l Capital University Journal
State Legend & Lore
By Frank Whitlatch
to get a four-year college in Sacramento date to the 1920s, but legislation
repeatedly failed. Local supporters blamed “pork barrel politics”
by Bay Area legislators trying to monopolize higher education.
- Sac State
was formally established in 1947 through legislation by State Senator
Earl Desmond. He played hardball to get it done, convincing the Senate’s
finance committee to withhold funding for the University of California
until he had a commitment. Desmond eventually had 11 children and grandchildren
graduate from Sac State.
Sac State opened in 1947, it shared space at Sacramento Junior College.
It didn’t get its own campus until 1953.
- At Sac
State’s first semester of classes, fall 1947, 235 students were
enrolled in 44 classes. The next spring Sac State held its first graduation
ceremony. A single student, history major John J. Collins who had transferred
from Berkeley, graduated.
hear about the gold buried at Sac State? How about the ghost? Did you know
jackrabbits were once hunted here?
And you thought you knew the place.
There’s plenty of legend and lore surrounding this 300-acre campus.
After all, at 57 years, Sac State is getting to be an old institution. That’s
especially true for California–a state where new and different grabs
attention and a Gold Rush of 150 years ago feels like ancient history.
Here then, to amaze your friends and family, are snippets of fact and fiction
from Sac State’s storied past.
- The hornet
was chosen as the mascot by the student council and the athletics department
in December 1947. It beat out the elk, which was considered not aggressive
enough. They also chose green and gold—green for the foothills
and trees, and gold for discovery.
- The hornet
mascot was named Herky, but now-retired Sac State archivist Georgiana
White says his naming is a bit of a mystery. The name is likely short
- By 1948,
Sac State was fielding intercollegiate teams in basketball, baseball
- The Hornet
student newspaper, now the State Hornet, and the Statesman yearbook
were both first published in 1949.
- The Sac
State fight song was the winning entry of student Don McDonald in 1949.
Fight on, Sacramento State,Fight on to victory.The Hornet is on
the wing.The foe will know that we can show themWe’re meant for
fame and glory.All the World will knowThe Hornet’s NEST is BEST
in the WEST (Shout) BY TEST!Sa-cra-men-to State, (Shout) LET’S
was a problem when Sac State was at the Junior College campus. Drama
faculty held rehearsals at odd hours when the Junior College faculty
weren’t using the theater. Many offices were in former apartments
in the “11th Avenue Annex,” and Academic Vice President
Stephen Walker for a time heard flushing noises from the exposed plumbing
above his desk. Faculty records were stored everywhere—and reportedly
got burned in ovens and soaked in sinks.
- The CSUS
Foundation, created to run a badly needed campus bookstore, was founded
on the streets in 1951. Sac State Business Manager Stan Pretzer had
been told the idea needed a public hearing. So on the corner of 9th
Avenue and Freeport Boulevard, Pretzer announced to passing traffic
that the foundation was being established. There were no objections.
old boys club” is how Maryjane Rees, a female professor hired
in 1954 once matter-of-factly described the early campus staff. One
example: Founding President Guy West’s secretary handled orientations
for new female professors, while he personally gave orientations to
the new male professors.
sites for a permanent home for Sac State were considered. A site at
5th Street and Broadway, a site near Fruitridge and Stockton Boulevard,
and a site in the Pocket Area of South Sacramento were all rejected.
- In 1949,
the 244-acre J Street site was chosen for Sac State’s campus,
despite concerns it was too close to the railroad. It was purchased
for $1,650 to $1,800 an acre, and later expanded to almost 300 acres.
- Sac State’s
campus is within the traditional homeland of the Nisenan Indians, who
had a village called Kadema in the vicinity.
was once the Gold Rush town of Norristown and another called Hoboken
where the campus now stands, and tales told of a miner who had buried
his treasure here. He died in a barroom brawl, and as recently as three
years before the state purchased the land in 1949, people were looking
for the gold.
- Much of
Sac State’s future campus was pear orchards and hop fields when
began in 1951.
- Sac State
moved from the Junior College to its new campus on Feb. 9, 1953 with
a parade through town called “GO EAST WITH WEST,” in reference
to President West.
has always been a problem at Sac State. When the campus opened in 1953,
drivers were confronted by a sea of mud. Many students simply drove
as close to the buildings as they could and parked. And the mud became
dust in the summer, piling up behind doors and getting on nearly everything.
- In 1986,
the campus very nearly flooded. Water reached the top of the bordering
levee, and state officials were within hours of deliberately letting
water flow onto campus
to try to spare nearby residential areas.
Today, Sac State has embarked on a massive building program as part
of its Destination 2010 initiative. Highlights include a 236,000 square-foot
recreation and wellness center and on-campus housing.
were an early problem for campus landscapers. The solution? Provide
the campus community with ammunition and let the rabbits beware. Still,
some of the creatures remained here through the 1960s.
