Victory bell echoes with legacy of shenanigans
By Daily Bruin Staff
Nov. 16, 2000 9:00 p.m.
Â UCLA Archives The Victory Bell, which formerly adorned a
Southern Pacific Railroad Car, is given to the winner of the annual
UCLA vs. USC football game.
By Lisa Klassen
Daily Bruin Contributor
Football players competing in the annual UCLA-USC game, are not
the only defenders of Bruin pride.
The other heroes are pranksters, students willing to go to any
means to defend the blue and gold as they strive to uphold a
60-year tradition that began with a railroad bell.
According to the 1961 UCLA Alumni Magazine, the incident
sparking this rivalry occurred in 1939, when the Student Alumni
Association gave students a 295-pound bell excavated from a
Southern Pacific Railroad car as a present.
Later dubbed the Victory Bell, it signaled victory and pride
every time it was rung.
Each time UCLA scored points during football games, students
would strike the bell.
This happened until 1941, when scheming fraternity brothers from
USC drove away with the bell as it was being loaded into a
The Trojans kept the bell for an entire year, infuriating UCLA
students. By 1942, Bruins threatened to kidnap USC student body
president Bob McKay if the Trojans failed to return the bell.
The Trojans went to great lengths to protect the bell, hiding it
everywhere from the Hollywood Hills to Santa Ana. At one point, it
was even hidden beneath a haystack, according to a 1943 issue of
Trojan Alumni Magazine.
After subsequent threats and campus vandalism, McKay and
Associated Students of UCLA president Bill Farrar signed a contract
establishing the victory bell as a permanent game trophy going to
the winner of the annual UCLA-USC football game.
Sometimes blue and other times maroon, the Victory Bell now
remains under lock and key.
This treaty might have settled the bell crisis, but it only
furthered the animosity between the two campuses. Following the
first incident, attacks on Trojan and Bruin pride became a pre-game
tradition every fall.
On the milder side, pranksters have painted Tommy the Trojan
blue, and several UCLA buildings have acquired a new coat of maroon
In a more extensive prank in 1957, a Trojan, posing as a Bruin,
joined the card stunt team, the group of fans who create large
images with placards during football games.
Before the big game, he altered the cards to display the USC
logo in the corner of the group image when the cards were
During the game, Bruins were shocked when their card stunts
provoked cheers from opponents. By the time they discovered the
change, it was too late.
Another prank occurred in 1958, when a stealth band of
tricksters broke into the printing offices of the Daily Bruin and
replaced the planned stories with bogus accounts of USC’s
This newspaper war continued into the 1980s with Trojans
printing spoofs of the Daily Bruin and Bruins producing false
editions of the Daily Trojan.
But UCLA students had their share of comebacks against the
Trojans. Before the 1958 game, 100 Trojans guarded their mascot
Tommy from marauding Bruins fond of mutilating the statue.
Initially deterred by the large contingent of guards, several
students rented a helicopter and while hovering over Tommy,
showered him with 500 pounds of manure.
Though students revere successful pranksters as campus heroes,
not-so-successful schemers from both sides face ridicule from their
In a prank that backfired, three UCLA students captured on USC
grounds were tarred, feathered and marched down USC’s
University Avenue in a cage in 1979.
For three unlucky Trojans in 1962, punishment included a
complimentary haircut that spelled out UCLA, blue face paint, and a
night spent tied to a flagpole.
During the game, Bruins are ruthless, waving credit cards and
dollar bills in rhythm with the USC fight song, according to the
1993 pamphlet “UCLA Traditions: A Collection of UCLA Stories,
Customs and Rituals.”
After the big game, however, traditions are often more subdued.
Following a Bruin victory in the 1960s, students rejoiced with a
special gathering, wrote W.C. Ackerman in his book “My Fifty
Year Love-In at UCLA.”
“As part of the rally, the band, rally committee, yell
leaders and everyone else run though the campus with sound
amplified broadcasting systems, encouraging students to leave
classes, to disrupt the general business of the University and join
in the “˜March to Wilshire Boulevard,'” Ackerman