THE STANFORD AXEORIGIN AND LOSS OF THE AXE
by Dink Templeton, Stanford '18
Tom McFadden, 200-pound Stanford tackle, had been a ticket-taker at the gate. As the crowd was piling out he heard some of the boys from Berkeley planning to swipe the Axe for a souvenir to exhibit as the Stanford folly. Instantly that Axe re-assumed some of its value to Tom. Anything else could have happened to it and he would have no kick. But none of those buzzards from Cal were going to get it to crow over, if he could help it.
He joined Hayden and the other two. They looked for help, but everyone from Stanford had made a quick exit.
They decided to get a four-way hold on it. That would leave mighty little handroom for their attackers, who were already crowding in on them from all sides, three to four hundred strong. The battle commenced and the four held on valiantly, resisting all of the playful little attentions which were showered upon them for the purpose of making them let go and retaliating. The mob swarmed around over them, gaining little advantage even in this unequal struggle until finally they formed in four radiating lines, each man with his arms locked around the waist of the one in front of him, and each one of the defenders solidly held by the first man in line.
Pulled from four different directions, it was inevitable that the Stanford grip should be broken. Hayden and his companions were finally jerked loose. McFadden still held on. The mob did not wait for him. They just started dragging him down the street. With plenty of motive power the ones not needed ran along by his side, picking him up and dropping him, choking, jabbing, and kicking, until he was finally knocked loose.
It had been a valiant defense, but one which could not possibly have been crowned with success.
Paul Castlehun, himself a football player, grabbed the Axe and broke from the mob. Fodini Bacigalupi stayed right with him. The mob ran after them, Stanford men in the mob.
Clear field ahead, and so outnumbered that there appeared to be no possible chance, yet they stuck by their guns.
A blind alley suddenly reared itself up in front of Castlehun. With the mob coming up from behind, confused as to whether it was composed of friend or foe, he heaved the Axe across the alley to Bacigalupi, who reversed the field, ran past the crowd, and across Howard Street. He was corked and relayed to Bill Drum. The California interference had formed. The Axe was safely theirs at a walk. But they were in a hurry to get it across the Bay, so they kept running, as though in fear that if the four Stanford men should once again catch them they would be able to take the Axe away from the four hundred Californians.
A Stanford straggler named Strout saw the excitement and edged into the running crowd. He was a hurdler and when he saw what was up, he moved right on through the crowd and ran along with Drum. When Drum got tired he handed the Axe over to Strout. The latter watched his chance and when he had lulled the crowd into a false sense of security, he put on full speed and broke into the open.
He was almost successful in getting away, too. Had it not been for little Jimmy Hopper, speed merchant and wonder quarter back, of the Berkeley teams of that time, he would have made it. Jimmy brought him down with a beautiful flying tackle.
By this time the gang realized that there was safety in their numbers and turned their flight into a triumphant procession. They appropriated a horse and wagon, filled it with everyone who could get on, and started on a trip through Chinatown. They lost the rest of the mob, and Hayden saw once again a chance to retrieve the prize. He called the Chief of Police and notified him that a crowd of students had stolen a valuable souvenir in the form of an Axe, and were making away with it in a stolen horse and wagon.
The Chief wanted a description of the horse and wagon, but Hayden, exasperated hollered over the phone, "To hell with the horse and wagon. We want the Axe!"
The captors began to use good sense about this time, abandoning the wagon and taking to the street car. With them went a Stanford student, "Crazy Joe" Hamilton, biding his time for a chance to make a rescue.
His letter, in response to recent inquiry as to just what happened, follows.
"I forgot whether the Axe was stolen after the first or second time I was fired, or after the time I was flunked. But I had had six months' newspaper work in San Francisco and that helped, or rather it should have helped but didn't. My detail had been Chinatown, the red-light district, and the morgue.
"Consequently, when, after the game and the fight near the field, I ran across this crowd of Berkeley men with the Axe near the top of old Dupont Street, I was on familiar ground. But the thing that has always puzzled me is that, apparently, they were too.
"However, I knew just what to do. I dived in, grabbed all the legs I could, we came down in a bunch and I hollered for the police, hoping that someone I knew would come along. They punched me around a bit and because I was still obstreperous one of them kicked me in the ribs for good measure. I looked at him calmly and said "I will kill you if I ever see you again;" he bowed quite gracefully, they took the Axe and went away, some of them remaining a few moments longer on my carcass discussing totally irrelevant things. Then they also went, and the police came.
