of those who would loaf and invite their souls." Two 12-step flights
led to entrances on the east side of North Hall. The northern steps were used
mainly by the women students. Those to the south were exclusive lounging precincts
of the men of the three upper classes. Here students surveyed the passing scene,
campus politicians built their fences, and classes gathered before a "rush."
On Thursday evenings, the steps were reserved for the seniors who met to sing
and settle campus problems.
In 1917, North Hall was condemned to be torn
down as worn out and unsafe. On Commencement day that year, some 700 alumni
came to stand about the steps to say farewell.
"Oski," taken from the "Oski, wow, wow!" cheer, was the
name given to various bear cubs tried out as Berkeley mascots. Each became dangerous
as he grew larger, and the idea of a living mascot had to be abandoned.
At a 1941 freshman rally, a character inspired
by William Rockwell '43 appeared for the first time. Dressed in a padded size
54 yellow sweater, blue trousers, oversized shoes, large white gloves, and a
papier mâché head caricaturing a bear, this Oski was soon in demand at social
affairs as well as rallies and games.
After 1946, Oski was the charge of a special
committee. This group of men between 5'2" and 5'4" in height and possessed of
considerable gymnastic ability, determined Oski's schedule, planned his stunts,
and took turns assuming his character. The membership of the committee was not
listed, and the identity of Oski on any given occasion was kept strictly secret.
Pajamarino of mid-October was a pajama-clad affair, which
was said to have originated in a night gown parade held October, 1901 as a costume
stunt. Formerly, the men of each class competed in class skits or stunts. By
the mid-1960s, the program was arranged by the Rally Committee and the competition
lay in the originality of night attire displayed in the student audience.
Partheneia, an original, open-air pageant or masque presented
each spring term, was initiated in 1911 by Miss Lucy Sprague, then dean of women.
A competition for a student-written script was held in the previous fall term,
the general theme being that of the transition from girlhood into womanhood;
400-500 women took part in the performance.
The first Partheneia, presented on April 6, 1912, was performed
under the oaks bordering the eucalyptus grove. It was not a satisfactory location
for spectators, however, and later performances were given in Faculty Glade.
The Partheneia was produced regularly until interest in pageantry declined generally.
It was discontinued in 1931.
"Pedro" was the long, drawn-out student call which was
sometimes heard in Berkeley at night--particularly before examinations. The
tradition was very old and its origin was unknown, though several tales attempted
to account for it. An older one told of the daughter of Don José Domingo Peralta,
who once owned all the land in the Berkeley vicinity. Separated from Pedro,
the handsome young man with whom she was in love, she wandered the rancho lands
calling his name, but he never came back. Her ghost returned on moonlit nights
still searching for Pedro and sympathetic students tried to help her find him.
A later version claimed that Pedro, the dog of a former President
of the University, became lost shortly before examinations one year, and the
President promised that examinations would be cancelled if the dog was found.
Although their calls were unavailing, anxious students still hoped they might
be successful in bringing Pedro home.
Rallies on the eve of athletic events began as intercollegiate
competition developed, particularly with Stanford, in 1891. Originally, bonfire
rallies were held in the area later covered by the Life Sciences Building. Men's
smoker rallies were held in Harmon Gymnasium; women held rallies in Hearst Hall.
In 1903, the Greek Theatre became the site of bonfire rallies, and certain of
these, such as the Freshman Rally, the Pajamarino, and the Axe Rally became
Before World War II, rallies were masculine affairs with the
men gathering by class outside the theatre and serpentining into place about
the fire. Women students mingled with the audience above the diasoma. By the
mid-1960s, the space about the fire was unoccupied, while men and women students
sat together in the upper section of the theatre.
Rushing, or a contest between freshman and sophomore
classes in which one class attempted to wrestle and tie the other into submission,
was a general collegiate tradition when the University was founded. An organized
rush was held at the beginning of the academic year to decide class supremacy,
but informal ones erupted on occasion. One such occasion developed at Berkeley
during the 1890s, when the freshmen began to paint their class numerals on
Charter Hill the evening before Charter Day. The sophomores determined to prevent
this and the ensuing rush became a prolonged battle in which students were seriously
injured and the noise interfered with the academic ceremonies going on below.
