Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Archive Adventures: What's a Bucket Bowl?...and happy accidents

Though the library is usually dedicated to quiet study zones, you can't escape the highly contagious Blue-White buzz that has been spread around the whole building. So, in celebration, I've been wandering the aisles looking for history on the infamous "Bucket Bowl."

According to Lou Prato's article on the history of the Blue-White game, the "Bucket Bowl", as it was known, started in 1951 and came out of a tradition of scrimmages, intrasquad or against another school, to close spring practice. People would gather and watch these bouts informally before 1951. However, starting that year the student newspaper, the Collegian (see link for the historical digital database), presented the winning team with a wooden water bucket from 1951 until 1954, thus coining the term "Bucket Bowl" for what we now call Blue-White.

Unfortunately, this is where the trail petered out. Despite my search among our records, the Blue-White game doesn't appear again in our records until the 1980's. As disappointing as it was not to find the detailed history of the spring game, what I found instead was a delightful history of PSU football antics and animals.

In 1955, wily PSU students kidnapped the Navy mascot (Billy the Goat) from his home in Annapolis. Initial speculation pointed towards Pitt trying to frame PSU, but it later came out that the whole affair was an attempt at a hilarious entrance of a Sigma Chi float (with Billy aboard) to the PSU Homecoming game. Unfortunately for the frat brothers, officers found the goat on a farm outside State College before the big game, and Billy was returned to his university. They admitted to their "crime" readily, upset that Pitt was getting all the praise, and lamented that they had grown very attached to Billy. How did they get him quietly into a car and calm enough to travel the six hours back to State College? They doped him with ether and "scratched his neck" to comfort him on the trip.

Another example of the humorous early years, when live animal mascots were all the rage, was the 1969 Orange Bowl victory by PSU over Kansas. They didn't just bring home a trophy (and tons and tons of oranges)...they brought home a buffalo. Delighted students transported the prize back to PSU, and after some great photo shots and lots of attention, the massive creature went to his permanent home at the Erie Zoo in PA.

In other pictures, it is very obvious that the students were enamored with this big guy! 
 So, even though the history of Blue-White was sparse, I did get to have an adventure that I never would have imagined when I initially set out on this topic. It may be that in the future we will come across materials about the spring scrimmages that were hidden away in a folder or among the stacks and stacks of boxes we have on football history. Who knows? We work tirelessly to make sure we document everything we can, but there's never enough time to go through every single collection we have. That's why archives encourage researchers and history-adventurers...like you...to do exploring as well. Who knows what you will find?

In the meantime, dream of spring and the thought of a beautiful Old Main lawn while you're waiting for the Blue-White game! We hope to see you at our event this Friday ("What's Special in Special Collections?")!

Orange Bowl(ing) in 1969.

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