"I knew a couple of the cops, and we raced for the Ferry. We began arresting suspicious characters till we had quite a huddle. But we found no Axe. It was getting late so the cops decided to call it a day.
"Later, one evening at a dinner at old Dal Matzia's, when most of the Phi Beta Phis were present, the two Irwins, Whittle the artist, Billy Erb, and several California men, I ran across a most delightful fellow who I was sure I knew but couldn't place. Later, when he bowed to some bit of repartee, it flashed upon me that this was the man who had engineered the job on Dupont Street and had kicked me in the slats. It seemed just a bit out of place to attempt to carry out my threat and I have never seen him since. That man was Jimmy Hopper."
When the gang with the Axe approached the Ferry they found Stanford reinforcements, aided by Hamilton's cops, searching everyone who entered the building. A short conference decided that Clif Miller, the only one with an overcoat, should hide it and go through as though he did not know any of the gang.
It was a tough spot for Miller at that, but a flash of inspiration came to him as he saw an unescorted coed with whom he was acquainted about to enter the building. He left his friends, greeted her, and offered himself as an escort.
Like two entranced lovers they passed through to security, arms linked and without any shadow of suspicion being cast upon them.
The coed has never been identified. Perhaps she never was told that the reason for all this attention was not her own charming self but merely the security she offered. At any rate she missed a chance of being the all-California heroine of all time, for without her and this one bit of strategy shown by the Californians, they would never have gotten that Axe to Berkeley, and they would have taken home a fine licking from the infuriated Stanfordites, Brick Morse to the contrary, notwithstanding.
About ten o'clock Monday morning, Everett Brown paraded the California campus with the Stanford Axe. Everyone rushed to see it and hear the story of its capture. The word spread. There was terrific excitement and everyone cut class.
The entire gathering moved over to the Senior C. There they staged the first of the famous Axe Rallies, entirely impromptu, but the wildest and most enthusiastic that has ever occurred at Berkeley.
The football captain, Charley Pringle, was unanimously chosen first Grand Custodian of the Axe. Professor Soulé excused the cadets at military drill. They rushed to the excitement and started a parade. The band had gathered and led. Behind came Pringle, the Axe tied to a long pole which he waved on high. The whole student body joined in behind, marching in lock step. It was a soul-stirring event for those times.
Along the line of march there appeared a long lean young man on horseback. He rode up alongside of Pringle and asked to carry the Axe so that all might see it. Pringle obligingly handed it up to him. The horse became exceedingly skittish what with all these strange noises. Dozens of students grabbed it and held it throughout the rest of the parade.
On that horse rode Harry Dutton, unknown over at Berkeley, notorious at Stanford, because, as a student he was the bird who grasped opportunity by the forelock, leased the Camp from the University for practically nothing, and rented living quarters from it out to the students. Even today, over at his Los Altos ranch, he holds the long-overdue notes of famous Stanford men in sums ranging all of the way from ten cents clear up to a couple of dollars. He wouldn't sell 'em now for anything.
With the same foresight which had caused him to put over his big business coup, he had made his way to Berkeley quietly and without taking anyone into his confidence, and had spent the weekend gathering dope which allowed him to forecast exactly what was to happen and be prepared for it.
That the Californian's did not lose the Axe was not their fault. They were as gullible as even the Stanford Dutton expected them to be. They handed the Axe over to him without a suspicion and only the caprice of a frightened horse prevented them from losing it. Surrounded by the enemy Dutton finally came to a turnstile through which the horse could not pass. There was no other alternative for Dutton but to pass back the Axe. He did it without disclosing his identity, still full of plans for its recapture.
The mob paraded clear down to Berkeley station and when it got back to the Campus a huge bonfire had been prepared. They yelled and danced around it and then retired to the North bleachers to hear all about the stirring events of the Saturday before.
It was Everett Brown who made the first speech, just as he has made every one at all the Axe Rallies since, and he made it good. About how a handful of Californians had beaten off a mob of several hundred guards and taken the Axe away. Echoes of that speech fired the Stanford Campus anew in its attempts to recapture the Axe.
As the crowd started to melt away with Pringle carrying the prize to the Chi Phi house for safe keeping, a mighty yell rent the air.
"Will Stanford get the Axe? No --- never!"
