In the late 1800s, there were two universities in the Bay area. One of them was the University of California in Berkeley and the other was a small junior college across the bay founded by the criminal Leland Stanford Junior. These schools had a sports “rivalry.” Basically, each year, Cal would Beat the junior college in track, football, baseball, and other sports. The Junior college were running low on money to fund their failing sports program. They were so desperate that they were considering cutting down their redwood tree mascot. However, before they could, a meteor came down and crashed in the sewage at Stanford. This sewage splashed on the walls of all the buildings of the college. To this day, the buildings are still covered with this excrement which give the buildings at Leland Stanford Junior College their distinctive adobe appearance and smell. The female college students decided to take the meteor to a blacksmith and have it shaped into an ax They would use this ax to rally around during sports games. Only the female Stanford students were strong enough to carry it, and to this day, any male Stanford student who is able to lift the as, all by himself, will be crowned King of Bowdell Hall ( the women’s dorm). Anyway, the Stanfurdians brought this ax to the Cal-Stanford games with no effect. During the first football game with the ax, which Stanfurd naturally lost, some Cal athletes watching the game decided to steal the ax for a trophy. They were pursued by Stanfurd students to San Francisco where the Cal students had decided to get the handle taken off the ax,. There was a crazy pursuit through San Francisco. The police searched all Cal students on their way back to Berkeley through Oakland but were unable to find the ax since a Cal student hid it under an old girlfriend’s skirt. The next year, Stanford almost stole the ax back. Cal was just about to catch the Stanfurdians as they crossed a bridge on their way back to Palo Alto, but the bridge was raised before they could cross it. It was later discovered that the bridge operator was a suma cum laude graduate from the Leland Stanford Junior College Engineering school. It was the best job he could find. Cal and Stanford continued to steal the ax from each other. The robberies grew so intense that the leaders of the respective schools decided that the ax would be awarded to whoever won Big Game each year.
This funny story is told to freshman Berkeley students as a means of initiation. The story gives a history of the school, the Ax tradtion, and it’s age-old rivalry with the nearby Stanford, telling how these things came to be. Any true UC Berkeley student or alumni would be intimately familiar with this story and able to recount it as a member of the Cal community. Often the story is recounted over a bonfire to get students excited for the “Big Game.”