In 1904, it was determined the Charter Hill rush must be stopped and on Charter
Day 1905, upon the advice of the senior class, the classes of 1907 and 1908
buried the rush beneath a concrete "Big C" on Charter Hill.
The entrance to the campus at the end of Telegraph Avenue
was always a busy one. When the gate itself was completed in 1913, the area
surrounding it became a strategic and attractive place for students to campaign
for student office, distribute advertisements of campus events, or hold impromptu
Because the use of Campus facilities was denied
to students and others who would use them for partisan political purposes or
for religious proselyting, Sather Gate took on a new significance during the
political and social ferment of the 1930s. The area just outside the gate was
public property and campus restrictions on political activities did not apply
there. Thus, from the very early 1930s to the 1950s, when construction of
the Student Union and Dining Commons outside the gate moved the public-campus
boundary a city block south, political rallies and some religious preaching
became frequent and common sights at Sather Gate.
Incidents of student protests, occasionally involving
violence and mass meetings of up to 3,000 students, are a matter of historical
record from as early as 1932 to 1941 and the outbreak of World War Il. Many
prominent Americans running for public office addressed students from a truck
bed or platform built into the street at the Sather Gate entrance. After the
war, in the Sather Gate tradition, though in a different location, a few large
political meetings were held at the west entrance to the campus where larger
crowds could be accommodated.
Senior "C" intended to become a tradition, existed for
only a year, yet had its place in history as the forerunner of the Senior Men's
Bench. Tales of the famous Yale fence led the class of 1898 to build a large,
wooden "C" mounted on legs which was placed across from North Hall about where
the 1897 Jubilee Bench later stood. The "C" was expected to become a gathering
place for senior men, but proved to be uncomfortable and was soon abandoned.
While the seniors were wondering what to do with it, the "C" suddenly disappeared
one dark night. A Stanford raid was suspected and a letter was sent to that
student body with thanks for having relieved California of a problem.
Senior's Men Bench
Senior Men's Bench was dedicated April 14, 1908 by the
classes of 1908 and 1909. Located in the sunny corner between the south steps
and the basement entrance of North Hall, it was an ideal place from which to
"pipe the flight" (watch the women go by) and discuss current events. After
Wheeler Hall was completed in 1917, campus traffic patterns shifted toward Wheeler,
and the bench lost its attractiveness.
A new bench on Campanile Way east of the library was dedicated
by the class of 1921 to the "wonder team" of 1920 on Charter Day, 1921, but
it was too exposed to the west wind and was seldom occupied. In the fall of
1924, the class of 1925 moved this bench to a new location across the road from
Wheeler Hall steps. This bench also failed to become popular.
In November, 1937, the bench was moved to a location in front
of Moses Hall (then Eshleman Hall). There it became the target for pranksters,
who daubed it with paint and hid it about the campus until it became a battered
eyesore. In 1951, a competition was held among the architecture students and
a new bench was designed and placed. Although the bench was clearly marked "reserved
for senior men," the "senior" tradition controlling its use faded.
Senior Week, during which members of the graduating class
held a series of farewell activities, began in 1874 with a "class day" before
graduation and a farewell banquet in San Francisco on the evening following
the exercises. The extent of the celebration varied from class to class, but
certain senior week functions are still generally observed.
The Baccalaureate Sermon was originally delivered the
Sunday before Commencement by a local minister or member of the faculty. It
was later held at mid-week in Faculty Glade or Hertz Hall.
The Senior Banquet was held, in the mid-1960s, in
connection with the Senior Ball at one of the larger hotels in San Francisco.
For many years after the turn of the century, senior men attended a banquet
in San Francisco and the senior women remained on the campus in Hearst Hall,
where the announcement of engagements was a high point of the evening.
On the morning before Commencement the seniors of the class
of 1874 met for a final Pilgrimage about the campus. The custom was still
observed by the 1960s, but was not as popular as it once was. The Pilgrimage
stopped at special landmarks to listen to speeches from class leaders and favorite
faculty members. On this occasion, the women used to dress in white and carry
white parasols. The men wore white trousers and dark coats. The Pilgrimage was
abandoned for some time and then was revived after World War II. By the mid-1960s,
only a few seniors clad in cap and gown made the Pilgrimage and gathered at
Sather Gate to sing "All Hail."
