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Past rivalries hit just students.

Byline: Bob Welch / The Register-Guard

IT'S DISGRACEFUL - this war within a Civil War over which television broadcast crew will handle Saturday's Oregon-Oregon State football game from Corvallis.

The annual rivalry was never meant to be contested in wood-paneled offices with athletic directors and TV execs firing smart-bomb e-mails at each other or hitting "Send" to launch fax attacks.

It was meant to be contested on the turf, which is exactly what Beaver fans had in mind in 1937 when they burned the initials "OSC" on Hayward Field's 50-yard-line. Or in the Eugene Millrace, which is where a good number of Beaver Believers wound up that same year. Or in Seymour's Restaurant in downtown Eugene, which is where the Beavers huddled after escaping a counterattack from UO students, led by the law school's 51st Battalion, which showered the intruders with a fire hose. Or atop Skinner Butte later that day, where Duck students turned the visitors into human paint brushes to paint the "O" yellow again - but only after a female OSC student, in defense of her boyfriend, "scored with a lusty right to the jaw," according to the Oregon Daily Emerald.

Ah, '37. What a year for Civil War aficionados.

To this day, Civil War strategists look to 1937 as the high-water mark for rivalry spirit. To set the scene: The Beaver-Duck rivalry had lapsed into decades of apathy after the suspension of the game in 1911 and it being moved to a neutral site, Albany, in 1912 because of riots between fans.

There was nothing to suggest 1937 would go beyond the usual pranks. The Thursday before the Oct. 23 game, OSC students burned the school's initials - 3-foot-high letters - into the field. And after the Beavers won the game 14-0, OSC students naturally ripped down the goal posts, paraded through campus and painted the "O" on Skinner Butte orange.

But the winds of war didn't blow until Monday morning. After a night of celebration in Corvallis, word spread: A car caravan was forming. Destination: Duckville.

A Junction City resident saw the caravan and called The Register-Guard. Word passed like wildfire: `The Beavers are comin'!' Their motive? Simple: Drive-by gloating.

POLICE MET the throng, estimated at more than 100 cars and 1,000 students, with a stiff warning that there be no trouble. At first, there wasn't. The caravan rolled down 13th Street and onto campus. Word spread of the intruders and suddenly hundreds of UO students "mobilized against the battalion of corn-waving Staters," reported the Emerald.

OSC students were pelted with "everything from wet mud to water bags, rotten eggs and all manner of well-aged fruits and vegetables," said the Barometer, OSC's student paper. A few eyes were blackened, a few lips bloodied.

In Fenton Hall, home of the School of Law, Dean of Men Virgil Earl decided desperate times called for desperate measures. Never mind that he was in his 50s; Earl, a former UO football player, unwrapped a fire hose and law students began spraying the Corvallis contingent from upper-level windows.

The Beavers were driven back. A number huddled at Seymour's. Ducks demanded the Beavers be ousted. In true UO style, students whipped together picket signs that said "Unfair to Oregon" and proclaimed they would boycott the restaurant if the rivals weren't ousted.

To avoid a riot, police brokered a deal: The Beavers agreed to come out and be subjected to a dip in the millrace.

UO students did more than a little to facilitate the "dip," including tossing in the intruders, all men, after they'd stripped to their shorts. Meanwhile, other Beaver fans were taken atop Skinner Butte where they were forced to return the orange "O" to its original yellow. "They began painting with brushes," reported the Emerald, "but at the suggestion of a blood-thirsty Oregon girl, the UO men began to slide the Staters down the 50-foot letter."

The riot made national news. The Emerald wallowed in it for a week. "The events should have satisfied the most rabid of the `old grads' who have annually protested the lack of spirit on campus," it opined.

The paper congratulated OSC students. The attack was "conceived and executed in a sportsmanlike manner." And, "No one seemed particularly angry, and everyone seemed to have enjoyed the day, on the whole."

Though the Barometer said that UO students overreacted, one OSC student who'd been "millraced" wrote to the Emerald and said, "We bear no resentment as we would probably have done the same thing."

The Gazette-Times called it "the greatest student rally in Oregon history."

"Dean Earl Commends Action of UO men in Refraining from Violence," wrote one Emerald headline. "Wet Beavers Heard to Remark on `Swell Time.' '

Ah, for the good ol' days.

Bob Welch can be reached by calling 338-2354 or by e-mail at bwelch@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 19, 2002
Words:801
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