- The Causeway
Classic football game against UC Davis wasn’t called that until
30 years after the first match-up. The name was coined by former Sac
State sports information director Mike Duncan. The traditional trophy
is a Victorian carriage.
life, dances, beauty contests and the like were very popular in the
1950s. But the civil unrest of later years ended most of these activities.
the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, protests were common on campus.
During one angry week, Students for a Democratic Society threatened
to dump the card catalog at the library, which would have shut down
the building for weeks. The football team came to stand guard, but no
confrontation took place.
was also great internal strife during that time: Sac State had six presidents
from Guy West’s retirement in 1965 until Lloyd Johns arrived in
Luther King, Jr. spoke at Sac State on Oct. 16, 1967. Another icon,
Jimi Hendrix, performed on campus on Feb. 8, 1968.
- But the
campus appearance that became the talk of the town was by African American
radical Eldridge Cleaver at Hornet Stadium in October 1968. Nearly 10,000
people heard an inflammatory, obscenity-packed speech.
Today, there are more than 200 student clubs and organizations at
Sac State. Fully 36 percent of students volunteer in the community,
collectively giving some 2.3 million hours a year. Thousands of students
gain practical work experience in our cooperative education program,
the largest in the state.
Hall, many people say, is haunted. Students have talked for years about
a ghost in the building’s theatre who disrupts play openings.
Some think it is a state building inspector who fell to his death in
the building before it was completed.
- Now a
popular coffee spot, the Roundhouse
was controversial when it was built in 1969. Its design put off many
people, and President Robert Johns apparently arranged for its construction
without the usual approval of the CSU Board of Trustees.
Hall was supposed to have an attractive white cement finish, but the
funding ran out. The plain concrete remains today.
- Sac State’s
historical Julia Morgan House and Gardens, which was renovated in recent
years and is now a popular site for community events, was given to the
by a controversial figure. Charles M. Goethe was a Sacramento businessman,
naturalist and philanthropist who gave generously to Sac State. But
he also was a proponent of eugenics, a discredited early 20th century
movement to breed better humans.
- The Guy
West Bridge, a miniature replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, was dedicated
in June 1966. It was built to connect the large Campus Commons development
home? In 1998, campus crews found a huge, three-foot hornet’s
nest in a long-hidden room in Kadema Hall. At one time, it may have
housed as many as 2,000 hornets.
Today, construction is nearly continuous at Sac State. The most
recently completed projects include a 23,000 square-foot Capital Public
Radio building and 85,000 square-foot research-oriented facility called
Modoc Hall. The 100,000 square-footAcademic Information Resource Center
will be completed early next year.
- Many of
Sac State’s early students had served in World War II or Korea.
In 1954, for instance, 60 percent of the male students were using the
GI Bill. They were older and often married. One early student recalls
that while these older students often weren’t interested in typical
college activities, they were quite upset when the administration tried
to stop their cafeteria poker games.
- Sac State
has always had a high percentage of women compared to most universities.
Women comprised more than 43 percent of students in 1953, and by 2003
they made up more than 59 percent of students.
- Sac State
students helped launch the national Shakey’s pizza chain. The
first one opened in 1954 on 57th and J Streets near campus and, lacking
actual pizza-making equipment, the owners sold only beer the first weekend.
- An early
fraternity activity was “Dink Week” in which freshmen wore
green and gold beanies and took orders from older students. Later, sophomores
built a stone monument that freshmen had to bow to, but in 1957 the
freshmen revolted and a food fight ensued. The rather embarrassing event
was covered in detail by the Sacramento Union newspaper.
- In Sac
State’s most exciting basketball season ever, coach Ev Shelton
and his team made it to the Division II championship game in 1962. They
lost in overtime to Mount St. Mary’s. Coach Shelton had a minor
heart attack in the fourth quarter, but did pushups afterward to show
he was okay. A crowd of some 2,000 met the team upon their return to
Boomers poured onto campus in the 1960s. From 1961 to 1971, enrollment
grew from 6,111 to 17,477.
- A small
monument near the Guy West Bridge honors alumnus Mark “The Wing”
Williams for throwing a rock 497 feet across the American River in 1985.
The long-throw challenge began in a surveying class taught by John German,
who says maybe three others have matched the throw since.
Today, Sac State has more than 28,000 students. It also has 850 full-time
faculty and 780 part-time faculty, as well as about 1,300 staff and
Much of campus lore has been passed down through two histories–one
from 1965 that was compiled by speech professor D.E. Moore and one from
1987 by history professor
George Craft, Jr. A significant update to Craft’s history is expected
HAVE A STORY? OR MEMORABILIA?
We’re always looking for fun or insightful stories about Sac State’s
past, as well as artifacts such as uniforms and photographs. These stories
and items are collected within the Library’s Special Collections
and University Archives office, and help us gain a better understanding
of our shared history.If you’re interested in donating materials
or sharing a story, please contact the Sac State public affairs office
at (916) 278-6156 or firstname.lastname@example.org.