USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘USC’
Legends
Narrative

Two Directors on a Tour

Folklore:

This participant performed this story as if he was on a college tour, since he learned it in his training to become a tour guide.  

“I don’t really know it that well, but I’ll try. So this right here is the School of the Cinematic Arts courtyard, and here you’ll see two buildings: the George Lucas building and the Steven Spielberg building. Now, does anyone know who actually went to USC? …  It was actually George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg was actually denied from USC, legend has it, not once, not twice, but three times. And um, so uh, the reason why the building is here, you’re probably wondering why this building is here when he didn’t go here. Well, legend has it that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had a bet a long time ago, when Lucas was working on the first Star Was. The bet was, whoever’s movie did worse in the box office would have to donate to a building, or at least a large sum, to the others’ alma mater. So they agreed to this bet, blah blah blah, time goes on, and guess who’s movie did better? George Lucas’ because it was the first Star Wars. So Steven Spielberg, unfortunately, had to donate this building to George Lucas’ alma mater, which is the University of Southern California. Now we have two buildings at the School of the Cinematic Arts, well many buildings, but two facing each other the George Lucas building and the Steven Spielberg building.”

 

Context

This legend is told on tours to prospective film students. The participant doesn’t know if it’s actually true, and prefaces the story on his tours by saying so. This would be told in the cinematic arts school, in the courtyard between the Spielberg and Lucas buildings. In my collection, it was performed while working in the office.

 

Background information

There are a lot of legends in the Tour Guide’s office, both that are brought up by the tour guides and brought up by guests. If you were to ask tour guides to tell you about the legend of the Lucas and Spielberg bet, you would probably hear 100 different versions.  Just like you might hear 100 different tours all together, each of us have nuanced performances of each of our informative tours.

 

Personal Analysis

This legend is interesting because of the dynamic between the tour guide and the guest. The guest comes to USC to get an informative experience that will aide them in their decision of what college to go to. While tour guides do not claim to know the true validity of this legend on their tours, it is still interesting in that it leaves an impression upon the student.

The tour guides also are taught these legends, either formally or informally, through their training to become a tour guide. So while the validity of the bet remains a mystery, its perpetuation year after year, through the teaching of new workers, gives the story credit in it of itself.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Club Swim Team’s Banana Chant Tradition

Tradition: The Club Swim Team at the University of Southern California always does a chant involving bananas before every swim meet.

The informant is a 20 year old female USC student, who is on the swim team.

Informant: Before every swim meet, we always do this chant with bananas. Everyone on the team holds a banana in their hand, and we all chant:

“Are you ready to go bananas? (Everyone screams)
Peel bananas, peel peel bananas!
Swim bananas, swim swim bananas!
Fight bananas, fight fight bananas!
Win bananas, win win bananas!”

Collector: Why do you guys like to do this chant?

Informant: I think that it it gets everyone excited, and it’s a lot of fun.

Collector: What do you do with the bananas after the chant?

Informant: Most people just eat the bananas after the chant.

Collector: Where did you learn this chant from?

Informant: One of the members on the team taught it to us. He learned it from his swim team before joining our swim team.

I think that the swim team does this chant to get pumped up for their competition. I don’t know why they chose to use a banana, but it reminds me of the idea of ‘going bananas’ (going crazy), in a good way that gets everyone excited. Another reason may be that bananas are a health food and helps relieve muscle cramps for swimming. The words in the chant itself “swim,” “fight,” and “win” are suggestive of what the team wants–to swim, fight, and win the competition.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

APASA Annual End of the Year Banquet

USC APASA is the University of Southern California’s Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, a student run organization that aims “To celebrate and share Asian Pacific American (APA) heritage and diversity, USC APASA supports its member organizations and sponsors cultural events to foster unity and growth within and beyond the APA Trojan community. We strive to create a more united community, where students support each other culturally, socially and academically by educating each other with their heritage, history and traditions.”

