Author Archive
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Football Games at UC Davis

The informant is a 19 year old computer engineering student at UC Davis. He is currently a freshman there after graduating high school the previous year. He grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and has no strong religious ties. His family has been living in Southern California for many generations.

I asked him about the customs and activities associated with the football games at UC Davis. UC Davis is located in Davis, CA. This is northern California, which is slightly different culturally than the informant’s hometown. Though UC Davis has had an almost continuous football program since 1918, the team was only established as a NCAA Division I team less than a decade ago. This contrasts greatly with other universities who have structured themselves around their football team, like USC.

The football games are free for students to attend, but the informant says that the main draw for students to attend the game is the free giveaways of UC Davis apparel from various sponsors before and during the game. He said that he knew of giveaways of clothing such as scarves, beanies and t-shirts. There does not seem to be much hype for the games themselves. In other words, the students do not seem to be going because they are interested in football or supporting their university’s team, but just as something to do on the weekends. There does not seem to be as much pressure on students to actively support sports teams as there is at other universities that are more famous for their teams. When asked how he decided to go the game and who he went with, he replied that the decision was pretty spontaneous. A couple of his friends asked if he wanted to go and he said sure. He did not look forward to the game in advance.

Tailgating is found at UC Davis, but the informant said it was relatively minimal compared to other universities and takes place mainly in an empty field outside of Aggie Stadium. Aggie Stadium seats roughly 10,000 people and opened in 2007. The informant does not personally take part in the tailgating.

During the game, the student section is called the Aggie Pack. There is no assigned seating and people come and go as they please. There is a student leader in charge of leading cheers, but the mascot (a horse named Gunrock) plays a relatively small role in the games and is merely a person dressed up in a typical horse mascot costume. The informant said that the most exciting part of the games is the UC Davis tube sock giveaways, in which pairs of tube socks are thrown into the student section randomly.

When asked about half-time, the first thing he mentioned was that people like to leave then. This reinforces the idea that the students attend the games merely as something to do and not to actively watch the games.

All in all, there does not seem to be much hooplah surrounding the football games at UC Davis. Football is not the defining feature of UC Davis and this is evident in the blasé attitude towards the games. This is also evident in the attendance of other sports, including basketball. Even when ESPN was going to be filming one of the games, the students had to be lured in with free items to fill in the usually pretty empty stands.

Legends

Cram it, Clownie!

The informant grew up in various parts of California, due to his father needing to relocate for work. The contemporary legend described below was first heard by him in Norwalk, CA when he was 9 or 10 years old in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The informant’s older brother and his friends (older by 3 years) first told the story and the informant overheard them. He remembers seeing the Bozo show, but he does not remember this specific episode. He tells this story when reminded by a story about similar defiant acts by children or when televison-related urban legends are brought up.

The story is as follows (paraphrased):

There was a television show in the 1960’s called Bozo the Clown that had children as guest stars on each episode. It was supposed to be an honor to be one of these guests, and most kids were happy to be there. These programs were not heavily edited and time-delayed like the television shows of today. There was one kid, though, that was not having it. When Bozo asked the child to do something or answer a question as was normally done, the child loudly said “Cram it, Clownie!” This was obviously not the expected response and is probably why this story gets told.

The story caused my informant to laugh as he told the story. My informant had not actually seen the episode in question, and the show was probably not rebroadcast if this did occur. This really shows the unpredictability and unfiltered nature of some children, which was entertaining even to 10-13 year old boys in the 1960’s. This wouldn’t be entertaining if children were ‘supposed’ to be like that, so the fact that the story is still entertaining shows something about how children realize that they are not supposed to behave that way. I think he remembered this legend because he has seen instances of children misbehaving like this in public throughout his life and career and therefore enjoys an example that was publicly broadcast. Because he has raised two children (19 years old and 22 years  old) I think he has a different perspective now as a parent than he did when he first heard the story as a child who wasn’t much different in age from the child in question.

 

Folk Beliefs

How to Make a Baseball Team Win

The informant (my father) grew up in various areas of California, but spent his high school years in Chino, CA and has lived in the Rancho Cucamonga area for most of his adult life. He has been an avid baseball fan for as long as I can remember and sometimes refers going to Angels games as a child and knows a lot of the history behind how the Angels teams has moved around and changed names(from Los Angeles Angels to the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, etc.) Though we did not go to a lot of games when I was a kid, he listens to most games on the radio or watches them on TV, much to the good-natured annoyance of anyone who wanted to watch or listen to something else.

