THE STANFORD AXECALIFORNIA LOSES THE AXE
As Told by Norman Horner, California, '31
On Wednesday night, April 2, Walter Wyatt, last year's custodian, told me confidentially that I had been selected custodian of the Axe for 1930. Naturally I felt highly honored, little realizing the disastrous events the next day would bring.
During the following day I could not keep my mind from straying to thoughts concerning the Axe, and closely scruntinized every man whom I did not know on the campus. Not having recognized any Stanford men, or hearing any rumors concerning an expected attack, I tried to persuade myself that no attempt would be made that night. I could not, however, quite put myself at ease. The very fact that no attempt had been made to recapture the Axe in 1929, made me wonder if a harder attack than usual would be made this year.
The day dragged on terribly slowly; even baseball practice that afternoon seemed dull. Finally, however, the hour of the Rally was at hand, and the customary yells were given, the baseball and crew men filed across the stage to take their places on the opposite side; the Glee Club entertained the audience, which practically filled the Greek Theater, and all seemed to be going fine. Then Clint Evans, the head baseball coach went out to speak, and was greeted with much applause and cheers, instead of eggs, which I have reason to believe he was half-expecting. All during the Rally, eggs had been sailing across the Greek Theater, first from the Freshman side, then from the Sophomores, finally to land with a thud on somebody's head, or crash against the cement seats. They were thrown with such evident accuracy that perhaps some of the egg throwers would do well to go out for the diamond squad.
After Clint's talk, came the transfer of the Axe. "Whitey" Wyatt brought it up on the stage and was greeted with cheers at the sight of the prized trophy. He then placed the Axe in my hands, and we went in back of the theater, to place it in the vault in the armored car, which, incidentally, had transported it from the bank. Some newspaper men took several photographs of the Axe and its new custodian. In order to play safe, we decided to take the blade off the handle, and put it in the vault in the car, which was guarded by Mr. Young, hired by the American Trust Bank. This was done and the car was securely locked from the outside. It was fully bullet-proof, having special glass about three-quarters of an inch think, and was closed in from the outside, even from the driver's seat, by this heavy glass.
This done, there remained nothing else but to wait for the end of the Rally. During this time, although there was no danger of the car being stolen, or the glass being broken, I remained in sight of the car. Not a person passed it that did not receive my close scrutiny. Until this time everything had gone off like clockwork, which helped to allay the fears of many, who thought that an attempt would be made for recovery. As the end of the Rally drew near, I became more nervous, and a feeling of apprehension came over me, as I suppose is quite natural at a time like that. In order to satisfy myself, I walked back and forth, and around the car, stopping many times to look inside at the vault, although I knew very well that the Axe was safe. During this time several had asked permission to ride in the car to the bank, but the only ones granted permission were Kennedy Jackson, a Daily Cal reporter, who had been identified by Bob Kinney, and Ralph Vincent, the latter a Rally committeeman. They were instructed to ride in the driver's seat.
The Rally was nearing the end, and I had stopped to talk to a friend, just in back of the car. It was no more than a minute later that the crowd started "All Hail" which traditionally ends the Rally. About the middle of the sing I looked around and the Rally Committee were opening the gates and motioning for the driver of the armored car to go through. The driver, the Rally committeeman, and the Daily Cal reporter were all in the front seat, and the guard was in the back. The driver had the car started, so I ran to the back and got in, after which the guard locked the door from the inside and pocketed the keys. The driver started off through the gates, with only the three in front and the guard and myself in back, when twenty or thirty fellows rushed out of the Rally, some jumping on top of the car, others hanging on the side, and the rest running alongside. We went straight down through the campus and it seemed to me that we were going too fast for many of the fellows to keep up, although the driver was only driving in second gear. It was impossible to make him hear us from the back except through a speaking tube, through which the guard tried to tell the driver to slow down, but received no answer. It turned out later that the driver was new and did not understand how to use the tube, so that we could not communicate with him from the back.