Every year, they have a tradition of hosting a gathering at the end of the year to celebrate their achievements for the school year. The informant is a college student and member of the organization.

Informant’s folklore: Every year, APASA invites the presidents and representatives of the Asian Pacific American organizations to this big dinner. It’s like an end of the year celebration to celebrate everything we’ve done as an organization. We have a really nice three course meal, and everyone dresses up really nicely. You go through superlative awards the executive board votes on like “Best Representatives,” or “Rising Star,” or “Best Culture Show” awards. We do that to recognize that our member orgs are trying and all the work the put into everything they do. It’s really fun to be able to nominate your friends when they do something really good. We also make a video to celebrate everything that we’ve done and encourage their good work.

Why do you like celebrating this event?

I think that it encourages everyone as a community to work together, and foster everything they’ve created. It also rewards those who put the effort into it. And I feel like everyone who puts in the effort should be rewarded for it. And it’s also a nice time to reflect how far we’ve come since the beginning of the year.

Where did you learn it from?

I learned the tradition from the existing members.

I think that the event is not only a way to celebrate and look back on all the great work that APASA has done over the school year, but also a way of bringing together community on the college campus. College students are in a time of developing their identities, and this organization and their celebration helps to shape and form their identities and the communities they identify with.

Folk Beliefs

Kicking the Flagpole

Information on the informant: The informant is my mother who is currently 50 years old and lives in Palos Verdes. She attended USC in the 80’s and was actively involved in a sorority. She also is a huge sports fan and regularly attended USC football games. She has been going to games since the time she attended USC up until current time.

From the informant:

“Ever since I first attended my first USC football game, I remember it being a tradition to kick one of the bases of the flagpole leaving campus going towards the Coliseum. I believe the pole is right near Exposition and close to the business buildings. I wasn’t exactly sure why everyone did it but I think people just did it initially as a superstitious thing and then it caught on and became more of a tradition. Even though it’s weird I still take part in it and kick the base of the pole every time I walk from campus to the Coliseum on Game days. USC football has fluctuated since I’ve been there but I’m guessing a lot of people kicked the flag pole while Pete Carroll was the coach.”

Analysis: As a fellow student who attends USC games regularly and who has since I was born, I have seen this tradition take place first hand. It is a fairly strong rooted USC tradition and could be a symbol of the fans who are truly USC fans who partake in this. I also remember being told about this tradition while taking a tour of USC in the Spring of 2015 so clearly it is an undocumented tradition of the school that many people know.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Tenth Girl

Well Dan and Mary Smith told me that. He said “What’s the tenth girl?” And I said “I don’t know, what’s the tenth girl?” And he said “Nine out of ten girls are pretty, and the tenth one goes to Michigan.” I guess the girls in Michigan are pretty plain! But, Michigan was a hard school to get into, and you had to be very smart, so it was probably very smart girls but very plain. They told me that in ’76. When we were working at USC together. David’s wife went to Michigan!

 

ANALYSIS:

(The names above have been changed for confidentiality purposes). This joke has two dynamics to it – a gender differentiation, or a commentary on girls made by boys, as well as a school rivalry component. The informant and his friend who told the joke to him both worked at the University of Southern California, and had a lot of pride and spirit for the school. The friend’s wife went to Michigan – which adds yet another level of humor to the joke, because the joke was told presumably by her as well. At the very least she seems to have been present whenever Dan told the joke. While this is a jab at her appearance (although it could be untrue or unwarranted) it is clearly in a spirit of fun, and relies on stereotyping and blason populaire to make its point and be humorous. The two men clearly respect Mary, and her husband probably finds her attractive, so it seems this joke is told (at least by these specific two men) in a spirit of school rivalry more than anything else. Especially because USC has a reputation or stereotype of attracting a very attractive, but perhaps not as intelligent, female student population.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pinning Ceremony

My informant is a USC student and member of a sorority at the University. She is bi-racial of black and Caucasian ancestry.

