Traditions at the Berkeley campus
were plentiful, with new ones rising to replace the old ones that
died from change of style or interest.
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 above.
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
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
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
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
On Charter Day, 1896, the senior class commemorated
the dedication of the campus by placing a memorial tablet on Founders'
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 ran short.
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
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
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
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 annual events.
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 stunts.
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
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
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
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
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