Notable Civil War Pranks


The Civil War game, as you can imagine, has been marked over the decades by a variety of nasty deeds perpetrated by either one school or the other, with destruction of the giant "O" atop Eugene's Skinner's Butte in Eugene or torching Homecoming bonfires early in Corvallis representing the extremes in both towns.

Three pranks, however, in 1937, 1953 and 1957 stand out as the most fun to recall on this week of the big game between the Ducks and Beavers.

1937

Two days after the game, won by OSU in Eugene 14-0, someone in Corvallis got the bright idea of gathering up a bunch of Beaver fans and doing a car caravan to downtown Eugene to "rub it in."

The Duck fans got advanced word of the deluge headed their way (reported by the press the next day as numbering over 200 cars), and had a brass band waiting for the group to blast them with the UO fight song. Then someone from the Stater contingent began pelting Duck fans with ears of corn and fists starting flying. A riot broke out involving some 500 fans from both schools, and it spread across campus to downtown Eugene and directly through the front doors of Seymour's restaurant, a favorite Green and Yellow hangout. Immediately, all UO fans were identified and thrown out. Pots and pans from the restaurant's kitchen were used to beat back Duck supporters trying to enter through a back entrance. Known today as the "Siege of Seymour's," the police arrived and a trust was forged between the warring parties, but not before the tussle had reached a local millrace where both Beavers and Ducks were unceremoniously sent for a mud bath.

1953
In 1953, a carload of Oregon students came to Corvallis in the dead of night and before they were finished, a large "O" had been burned on the lawn of the Memorial Union and another started in front of OSU's historic Benton Hall.

The word "started" is used here because the students from Eugene never got to light a flame to their giant letter. They were caught red-handed by a rapidly growing crowd of Oregon State students, and what happened next is for the ages. The UO kids were stripped to the waist and painted Orange and Black. So too was the car they had used to drive to Corvallis. It was moved to the MU quad and, how do we say this delicately, it was "taken care of." All four tires were flattened, and top-to-bottom, the vehicle was given a new paint job. You guess the colors.

1957
Maybe the most ingenious stunt of all took place when four Oregon student athletes, all members of Theta Xi fraternity, decided one night (when they were all bored out of their minds) that wouldn't it be clever if they could show up at Oregon State's Homecoming game with Washington State and actually kidnap their Homecoming court.

Which is exactly what they did. Posing as reporters from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, allegedly sent to Corvallis on assignment to do a story on OSC's game with a Washington school, the three ladies of the court accompanied the "reporters" for a short car ride to Avery Park south of town to shoot photos. Almost right away, the car began heading north toward Salem.

For the next 12 hours the group stayed tucked away at the home of the parents of one of the kidnappers, enjoying a large meal and delighting at how much national publicity the whole story was beginning to generate, including reports that the entire Oregon State football team was out looking for the court. Because Homecoming Queen Pearl Friel was native Hawaiian, it was also rumored that football players from the University of Hawaii were threatening to travel to Oregon to deal with the situation.

These reports and rumors never panned out and late that afternoon arrangements were made with Oregon State's dean of men to return the court in time for the spirit parade, scheduled that evening. The "exchange" took place, at the insistence of OSU, not in town but at the Benton County line.

Campus observers agree there has not been a major prank committed by either school in over 20 years. The feeling is that community standards for college student behavior have stiffened in recent years meaning that pranks just aren't treated as pranks anymore. A few years ago, under a different coach, students conducted a round-the-clock vigil over a cast iron Beaver that sat on a stand in the northeast corner of the endzone in Reser Stadium. This week, the Oregonian reported a "repainting" of the green "O" on Skinner's Butte.

For the record, OSU won both its Homecoming game in 1957 and the Civil War game to finish at 8-2. With the win, the two schools were tied for the Rose Bowl. But guess what? The conference at the time had a "no-repeat" rule and since the Beavers had been to Pasadena in previous year, the Ducks got the pick.

George Edmonston, Jr. is the former editor of the Oregon Stater