 

“Usually towards the end of the school year there are these things called pinnings, and it happens when a senior guy in a fraternity and a senior girl in a sorority have a ceremony of the guy “pinning” the girl—with a pin—which signifies their love being bigger than his brotherhood with his fraternity, as he sticks his pin on her chest over her heart.”

 

Analysis: This ceremony is one that only takes place within Greek life, and as such the tradition is passed down verbally and visually within the Greek community. My informant wasn’t aware of the ceremony until she joined a sorority and witnessed it happen to one of her friends. The pinning ceremony is one that reflects a declaration of love and devotion for a boy for a girl, which is incredibly significant within male greek life as a guy’s fraternal “brothers” are (up until that point) the most important people in his life. A more Freudian explanation for the ceremony may be a means of the boy making it known to everyone that he is engaging in sexual intercourse with the girl of his choice, by sticking his “pin” onto her.

Legends

90 Conspiracy Theory

The 901 Bar & Grill is USC’s sole college bar.  It is located just a few blocks away from USC and is filled with USC students almost every night of the week.  The 9-0 is known for letting underage students into the bar if their fake ID’s remotely resembled them.  However, recently the bouncers at the 9-0 have not allowed entry to students under the age of 21.

In February 2015, the 9-0 was bought by a developer.  According to my informant, the company was apparently created in November 2014 and is called something like “Trojan Fig.”  It has had no business prior to buying the 9-0 for $15 million.  There is a theory floating around the Greek community at USC that USC made this company to buy out the 9-0 so students would not know that USC or Nikias was buying it out.  Believers consider it to be a part of the University Village reconstruction project at USC.  My informant thinks USC is “trying to buy out the last safe-haven” for underage drinkers.

This theory is backed by the recent strictness employed by the 9-0’s bouncers.  Members of USC’s Greek community may also readily believe this rumor because of the implementation of more University regulations on fraternity parties.  This rumor and its acceptance suggests that some students at USC are disappointed with the USC Administration because they are putting restrictions around ways in which USC students can party.

Initiations

Big Sis Night

 My informant, CS told me about her experience as a “big sis” to her guy-friend Josh’s little in a fraternity on USC’s campus.  Within USC’s Greek system, members of fraternities get a “big bro” as well as a “big sis.”  The big bro usually picks one of his good girl-friends to be his little’s “big sis.”  Big sisses are revealed on one night during the semester.  From my understanding, it is typical for big sisses to get their little bro very drunk and dress him up in a humiliating costume for part of the night.

CS detailed her experience as a big sis.

It was just me and KK [her friend].  So we walked over to the house together.  So I get him there.  And I’m really bad at the “drink, drink, drink” stuff.  I got there just in time to put him in a room. And then Josh’s lights were off. And then we took off the blindfold and I had candy and cupcakes or something.  

We didn’t have any hard alcohol.  We just had beer. So we taped two beers to him. But then they were cold, so we put two towels around the beer before we taped them to his hands.  It was sad and weird!

The next year when Jacob, my little, got a little, he also got this very sweet guy.  And his big sis, Meghan, ended up doing the exact same thing. 

CS’s reaction to her big sis experience reveals the expectations of such an experience.  CS’s story suggests that a big sis should force her little bro drink heavily.  Yet CS did not make her little bro drink heavily.  Instead she gave him some beer and made sure he was comfortable while drinking it.

CS and Meghan’s experience suggests that big sis and little bro nights do not meet the expectations of most college students within Greek life at USC.