I asked my father if he had any good luck charms or rituals and he  explained briefly about what he does to make the Angels win, though he noted “it didn’t seem to be helping lately,” as the Angels are not doing very well this season. He said he feels like if he accidentally neglects to listen or watch the games that the Angels will not do as well. It did not seem that watching/listening more was “good luck” but that watching/listening less was “bad luck.” He also drinks out of a special Angels cup gotten from some promotion years ago to help the Angels win. The cup is old, but has a near-permanent place on the kitchen counter in my parents’ house.

Interestingly enough, my dad did not mention any of the things that the Angels fans are known for, like the rally monkey that comes out if they are tied or losing in the 7th inning, or any of the phrases typically associated with the Angels like “bring out the red.” Additionally, there was no special mention of any Angels clothing even though he has multiple Angels t-shirts and baseball caps that he wears regularly throughout the year.  He seems to focus on his attention and specific actions as what is important to helping the Angels succeed. Even though the outcome of the game is not changed by actions and I think he understands this for the most part. The most important part of this idea of good luck is remembering to drink out of his cup and watch/listen to the game. It is more about his attention to them than it is about the action of drinking out of a special cup.

Humor

Forsee Did It

The informant is one of five children. He has two older sisters (one of which is now deceased), one older brother, and one younger brother. His mother is in her 80’s, and his father has been deceased for many years. The family has been in southern California since the children were born. The family frequently gets together at his mother’s house for holidays like Easter and Christmas and family jokes present themselves often.

The joke explained here is one that started in the 1960’s by the informant’s maternal grandfather. In addition to asking the informant and his siblings questions like “Are you married yet?” and “So where are you working?” when they were children much too young to have a spouse or a job, he would also tap their shoulders and say “Forsee did it!” Forsee was the grandfather’s wife. Other small things like accidentally bumping into something or dropping something would also be explained by saying that Forsee did it. This was done in a teasing manner, not a mean-spirited manner. My informant remembers his family talking about his grandfather saying this joke moreso than remembering specific incidences where he witnessed his father saying that Forsee did something. This continued long after the grandfather and grandmother had passed away. Though the frequency of the joke has lessened in the last few years, the informant also tells the joke even when he is not at an extended family gathering and is just in his own home with his own wife and children, though he does so rarely. Though the joke is told relatively often at family gatherings, it is almost always followed by a discussion of how that joke started with the grandfather, even though it is discussed at almost every family gathering. I think it is explained mainly for the benefit of whatever new friend or boyfriend one of the younger generation has brought to the gathering, to bring them “into the family” just a little bit.

This joke speaks to the relaxed nature of this family. Joking around is encouraged, even by the older generation and many family dinners end with loud laughter. There is also a lot of teasing that goes on, both by younger members and older members of the family. Family gatherings are never formal, and the younger cousins often eat on the couch in the living room instead of bothering to get a folding chair out of the closet. Overall, the jokes like the one focused on here and the informal nature of the events really show the relaxed and comfortable nature of the family relationships.

general

A Rose to Remember

The informant (A) has been married to her husband (D) for 24 years. They got married in a non-religious outdoor ceremony when A was 24 and D was 29. Though I do not recollect them being overly romantic while their children were at home, this changed slightly after their youngest son left for college. I asked A if she remembered anything she wanted to share with me about her wedding and told me of a practice that the reverend suggested on their wedding day and they continued to do for a couple years after their wedding. The reverend was of no special importance to them other than that he could legally marry them. When the reverend was talking to them before the ceremony, he said that they should give each other a single red rose whenever they needed to remember that they loved each other enough to get married. This could be in response to an argument, a special day like an anniversary, or just because. A continued to say that she gave D a red rose on their anniversary, and they maybe did this a couple of other times in the first couple years of marriage, but as life went on they forgot about the practice when other things became more important. A did not seem upset that she and her husband had stopped the practice. It was just something to do.

The romantic nature of a red rose itself has little to do with this gesture other than being a pretty story. The red rose could be replaced with anything: a favorite candy bar, a stuffed animal, a card. The meaning to this gesture seems to be in the kindness of remembering to give the red rose rather than the red rose itself. Effectively, giving the red rose simply says “I remember that I love you, and I want to show you that I remember.” A and her husband stopped doing this a couple of years after they got married, which coincides with when they had their first child. This is the point at which I think that they ceased to be a “couple” and started being a “family,” which does not need special gestures to show that there is love between them. A rose pales in comparison to looking at a child that you created with another person. Being romantic and stereotypically sappy does not seem to be a part of A and D’s relationship.

Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends

Cihuateotl

The informant (L) is a 22 year old film student at California State University Los Angeles. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma before coming to Los Angeles for college after high school. Her family is Mexican and Catholic. At the suggestion of our mutual friend who had heard the story before, she told me the legend of the Cihuateotl. She mentioned prior to telling me that the story was not told often within her family because of how sad it is. She was told the story by her grandmother when L’s fourth cousin died in childbirth, when L was around seven years old. Though L does not tell the story often within her family, L does tell the story when other urban legends are being discussed among her friends in Los Angeles, which is where I heard some of the story prior to beginning to collect folklore for this database.  The story involves the following legendary figures:

In “native ancient Mexico,” the cihuateotl are the spirits of the women who died in childbirth. Their sadness is the reason the sun goes down at night. Once a month, the spirits haunt the streets to hold the children they were never able to hold. After sunset, they try to abduct children. Because ‘good’ children should be inside and safe by the time the sun goes down, the children they were trying to abduct are the bad, misbehaving children. This is also used to scare children into behaving, as the cihuateotl would not give the children back.

This mix of ancient myth and urban legend is an interesting intersection between old and new. Though the spirits make sense in both modern and ancient contexts, the haunting of streets does not make as much sense in ancient Mexico, which probably did not have the sort of streets and highways L referred to in her retelling.

The story also presents some interesting contrasts. The fact that the cihuateotl only abduct bad children seem to say something about how either those children  do not deserve a real mother or the mothers who allow their children to be  bad don’t deserve to have children when there are mothers who died trying to have them. While these ideas are in the background, the practical use of scaring children into behaving probably plays more of a role in why the story is told than the more subtle themes.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
general
Magic
Protection

Luck from the family Ankh

The informant (L) is a 22 year old film student at the California State University Los Angeles. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her grandparents started an oil business in Oklahoma and had to live in Saudia Arabia once the business took off, from 1974 until 1991. They traveled while they were living overseas and would often bring back gifts for their family still in Oklahoma. One of these gifts was an ankh from Egypt for each person of the family. Though L’s family is Mexican, the gifts were given because they are connected to Isis and Isis is connected to the concept of life according to the Egyptians. L was not alive at the time so she did not receive one of the ankhs, which she was slightly bitter about. She still believes in the power of the ankh in protecting her family, and said that everyone in her family who has one wears it or displays it in their house. She also gave me  an example that proved the ankhs protected her family. Her older brother was working in a factory in Oklahoma when he was a young adult and due to an accident, one of the machines malfunctioned and spit out shrapnel. Though her brother was not the one using the machine, he was so close to the machine that shrapnel hit him before he could get out of the way. When he looked down, he realized that the shrapnel had hit the ankh he was wearing and bounced back instead of cutting into his body. The ankh is worn over his heart, so the shrapnel could have done major damage if it had managed to pierce his skin. L believes this is physical proof that the ankhs protect her family from harm.

L seems to be very convinced that the ankh protects her family, and the example regarding her brother makes it seem that the ankh both protects the family from physical problems (like the shrapnel) and provides a sense of comfort for those who have an ankh to wear. While L wishes she had her own, she implied that the protection extends even to members of the family who do not have their own personal ankh. I also think the connection to the ankhs have to do with their origin: the grandparents brought them to the family and therefore connected themselves to the ankh as well as the ankh being a spiritual object in ancient Egypt. By having an ankh, the family is connected to itself and something more than what is on this earth.

Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Legends
Narrative

Waluhmaloo Bird

The informant (L) is a 22 year old film student at the California State University Los Angeles. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma until leaving for college after high school. She attended camp many summers during her middle and high school years. She told me the story of the Waluhmaloo bird that is told at Camp Waluhili in Chouteu, Oklahoma. She had never seen a written version of this story, so the spelling of Waluhmaloo is just a guess. The story is told by the older campers and counselors to the younger campers (who are as young as seven) when they are taking their first hike to the Indian graveyard. L was both told this story when she was a younger camper and later told this story to the younger campers when she was older. Below is a paraphrased version of her story:

“The camp is on an Indian graveyard. When the white people were attacking the Indians a long time ago, the Indians needed protection. The magical Waluhmaloo bird made a deal with the Indians that he would protect their graves if they agreed to stop hunting the Waluhmaloo birds. The Indians agreed and even now, the Waluhmaloo bird protects their graves and will cause something bad to happen to you if you disrespect the graves. Before you enter the graveyard, you have to spin around three times and say out loud that you believe in the Waluhmaloo bird. Once you go into the graveyard, if you step on a grave, you have to say you’re sorry out loud to the graves. ”

This story seems to give something for the older campers to distinguish themselves from the younger campers. The passing of the story from older campers to younger campers is a rite of passage and effectively lets the younger and older campers share something. This story may also remain popular with campers over the years because it gives a way to deal with the tension formed by being so close to not only a graveyard, but a graveyard of what are now seen as a group that the American government and people treated very unjustly in the past. There is a hesitance within American culture to deal with the dead, as if remains somehow hold some special property. This is symbolized by the Waluhmaloo bird, who is there to make sure the graves are not disrespected. I am not sure if the camp is actually on or near an Indian graveyard, and I was unable to find any more information about the practice through internet searches. I don’t really think that the realness of the graveyard matters as long as the campers themselves believe it is there, and that it is real.

