U of C legends and myths

By Еvan Osentоn

Listen up, frosh. The following are some of the infamous and lesser-known stories about the U of C; stories you’ll no doubt relish and tell to your grandchildren some day. Most are true; one or two might be very recently fabricated in the hopes they will circulate and add colour to a campus which can be a little drab from time to time. Happy reading!

Our sinking library: The MacKimmie Library is allegedly sinking into the earth. Apparently, the original architects did not take into account the weight of books. As a result, the floor between the sixth and seventh floors must remain empty to counterbalance this oversight. None of our reporters can gain access to this floor, and no one at the library will talk about this scandal. However, massive provincial government underfunding will likely solve this problem as books are discarded or stolen and not replaced, thereby lightening the library’s load.

Leon the Frog: An unknown individual or individuals spent an unknown (but surely extensive) amount of time transcribing what is surely the world’s most curious poem onto every step of the Social Science tower’s Northeast stairwell. The use of lsd by the poet or poets is suspected. Every student should climb these stairs and read this poem at least once before they die.

The Rock: A boulder covered in countless layers of paint on the lawn east of MacEwan Hall. Serves as an outlet for vandals and once as a target for (drunken?) engineers who dynamited it. Yes, you read that correctly. They succeeded in breaking many windows but the rock remained relatively unscathed. U of A engineers tried to steal the rock once, which is why it is now cemented to the ground. The rock has also been tarred and feathered in recent years by persons unknown. The legendary rocks has been relocated to its new home outside mlb from where the MacEwan Hall Ballroom is now.

The Creutzfeld-Jacob scare of 1978: Campus lore has it that the campus was shut down for nearly two weeks in Feb. 1978 after a fetal pig was "lost" in a Science a heating duct. During its rapid decomposition, the pig carcass spread disease to Science students, who in turn spread it throughout campus. An RCMP dragnet eventually discovered the bloated pig five days after its disappearance, but it was nearly 15 more days before campus returned to pre-"Pork Gate" health. Strangely, no one died.

Campus "art": The Prairie Chicken is not actually supposed to look like a chicken. An anonymous Gauntlet source and long-time art student-claims it is actually a series of books blowing in the wind. Another theory is that it is supposed to be viewed from above, not below, as is necessitated by its present location on the man-made hill south of Science A. Another campus art story holds that the engineers once constructed some "art" outside the library as a prank-art which still stands today.

The Zipper: The Zipper has enjoyed a tenuous term in the Science Theatre hallway, twice stolen, disassembled and once coated from top to bottom in Saran Wrap in broad daylight by a person who may or may not have been affiliated with the Gauntlet. It is reputed that a spin of the zipper before an exam will guarantee a good grade. Some ‘Geers built a car around it last year.

Joe Pillar: A long time ago, unusually creative engineering students created an entirely fictional student named Joe Pillar. Students took turns taking his exams and completing his assignments. When administration finally caught on to these shenanigans and put an end to Pillar’s academic career, he was three classes away from completing his degree. Of course, this ruse was only possible during an era of low tuition. Now, who would pay $4,000 a year to pull the wool over Admin’s eyes?

The Medium: The ’70s were a rocky decade for SU-Gauntlet relations. The red-baiting SU thought the Gauntlet was a communist collective and the Gauntlet thought the SU were corrupt corporate stoolies. Twice the SU shut down the Gauntlet and replaced it with the Medium, an inferior substitute. Twice the Gauntlet emerged, as the only U of C students interested in journalism (then, not now) were die-hard leftists. The Gauntlet gained autonomy from the SU in 1987 and has been unabashedly communist ever since [except for 2002].

The Who: Legendary rock band The Who is alleged to have once played the Den under the false name of The Willies. The Dec. 7, 1972 concert was attended by a sparse crowd of 20–40 who upon realizing the band’s actual identity called friends and family, swelling the crowd to somewhere around 1,800, an attendance figure the Den never topped in subsequent years. It is also rumored a young Keith Moon gave then-student and current ex-President Terry White his sneakers and drumsticks, now allegedly resting in a glass cabinet in White’s office.

BSD: In the early ’60s, a mysterious student scrawled, "Wear Bermuda shorts tomorrow" on a blackboard on the second last day of classes. Lo and behold, several students did. They have continued to do so (albeit in greater numbers) for years in a tradition now known as Bermuda Shorts Day. While it is easily the most fun day of the year for many students, it is a nightmare for Campus Security and non-drinkers.

Let’s we forget: In 1960, Maurice Yacowar founded the Gauntlet. It was less than three months before he caused the first Gauntlet-related scandal. On Nov. 11, 1960–Armistice Day–the paper hit the stands featuring what Yacowar recalls as a "belligerently pacifist, tasteless, overly rhetorical editorial against the institution." To really get their point across, the Gauntlet editorial board took piles of the paper to the Armistice Day celebration and passed them out to stunned onlookers, saying, "Let’s We Forget."

Yacowar and the board barely escaped with their lives. The editorial became the subject of intense mainstream media scrutiny for days; so much so that Yacowar’s family had to take the phone off the hook to stop the flood of callers wishing to give the young editor a piece of their mind.

"The friendliest [call] was someone saying that I should check my car every day, because there might be a bomb in it," recalls Yacowar.

Such a response to a Gauntlet editorial has yet to be repeated in 40 years.

The alleged MacEwan Hall basement: For years, campus old-timers have sworn there used to be a bowling alley in the basement of Mac Hall. This would correlate with the fact that nearly every building on campus is connected by underground tunnels, some of which until the early ’90s were open to students. Rez students strolled to class in the dead of winter in housecoats and slippers. While no one can prove the truth of the bowling alley rumour, the tunnel entrances are still visible in Social Sciences. The U of C is alleged to have shut the tunnels because of their attraction to people with criminal tendencies and their stench of septic waste.

The mysterious jazz program: Incredible as it seems, the U of C allegedly had a successful and renowned jazz program until very recently. Reason for its disappearance–or proof it ever existed–is nearly impossible to find.


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