Dutton in the meantime had gotten rid of his horse and joined the crowd once more. He gathered in the plans for painting and decorating the Axe. With chewing gum he stuck on a false moustache and presented himself at the door of the Chi Phi house with a note.
It read, "Send by this fellow (a tall man) the axe to me this afternoon for I want to number it and fix the handle. This fellow is a painter." It was signed "Al Lean."
Al Lean was the popular trainer of that time, who, along with his other duties, took care of the trophies. Guileless as babes, they turned over the Axe to Dutton. Pringle just happened to come to the door. He asked a couple of questions and once more Fate took a hand at spoiling Dutton's plans. This time the gum suddenly lost its adhesive powers, the moustache fell off, and of course even the Californians tumbled enough to give him the bounce, and Dutton, for the second time, had to turn back the Axe.
Failing in his single-handed efforts, he returned to Stanford and the Camp, where he called a mass meeting and organized a raiding party. Thirty picked men, with the price of the fare to Berkeley, entrained on Monday evening, broke up into small groups, and made their way across the Bay. They assembled at the meeting place to the whistled tune of "There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight," and by two o'clock in the morning they were ready for action.
They surrounded the house, cut the telephone wires and hammered on the door. The Chi Phis, despite the fact that they had been warned of the impending raid, were all asleep. Art Cheeseborough, catcher of the ball team, leaned out the window and demanded, "What do you want?"
"We want Pringle," they hollered back and busted down the door. Six of the inmates, their leader waving a tin sword and shouting, "you ruffians, I command you to stop or I shall strike," greeted them from the top of the stairs as they burst in.
They swarmed over the pajama-clad defenders in a hurry. The valiant half-dozen surrendered and the thirty raiders ransacked the house from attic to cellar. Trunks, boxes, closets, the fireplace, the piano, mattresses were picked to pieces and even a ton of coal in the basement was carefully turned over, all to no avail. The only thing they did not search was the strong box containing fraternity secrets and this was spared only when the six Chi Phis, on bended knee, took oath that it was not there.
There are three stories as to where that Axe was. One, that Pringle had removed it to a safe deposit box. Second, that the Chi Phis had their fingers crossed when they took the oath. Third, that one of the sliding doors which partitioned the dining-room, had been removed, the Axe placed in the interstice, and the door replaced. None of these are authentic and you can take your pick.
The important thing was that the "Quest of the Red Axe" had failed because after two hours of searching it could not be found where it was supposed to be.
Both campuses were in a turmoil as a result of this unprecedented raid. Rumors flew of new attacks and counterattacks, and a stranger on either campus was in danger of his life. Both parties stood on guard and as a consequence there were no more raids. They would have been pitched battles.
In view of the fact that the annual track meet was to be held on the following Saturday, the situation was serious. Some of the Californians wanted to bring down the Axe to flaunt it in Stanford's face. The Dippy denied that Stanford would call off the meet if that were done, and George Culver's brother, the Stanford manager, saw in it the chance of putting track on the map.
The Daily Californian urged that the Axe be formally presented to Stanford at the meet. The faculty Committee on Student Affairs ordered that it be returned. Student leaders opposed that order strenuously and they were backed up by Stanford, who declined to accept it. The California faculty sent a communication to Stanford, suggesting that the meet and annual debate be called off for one year. Stanford did not think this was necessary and sent Professors Green and Richardson to confer with Professors Bacon and Edwards at Berkeley.
This committee decided that California should keep the Axe and that there should be no more attempts on the part of Stanford to recapture it. The Axe should not be displayed at the meet nor any taunting yells given. The sale of the miniature metal axes at the Co-op was stopped and the warning was given that any show of rowdyism or ill feeling would be the signal for the complete interdiction of future intercollegiate contests.
The California students were reminded that they were the hosts at the track meet, and President Jordan put out a bulletin to his students saying, "Let no old axe cut off our sense of dignity and self-respect."
On that next Saturday the meet was run off without mishap. The committee had done a sensible and understanding job. The crisis was over, the status of the Axe was settled, and it seemed as though that should have been an end to the whole matter.
It was Will Irwin who devised the one last chance of getting back the Axe. Expelled on the eve of graduation in 1898, he stayed in San Francisco, hoping to get a degree in '99. At the time of the Axe excitement he was coaching the junior show at California and refrained, as a matter of honor, from having anything to do with the raid. As soon as his job was finished he was free to go after the Axe. And although, as he expresses it, he was in a parlous condition with the faculty, he did plan the famous Fence raid and carried out one end of it.