Legends
Narrative

The Pyrenees Castle

The informant (K) is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Alhambra, California, which is about half an hour away from Los Angeles. She told me the legend behind the Pyrenees Castle in Alhambra. It is currently owned by Phil Spector (a record producer), but he is serving a prison sentence for killing an actress in the entryway of the castle. K said that Spector’s wife is currently living there all by herself. She gave me the reported history of the building, as told to her by her grandfather. She tells the story to friends when other similarly creepy houses are brought up. Below is a paraphrased version of the story she told me.

“In Alhambra, there is a big old house called the Pyrenees Castles. It is built like a French Chateau in the early 1900’s and is absolutely huge. Legend has it that the house used to be the clubhouse for a country club for rich people. Apparently, George IV (I think) played polo there once. There was an Italian or Irish person that wanted to join the club but was turned away because his nationality was looked down upon. This upset the man, and years later he got rich. He then returned to the Pyrenees Castle and bought it outright. There was a golf course there too, so a lot of the streets around the castle are named after golfers.”
K is not sure if it is true, but it does seem like it could be true.

One of the reasons that this story is still passed around is because it is truly the American dream. The poor worked hard and came back to buy what was denied him earlier. Americans tend to like to believe that poor people can work hard and eventually become rich people, which is exemplified in this story. There also seems to be some resentment towards the rich who denied the at-the-time-poor immigrant that wanted to be a part of their club. It must have been embarrassing for them to reject the immigrant and then sell the house to him. Additionally, the story is probably kept alive because of how famous the house is due to Phil Spector having killed someone in the house. Having a king visit there also probably keeps the story afloat because it just adds to the glamour and reputation of the house itself.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

How Pineapples Came to Be

My informant (A) is currently an AV technician. He grew up in Quezon City in the Philippines for the first 13 years of his life before moving with his family to San Francisco, California for a year and then moving down to southern California, where he has stayed every since. He first heard the story about how pineapples came to be from his mother when he was around six years old. The story is also used in reading books for children when they are learning to read in the Philippines. His mom and aunt told him this story to frighten him into behaving when he was a child, and he has since told the story to his younger sisters and a few other people when casually talking. The story is paraphrased below:

“There was a mom and daughter in the Philippines long ago. The daughter’s name was Piña. Piña constantly lost things and, instead of even trying to look for the things by herself, she would just ask her mom to find them. The mother was really busy because she had to work in the fields all day, but the mom still helped her daughter find the things she kept losing. One day the mom could not find her hat, which she needed when she was working in the fields to keep the sun out of her eyes. The mom asked Piña to help her find the hat because she had to hurry or she would be late to the fields. Piña replied ‘Nanay [the word for mom], I don’t where the hat is. I’m busy.’ The mom told Piña that she really needed help, so Piña finally got up and walked around pretending to look for the hat. She didn’t actually look for the hat and then told her mom that she couldn’t find it. The mom got really frustrated and then she found the hat, which wasn’t that hard to find and Piña should have seen it when she was looking. The mom got really mad and said ‘Piña, I hope you grow 1000 eyes so that you can find things.” Then the mom went to the fields and spent all day working in the fields. When she got back to the house, she asked Piña to make dinner, but Piña wasn’t there. The mom looked and looked but she couldn’t find her. Days and weeks and months go by, and still the mom can’t find Piña and gets very worried. After a while, the mom starts seeing weird plants that look like they have 1000 eyes. The mom realized that Piña had turned into these plants. These little plants are pineapples, and that’s how pineapples came to the Philippines.” (Note that Piña is the word for pineapple).

This tale seems to serve two purposes. One is that it explains how the pineapple came to the Philippines, which only happened in the 19th century, which is probably why this story is necessary to explain why they are a relatively recent addition to the fruits normally found in the Philippines. The other is a more practical purpose, which is a way for parents to scare their kids into doing stuff from themselves or risk turning into a pineapple. This is probably why it is continually told to children. My informant spelled out the name Piña for me, and he used the Spanish spelling instead of the Filipino one (pinya), even though he used the Filipino word for mom (nanay). This is also interesting because the Spanish introduced the pineapple to the Philippines.

This story touches on the tension between the older and younger generations, and the how physically hard the lives of women are.

[geolocation]