 

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Alpha Phi Omega Initiation

“I don’t know how long it’s been in practice, but like every time like we wear pins, like a pledge pin on the right side [of your chest] when you’re pledging and then you put it on the left when you have been initiated. So, ‘cause the left side is your heart, so like the service pin is more on your heart like, you’re like in. Um, and then during the initiation ceremony we like light candles for each, kind of characteristic we talk about, um, and then we also, when people are ushered in to the initiation ceremony they’re, they have to close their eyes and not look and they get in a line with hand on shoulder, like in lines of maybe ten people and then someone leads them who’s an active member already to lead them to the place of the initiation. And then once they’re all there, um, they can open their eyes and then they, everybody says their name in order and they say the oath repeating after the person leading the ceremony. Um, let’s see. That happens once when you find out you’re gonna become a pledge and that happens another time when you’re initiated to become an active member. The pledging period is, like, a semester long, basically . . . It just seems like it’s always been done that way and so, when I experienced it as a pledge, it’s how I also experienced it as an active, like it, it feels like it’s always been that way.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies biology and is currently applying to medical schools. This interview took place in the new Annenberg building when I was having a conversation with another friend about superstition and the informant started to volunteer information about the rituals that have taken place in her life. She is a part of the campus service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, or APO and has been for all four years she has been at USC. APO is co-ed and is somewhat culturally removed from USC’s other Greek life. It states its principle values are “leadership, friendship, and service” and the members of this service fraternity are supposed to embody those values in their everyday lives.

 

This ceremony is clearly a liminal moment that has been ritualized. It is a way for new members to join the fraternity on a consistent basis while knowing that they have the approval of the active members. Essentially, it is a way of very clearly establishing who is a part of the frat, who is not, and who is in the process of joining. I thought it was interesting that the informant interpreted the movement of the service pin from the right side to the left side as having to do with the left side being where your heart is. Part of me believes this interpretation is influenced by her studying biology and the human anatomy currently being the most important area of study in her life, while the other part thinks this is probably the original symbolic meaning of the movement. Having the pin on the right side of your chest makes it merely a form of decoration, at most an acknowledgment that you are interested in being a part of this organization. However, as soon as you move it to the left side of your chest, it is a statement that the organization is a big part of your life as it is next to one of your most vital organs.

 

The repetition of the initiation ceremony is important, as it gives the active members and pledges a period to adjust to the change in the community. It is noteworthy that the active members light a candle for each “characteristic” that an APO member should embody, i.e. leadership, friendship, and service, as this means three candles are lit and three is an important symbolic number in American culture. I think the reasoning behind making the pledges close their eyes when they are led to the ceremony has more to do with symbolism than it does with keeping the location of the ceremony a secret. The pledges are going to find out where the ceremony is as soon as they open their eyes, so there is really no reason to think that keeping the location a secret is an important part of the ritual. Rather, I think it has to do with the fact that when the pledges close their eyes they are in a location that represents their lives before APO, and when they open them they are somewhere that represents the their new lives with this fraternity. This action also increases the suspense and sacredness of this ritual. That an active member leads the lines of pledges into the ceremony shows the approval of the existing members of APO and is an important step in making this outgroup a part of the in-group.

Folk Beliefs
Myths

Nazi Trees at Moreton Fig

*Note: To provide some context, there are large trees outside the on-campus restaurant Moreton Fig. The informant is passing along a rumor popular within the USC community that the Moreton Fig trees were donated by Hitler.

INFORMANT: “I first heard this when I was a freshman in Parkside. It’s one of those things where if you go here, you’ve probably heard the rumor. So you know the big trees outside Moreton Fig? I guess I’d assume they’re fig trees, but I don’t know… there’s this rumor that they were donated to Von Kleidsmid by Hitler and the Nazis, because Von Kleidsmid was a eugenist or something like that.”

I tried to do a little research after the informant told me this, and I came across a couple LA Times articles that explain the rumor.

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/aug/20/sports/sp-crowe20

It would seem that Hitler didn’t donate the trees, and the tree(s) may not even be at Moreton Fig, but rather between Bovard and PED. However, the type of tree is known as a “Hitler tree.” In reality, the tree was donated in honor of an Olympic athlete, not because Von Kleidsmid was a eugenist.

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