The Extravaganza, an original farce written and performed
by members of the senior class originated in 1894 as an afternoon, outdoor performance
of dramatic recitations and seats in "Ben Weed's amphitheater." It became an
evening affair after the building of the Greek Theatre, but the tradition did
not survive World War II.
Sophomore Lawn, the strip of grass dividing the road
between the General Library and California Hall, became the gathering place
for sophomore men when the road was completed in 1910. California Hall was then
the administration building and freshmen could be detected and hazed as they
approached it. The freshmen retaliated by burning their class numerals in the
lawn at night. With the move of administrative offices to Sproul Hall in 1941
and the abolition of hazing, the lawn lost its original significance.
Spring Sing was normally held near the beginning of April
as an open competition for representatives of various living groups, who competed
for individual and group trophies and awards. The 1965 Spring Sing was held
in the Greek Theatre, with proceeds going to Cal Camp.
The Stanford Axe first appeared at a Stanford-California
baseball game in San Franciso, April 15, 1899, when the 15-inch steel blade
mounted on a four-foot handle was in the Stanford rooting section to the accompaniment
of the taunting axe yell. At the close of the game, irate Californians wrested
the axe from its guardians and succeeded in out-distancing the Stanford pursuit.
The awkward handle was sawed off in a butcher shop and the blade, wrapped in
butcher paper, was deposited near the solar plexus of one of the group who had
managed to keep up with the race even though he wore an overcoat.
Stanford, meantime, had enlisted the help of the San Francisco
police and all entrances to the ferries, the only means of transportation across
the bay, were guarded. In the nick of time the bearer of the axe recognized
a young woman friend approaching the ferry and, as her gallant escort, walked
peacefully past the guards onto the boat.
The axe remained in Berkeley for 31 years. For the annual
Axe Rally, it was brought from the vaults of the First National Bank in an armored
car guarded by the Rally Committee and the freshmen. Stanford's recovery attempts
were unsuccessful until the evening of April 3, 1930, when 21 Stanford students
invaded Berkeley. As the axe was being returned to the bank, one of the Stanford
men, posing as a newspaper photographer, called for a picture. Flashlight powder
was ignited and a tear bomb tossed among the guards as others of the "21" grabbed
the axe and rushed it to a waiting car.
In Stanford custody, the axe remained hidden in a bank vault
for three years until heads among the alumni of both institutions suggested
it be made a football trophy annually to the winner of the Big Game.
University Colors of blue and gold were chosen in June,
1873 not long after the first class organizations, then called "unions," were
formed. A committee of representatives from each class was appointed to make
the selection. Blue, particularly the bright Yale blue, was considered because
of the prevailing color of the sky and landscape, because of the blue of the
student cadet uniforms and because of the number of Yale graduates who were
instrumental in the founding and administration of the University. Gold was
considered because of California's designation as the Golden State, the view
of the Golden Gate from the campus, and the color of many of the native wild
flowers. Unable to make a choice, the committee turned over the decision to
the women of the classes, and Rebekah Bragg (later Cummings) '76 made the suggestion
to combine the two, which was accepted by the committee.
The Victory Cannon was a 750 pound cannon donated by
the class of 1964 in time for the 1963 football season. The gun, in the custody
of the Rally Committee, was in evidence at all home games and at the Big Game,
was fired whenever the football team scored a touch down or safety, kicked a
field goal, or won a game. Two weeks prior to the 1964 Big Game, the barrel
of the cannon was stolen by Stanford students, recovered, stolen again, and
finally returned in time for the game in exchange for the Stanford banner and
card stunt cards.
Wheeler Oak, a tree that shaded the eastern portion of
Wheeler Hall steps, was a favorite meeting place for students between 1917,
when Wheeler Hall was occupied, and 1934, when the oak had to be removed because
of its age. The tree was so greatly missed, students solicited contributions
and a bronze, commemorative plaque was placed in the sidewalk where the oak
had stood. When the road in front of Wheeler Hall was made a part of Dwinelle
Plaza in 1952, the plaque disappeared, but in response to alumni interest, it
was found and restored to its original location in 1954.
Copyright © 1999-2005
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 06/18/04.