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Everywhere I go I find a pal

Everywhere I go  I find a pal Everywhere I go  I find a pal

Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review

It turns out that I played a bit role in an important chapter in college football history. I didn’t know the larger significance of my participation until I read a Wikipedia post this past week.

The chapter involves the Axe, the travelling trophy won by the winner of the annual University of California Berkeley and Stanford football game. The Axe has a gloriously checkered history. The trophy, a standard 12-inch lumberman’s axe, made its debut at an April 13, 1899, rally where Stanford students used the implement to decapitate a straw man dressed up in Cal blue and gold ribbons while chanting a yell inspired by the immortal poetry of Aristophanes (“Give ‘em the axe, the axe, the axe!...Right in the neck, the neck, neck!”) At the Stanford-Berkeley football game played in Palo Alto two days later, Cal students stole the axe and pirated it back to Berkeley on the Southern Pacific steam ferryboat. The Axe, hidden in a girl’s dress, escaped detection by police who searched people returning from the game. In Berkeley, the Axe was safeguarded at the Chi Phi fraternity and later in a bank vault.

In 1933, both colleges agreed to designate the Axe as a travelling trophy.

That didn’t stop the shenanigans, however. And that where I enter the story.

On Jan. 28, 1978, a group of Cal students ran across the basketball court at half-time during the annual Berkeley-Stanford basketball game played in Palo Alto holding aloft a carefully constructed replica of the Axe. The reaction to the faux theft was predictable. All hell broke loose.

The Berkeley students, driving a small fleet of cars, whizzed back to the East Bay followed in hot pursuit by a motorcade of outraged Stanford students and, in turn, the police.

I learned about all of this as I was cleaning up as weekend chef at the University of California Marching Band residential hall.

A bunch of breathless band students ran into my kitchen and, panting, told me they needed a place to hide something. They showed me the replica Axe, giddy with excitement.

“Sure,” I said. I placed the Axe behind the No. 10 cans of tomato sauce, cling peaches and baked beans stacked high in the kitchen’s walk-in pantry.

I left work and started my walk down Berkeley’s hill to my near-campus apartment.

I saw a stream of cars careening to Tellefson Hall, the band’s residence dorm, followed by a huge knot of police squads in hot pursuit. The wail of sirens filled the air.

The next day local papers erroneously chronicled a real theft of the Axe.

I haven’t thought much about the incident for four decades. And now it turns out that I had a small part in a long, ridiculous tradition of college football pranksterism and thievery.

Sometimes, greatness is thrust upon you.

Contact Peter Weinschenk at pweinschenk@