California Traditions and Symbols
Table of Contents
The California Victory Cannon was presented to the Rally Committee
in time for the 1963 Big Game by the class of 1964. It is shot off
at the beginning of each game, after each score, and after each Cal
victory. Only once, against UOP on September 7, 1991, did the Bears
score too many times for the cannon, racking up 12 touchdowns (no
field goals) on the lowly Tigers.
Originally, the cannon was kept on the sidelines of the football
field. Due to Stanfurd's mishandling of their cannon in 1970
(while rumors say they shot a ramrod into the Cal rooting section
the fact is that they fired their cannon prematurely and fortunately
injured only one person), all game-time pyrotechnics were banned by
the Pac-8 in 1971. Since that time, the cannon has been mounted on
Charter (Tightwad) Hill above and in clear view from the stadium.
The cannon has been stolen twice. The first time was by Stanfurd
in 1964. The other time was during the Summer of 1972 by some
drunken Cal fraternity brothers. In both cases, the cannon was
The cannon has also been taken to various football games that were
away from Memorial Stadium. The number of these trips is often
limited only by the zeal and conniving nature of the Cannoneer.
Up until Stanfurd¹s mishandling of their cannon, the Cal
cannon was brought to all Big Games. In 1969, the cannon was
taken to every road game where it visited Palo Alto, Los Angeles,
Spokane, Washington, and Bloomington, Indiana. In 1976, the cannon
was brought to Tempe, Arizona for a game against (then future Pac-10
member) Arizona State. Cal won the game, and the cannon was banned
from Sun Devil Stadium.
Card stunts are one of the oldest traditions at Cal. In 1910,
at the Big Game, Cal students performed two separate stunts,
The Stanford Axe, and a blue C on a gold and white checkerboard
background. These were the first real stunts ever recorded in the
country. Stanfurd claims to have invented card stunts as their
students had worn red or white coats and hats in 1907 to form the
letters ³LSJU² in white on a red background,
but this stunt was stationary and the only one performed.
U$C also claims to have invented card stunts when in 1922,
two hundred students spelled TROJAN using colored squares of
card board. Over the years items that included candles for
night games, balloons, and even hats have been used instead
Card stunts have also been performed at several road games,
including the LA game, at Stanfurd if there was good weather,
and at the Rose Bowl. As funding for card stunts has dwindled,
so have the number of card stunt performances each year.
The ³Fish Clap² is performed whenever someone other
than Cal does something considered stupid. Some events have
included blown slam dunks, lame cheers, bad calls by the officials,
and performances by opposing bands. This insult was stolen from
fans of the University of Wisconsin (in Madison) who showed it to
Cal fans when the Bears hosted the Badgers in 1989. The Badger
fans said it originated at games of the Madison Muskies class A
(minor league) baseball team.
Traditionally read at the first bonfire rally of each year,
the Freshmen Ten Commandments started when Cal was in the
quarter system. The only commandment that is written in stone
is number 10. The rest are subject to changes. The most common
list included the following:
Thou shalt not wear red.
Thou shalt stand in every line thy passes.
Thou shalt not take thy Daily Cal as gospel.
Thou shalt attend all bonfire rallies
(or sometimes Thou shalt take Subject A at least twice.)
Thou shalt not wear thy high school letterman¹s jacket.
Thou shalt pass thy stunt cards to the right.
Thou shalt see that Oski¹s thirst never goes unquenched.
Thou shalt not study (or open a book) until the 15th week
of the semester.
Thou shalt always spell the name of the junior college down
the peninsula with a U.
Thou shalt keep the fire burning by responding to the command ³Freshmen More Wood!!!²
The official nickname of the University of California
is ³The Golden Bear². In 1895, the Men¹s Track
team went on a road trip to the East Coast. They brought with
them two blue and gold banners; Each banner was emblazoned
in gold with both the name ³CALIFORNIA² and the
state emblem, a Grizzly Bear.
On the road trip, the track team defeated both Princeton and
Harvard in dual meets, tied Pennsylvania, and won a tournament
that included most of the ³midwestern² universities.
The track team displayed the banners at each of these contests.
Following the road trip, Professor Charles Mills Gayley wrote a
song in celebrate of California¹s domination over the great
universities of the east and midwest. He named the
song ³The Golden Bear² in honor of the symbol that was
on the banners. At the same time, the University formally adopted
the name ³Golden Bears² as the nickname for all athletic
In the nineteen-forties, someone hunting in Alaska shot and
killed a Kodiak Bear. Instead of keeping it for himself,
he donated the stuffed bear to the ASUC, who placed the Bear
in the ³Bear¹s Lair². When the new Student Union
building was completed, the Bear was moved to 3rd floor of the
building just below the stairway leading up to the Pauley Ballroom.