We saw nothing alarming on the way down to the bank, and the driver ran the car up on the sidewalk, allowing perhaps only a foot and a half or two feet between he walls of the bank and the car, and about eight feet from the entrance to the bank. Walter Wyatt, who was in no way responsible for the Axe after the transfer, was at the bank in order to help. He had been sitting in his car for about fifteen minutes, but saw nothing to be worried about. I was not aware of the presence of the so-called "camera men," but was anxiously watching "Whitey," who was taking stock of the small group around the car. Recognizing some, and naturally supposing that all the men on top of the car were Californians, "Whitey" gave me the signal to come. The guard unlocked the door, and just as my left foot struck the ground, I saw someone hit Wyatt and knock him off his feet. My first impulse was to get back into the car, as I was blocked in front and from both sides. I did not get far, as a man jumped from the top of the car on to my shoulders, carrying us both almost to the ground. I dropped the handle, which I was carrying in my left hand and grabbed the blade with both hands tightly against my stomach, Howard Avery, who had jumped from the top of the car, tightened his headlock and held me pinned against the side of the car. It was then that somebody rushed in from the side, and wrenched the blade loose from my hands. I remember seeing "Whitey" crawling around on the sidewalk. He had heard the handle fall and thought it was the blade. As soon as I felt the Axe taken, Avery loosened his hold for a second. and thinking that he may have taken it, I grabbed him around the neck. It was then that someone from the front of us threw the tear bomb. It exploded right at our feet, and the heavy gas rolled up to us almost immediately. Realizing that in a moment we would not be able to see, "Whitey," two other fellows, and myself pushed a hole in front, and carried Avery inside the bank. I knew that the Stanford man did not have the Axe, as he was fighting furiously on the way in. The tear bomb had done its work and it was at least three or four minutes before "Whitey" and I had cleared our eyes sufficiently to see at all. The gas left a burning sensation over our eyes and face as it they were on fire.
We rushed out of the bank and two or three in the crowd were shouting that everything was all right, that the Axe was safe in the bank. Everyone was excited and running around but nobody knew where the Axe really was. We yelled to the fellows that the Axe was not in the bank, but that Stanford had really stolen it. There were several California cars there, and "Whitey" started them off in quick pursuit, giving them instruction as to which road to take, and where to meet at Palo Alto. I ran into the bank and called the police station, the ferries, and all the bridges, in the hope of stopping them there. Then I started calling fraternity houses, telling them to bring as many cars as possible to the bank. At first, some of them thought that it was a false report, as somebody has always started the same cry each year, but they were soon convinced that Stanford had really stolen the Axe. I must have spent twenty minutes calling houses, and asked each one of them to call three or four others, and by this time men were beginning to appear, ready to start the chase. Some of the fellows were shouting to go to the Campanile and organize, but we paid no attention to them, immediately sending all the cars available right out, some going one road, and some another, for Stanford. The men who did not have cars and could not crowd into any we did have, ran up to the Campanile, where already a crowd had gathered. From here a few more cars were sent out.
When everybody was dispersed from the bank, Jim Dennison, Don Handy, Brick Williamson, and myself started out. We had just turned the corner when we spotted a car with a Stanford sign on the license plate. We took after them and finally managed to box them in the curb with the help of the Vance brothers, who were driving a new Ford coupé. We took them up to one of the fraternity houses, and grilled them concerning the Axe, but obviously they were innocent of taking any part in the affair, and so we let them go. Contrary to all reports, we did not hold any Stanford men as hostages. We did not want hostages, we wanted the Axe! We were working under two theories --- first, that the raiders might go straight to Stanford and thus the cars were first sent to Palo Alto to try to head them off if they had followed this direction. The second possibility was that they might have stopped in some out-of-the-way garage near Berkeley until things quieted down, and then try to make their escape. Accordingly, we took Dennison's car and searched all the garages in and around Berkeley. Having no success along these lines, we decided to go back to the campus and see if anything had turned up. At the Varsity Candy Shop we learned that the Axe had already reached Stanford and that the students were throwing a big celebration.
We finally managed to dig up six or sight cars and arranged to meet at the white bridge just outside Palo Alto. By the time this last bunch reached Stanford, most of the other cars had given up hope and gone back home, so that we were in hopeless minority to the great crowd of Stanford men, who were guarding the entrance. Had both sets of cars been able to meet, together we might have been able to force our way through. As it was we were greatly outnumbered, and after a few small battles, we were forced to give up our attempt.
The twenty-one Stanford men are to be congratulated for their systematized plans. We only hope that Stanford will bring out the Axe once a year as California has always done, and thus give us a sporting chance for recovery.
Continue to Part I of "Stanford Regains the Axe"