The faculty agreement had stipulated that there should be no more raids for the purpose of capturing the Axe. It did not say anything about raids for the purpose of capturing anything else. Will Irwin figured his raid to capture the most valuable of California trophies and hold it as hostage for the return of the Axe.
He chose the Senior Fence, located near North Hall, built in the shape of a Block C. Only seniors were allowed to sit on it and proudly they had carved their names upon it and left them to posterity.
The raid was perfectly planned and executed.
On the night of April 24 twenty students in three wagons set out for Berkeley. It was a nasty night, dark and rainy, chosen because there was little likelihood of the Berkeleyites being on the job.
Will Irwin's squad stopped at Hayward. The next squad, under Rea Smith and Van Kaathoven, drove boldly on to the campus, attracted the attention of the watchman and led him a merry chase around the country. The third squad, led by Tom Gregory and Kid Lawshé, had a clear field. They made short work of tearing down the old landmark and piling it on to their wagon, rushing it down to Will Irwin.
At nine-thirty in the morning they reached Milpitas and telegraphed the news to the Campus. Hundreds of students rushed to Alviso and provided them an escort which made the return a parade of triumph. Like Roman generals returning from Gaul with their captives at their chariot wheels, these conquering heroes proudly rode their old wagons. The rally was a great success. No classes were attended. The Campus accepted it as truth that the Axe had been avenged.
California attitude changed that idea. When the Campus awoke the next morning, the students were mildly perplexed as to what had happened to their fence. They thought the Freshmen had torn it down, for that night had been the one for the Frosh celebration. When they found "Stanford" painted on the backstop of the ball field, they knew what had happened all right, but decided on a bored attitude which took all satisfaction away from the Stanford raiders.
They thanked Stanford for ridding them of an unsightly and worthless piece of junk, and took up a collection to send a few posts that had been overlooked in the raiders' haste down to the Farm with their compliments.
After kidding themselves along for a couple of years, Stanford men burned it with great ceremony as a jinx. Had California exhibited any of the fight shown by Stanford when her worthless Axe was stolen, the raid would have succeeded, for a trade could easily have been made. California indifference turned this well-done job into an achievement which achieved exactly nothing in the long run.
Since that time California has guarded the Axe in such a way as to get the goat of every Stanford man. Under government protection in the safe deposit vault of the American Trust Company, it came out but once a year at the annual Axe Rally, under the guardianship of the whole campus, armed guards who haven't brains enough to know a college prank from a hold-up, and with no way in the world of putting up a battle for it except actual warfare.
Thousands of Stanford men have said "Let 'em have the damned thing and see what good it will do them."
Yet the way they bragged about it, and dared Stanford to try and get it, got under the skin of every Stanford man.
There has never been a year when an expedition of some sort has not gone over to that Rally to see what could be done.
I was over there once myself but never admitted it because the futility of trying anything without machine guns made fools out of every one who even thought of trying to get bright. The sportsmanship of calling on the forces of law and order to protect it has always seemed especially rotten. They dared and taunted Stanford to come and try to get it, then put it in a place where only murder would have accomplished the purpose.
The smoldering fire has never ceased to burn at Stanford. Little was ever said about it because it took an air of seeming indifference to keep from taking a continuous razzing. Yet there never has been a Stanford man since who has not racked his brain, dreaming and plotting of a way to get it back.
That can all be admitted now.
After thirty-one years of being dared to try and do the impossible, an immortal gang of Twenty-One from Sequoia Hall at Stanford has gone and done it. Not by the force which was the only way California ever thought there was a chance of losing it, but by strategy. Strategy so perfectly planned that Chief Guardian Horner passed the Axe right into the hands of Bob Loofbourow. Just as Drum did to Strout, and just as Pringle did to Dutton. Only this time Loofbourow got a break from the Fates that outdid his predecessors and made a perfect getaway.
Will California ever get it back?
Well if you ask me, I hope she does when she earns it.
These thirty-one years have given it a tradition and a value which would make it the greatest of all trophies, put up as such for the winner of the Big Game each year.
And to the Stanford crowd that wants to keep it as Cal did, and to the California crowd that is too proud to accept the generosity of Stanford in putting it up as a trophy, all I can say is that I'd rather see it dumped into the deepest part of the Bay for good and all, rather than kept in a safe deposit vault.
Continue to "The Early Cal Traditions and the Axe Capture"