THE STANFORD AXE

STANFORD REGAINS THE AXE
Part I
By the Twenty-One Stanford Captors




Determined to recover the Stanford Axe sooner or later, a small group of Sequoia men were organized by Don Kropp four years ago.

Unsuccessful attempts by this aggregation during the last three years were organized and enthusiastic ones, but each was frustrated by some development arising during the course of action.

In 1927 Moroni Jameson actually carried the Axe into the Berkeley bank, but so completely surrounded was he by California men that escape with the cherished trophy was impossible.

Fate would have it in 1928 that the Axe custodian, after being tackled by Stanford attackers, should fall on top of the traditional implement. It was this lucky tumble which saved the Axe once again for Cal. Delay in wresting the weapon from its guardian gave time for nearby frosh to surge forward and protect the cherished weapon.

Participants in the 1928 struggle were Moroni Jameson, Seth McKenna, Phil Duncan, Ross Fields, Obie Banks, George Brunnel, Joe Bridges, Nordi Nordheim, Bob Loofbourow, Jim Purcell, Johnny O'Sullivan, and Don Kropp.

Last year's efforts came to naught when several of the Stanford men were recognized. Plans were postponed until 1930. Little did the Sequoia band realize that the new decade would bring about realization of their plans for the return of the Axe to Stanford.

Secrecy had been strictly maintained by the band of twenty-one. Organized by Kropp, the determined few adopted a policy of continued silence concerning their plans. They deemed it vitally necessary that little be known of their actions if the hallowed adaga was ever to be returned to the Farm.

Tuesday, April 1, a secret meeting of the twenty-one was called by Kropp. Ringleaders were chosen, plans were outlined, and a line of action formulated.

The group planned to recapture the Axe on the steps of the American Trust Company bank at Berkeley after its return by armored car from the rally in the Greek Theater. Men were to be stationed between the bank door and the armored car to prevent entrance into the bank. To effect a quick getaway it was deemed essential to have a speedy automobile close by and ready for instant use. The camera ruse was the solution.

Thursday morning the plot was thoroughly familiarized by the twenty-one before they departed for Berkeley. At 4:30 Thursday afternoon three cars slipped quietly away from the Stanford Mausoleum --- the final meeting place of the plotters --- and headed for Berkeley, for Cal, and for the Axe. Each car had a definite destination and function. Eric Hill's car went directly to Alston Way, east of Shattuck Avenue. There the occupants immediately joined the California frosh in their march to the bank to get the Axe.

Berry Liken's machine was driven directly to South Berkeley, parked, and its occupants hastened to the Greek Theater. Kropp and James Trimmingham drove directly to Oakland, rented a Buick roadster from the Hertz drive-yourself service. Kropp parked his car two blocks from the bank and then joined Trimmingham in the rented car.

The whole situation was minutely surveyed. Care was taken to avoid the bank environs so that suspicion would be averted. During the rally at the Greek Theater the members of the twenty-one band present cautiously edged their way to the heart of the bowl, so they could be near the Axe at the cessation of the affair.

Ten minutes before the rally closed, five Stanford men secretly left the Greek Theater. They were the fake cameramen --- Ray Walsh and Warren Gage, the driver of the rented car --- Jim Trimmingham, and Art Miller and Don Kropp. They drove to the bank, backed the car on to the sidewalk, and rigged up a camera in the rumble seat. Miller and Kropp rode back to Sather Gate to await the departure of the armored car. When it was seen to leave, the two men "tore back" to the bank.

Miller, who played the role of bombist, concealed the "pineapple" under his coat and planted himself at the entrance of the bank. Kropp parked his car at the rear of the camera car and in such a way that he could follow closely behind and ward off any cars that might threaten to overtake the machine racing away with the recaptured Axe. After placing his car in position, Kropp, general supervisor of the plan, joined the cameramen to ascertain that everything was ready for action.

The Stanford men moved nervously in their positions as they impatiently awaited the armored car. It was not long before a black, steel-covered Studebaker hove into sight. It carried the Axe, Norm Horner, an armed guard, and a driver. Stanford men hanging on the car were Howard Avery, Eric Hill, Loofbourow, and Jerry Bettman. All the remaining twenty-one took positions around the armored car and near the bank door. To allow ample time for these maneuvers the fake cameramen were loudly demanding, "Let's have a good shot at the Axe!"

Freshman guards, pleased at the chance for photographic publicity, eagerly fell for this ruse. They politely drew back to "have their pictures taken." Contrary to popular belief, Horner did NOT yield to the camera ruse. He remained within the armored car. An overloaded shot of flashlight powder was discharged with a blinding flash and a whitish puff, just as Norm Horner, Axe custodian, stepped from the car.

Scarcely had Horner touched the sidewalk than Howard Avery dropped from the top of the car upon the body of the unsuspecting custodian, wrenched the Axe from Horner and passed the implement through several hands to Loofbourow. Hill and Bettman then closed in on Horner simultaneously in an effort to quell the furiously battling Californian.

Loofbourow, meanwhile, tucked the treasured Axe beneath his sweater and calmly walked through an opening made for him in the crowd by Stanford men. Few suspected that under Bob's brown sweater lay hidden that precious trophy which California had zealously guarded for thirty-one years. He slowly walked to the camera car, got in, and away went the machine, driven by Trimmingham.

Just as the camera car whirled away, Miller dropped a tear bomb directly in front of the bank. The crowd scattered as the odoriferous fumes began to penetrate the air. Avery, the original attacker of Horner, was swept into the bank by a pushing, clamoring mob of vengeful Californians. They thought he had the Axe. Undaunted by numbers, Hill and Bettman rushed to the aid of their confederate. Luckily, fumes of the tear gas crept into the bank, filling the air with the sickening odor. The three Stanfordites escaped through the crowd.

During the bombing confusion the armored car was thoroughly ransacked by Kropp and Miller to make sure that no hoax had been imposed upon the Stanford raiders.

Ferrino and his men, having completely blocked every avenue of exit from the vicinity, materially delayed word of the Axe theft from being spread through Berkeley. Stanford men, mixed together with the Californians, raised their voices in protest against the Axe theft from "those _______________ _____________ guys from Stanford."

Sure that the Axe was in Stanford's possession, the Cardinals raised the cry, "Let's go up to the Campanile and organize a pursuit party!" The idea spread contagiously. "Campanile!" shouted the mob, and up to the familiar spot of the Berkeley campus a thousand Californians rushed. This second ruse delayed immediate pursuit of the car which was racing toward the lower bay regions as fast as six sturdy cylinders could carry it.

Contrary to reports, no Stanford students were held as hostages by the Californians.

Fifty minutes after the first uproar, the historical Stanford Axe was safe in the hands of a jubilant mob of Cardinals. It had been speeded from Berkeley to Oakland, to Milpitas, across the Alviso cutoff to Mayfield and then through the main entrance to the campus.

The four in the car were Trimmingham, driver, Loofbourow, Walsh, and Gage.

--- Reprinted by courtesy of The Stanford Daily

Continue to Part II of "Stanford Regains the Axe"