³Labor Day² used to be celebrated every Leap Day
starting in 1896. That year, the State Legislature was dragging
its feet in appropriating money to the University. In response
the Cal student body spent all of February 29, which was a holiday
granted by the faculty, tidying the campus¹ walks and lawns,
hitching up horse carts, constructing much-needed temporary quarters
for classes and endeavoring in other ways to put the campus in its
finest condition that it had ever been in.
This act of student spirit moved the Legislature to immediately
appropriate the funds needed by the University. In honor of
that spirit, ³Labor Day² was founded and it was deemed
that every February 29th, the entire student body would make
improvements to the campus.
The Labor Day tradition was honored in 1976 when Rally Committee
Chairman Brad King led much needed repairs to the Big ³C².
Despite the rain that Leap Day, members of the Rally Committee
poured new concrete and removed all of the paint that was
covering the ³C².
Oski the Bear is the official Cal mascot. Named after the
famous yell, Oski first appeared on campus on September 26, 1941,
the night before the season opening football game against
St. Mary¹s and has been prowling around the campus ever since.
Oski is a male bear about 5 feet 7 inches tall, wears size 15 tennis
shoes, and is the responsibility of The Oski Committee.
The origins of this yell are in question. What is known is that
the yell was first performed around the turn of the century.
The verse from the song, The Stanford Jonah that
goes ³Down on the Stanford farm, there¹ll be no sound,
when our Oski rips through the air.² refers to The Oski Yell.
The yell is also performed at the University of Illinois,
who claims to have originated the yell. In the Illinois version,
the last verse is different. The California Version goes:
A parody of this yell, called the "Farm Oski" exists at UC Davis:
This rally, which is no longer celebrated, began in 1901 when
the students wanted to have a rally that was genuinely Californian.
One day, thousands of leaflets suddenly appeared on campus
announcing a ³Pajamahoolo² at the cinder tract (which was
located where LSB stands now). The leaflet included the
words ³Wear your night robes and tell your girls to come.²
The rally was attended by record numbers of students and quickly
was known as California¹s most outstanding rally tradition.
From its beginnings to its death in the 50¹s or 60¹s,
the rally maintained its pajamas only dress code. An attempt to
revive the Pajamarino Rally was made in 1986 by Rally Director
Wendy Withers. Unfortunately, with the Bears in the middle of
a dismal season, student enthusiasm just wasn¹t there.
At basketball games, before the days of air horns and buzzers,
the referee would signal the end of the game by firing a pistol
into the air (as is still done in football). Often, when the gun
sounded, a Rally Committee member would drop a rubber chicken from
the rafters in Harmon Gym (it was really effective when the referee
had his pistol pointing to where the chicken was hanging). This
tradition quickly died out when air horns were added to Harmon.
Up until the 1950s, the Senior Class would, on a date near graduation,
gather at Sather Gate. From Sather Gate, the class would, dressed in
their caps and gowns, march around the campus, stopping at various
buildings in a ³pilgrimage² of sorts. At each stopping
point, speakers would tell reminiscent stories about events that
occurred in or around the stopping place. At other points, the
class members would recite various yells, or sing Cal songs.
For an explanation, we turn to the Cal Band Alumni
Association¹s The Pride of California.:
The Straw Hat Band has always tried to unnerve the opposition from
the beginning of the game. In the Spring of 1958, after the
announcer read the names of each of the players of the opposing team,
the members of the Straw Hat Band would chant in tempo with the
announcer: ³Who's he?...Drop dead!...Turn Blue!...Orange
Juice...SQUISH!² This custom continued into the early 1970s.
Contrary to the excerpt, the Tuna cheer is still performed when
the Band feels that the crowd is not in the game. The player to
be named ³Tuna² is usually chosen early in the second half.
In 1972, the Band developed a gimmick to fluster visiting players
during the game. That year, there was an excellent but nervous
player on the UCLA basketball teamnumber 42. The Straw
Hatters discovered that by yelling, ³Drop it forty-twooo!²
at the top of their lungs, they could ruin his game. In the three
years that he played for UCLA, the Band continued to heckle him,
shouting ³Forty-Twoooo!² every time he had the ball.
By the last year of his basketball career, he had become
Even after number 42's days were over, Band members continued to
pick on a skillful, easily flustered player in each game, naming
him the ³tuna for tonight.² Every time the designated
player got possession of the ball, the Bandand eventually the
crowdwould shout, ³Toooo-Na!² until he let go of the
This tradition continued until the late 1980s, when the resurgence
of Cal men¹s basketball drew larger crowds to Harmon Gym.
Loud cheers for the winning Cal Bears are now a continuous roar
from the opening tip off to the final buzzer.
Alumni at a post Big Game party in 1993 said that the Tuna cheer
predates the story given here.
I would love to hear a definitive answer. --Sean
The text of this document was written by Andrew Gross and Sean Patrick Rouse.
Copyright 1996 Sean Patrick Rouse and Andrew Gross.
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