Traditions Council spends a great deal of time researching the history of Texas A&M and its traditions. During our research, we encounter many interesting stories that shed new light on the traditions we all know so well. Below are just a few random facts that have peaked our interest.
- We all know the story of P. L. “Pinky” Downs at the 1930 TCU yell practice. However, there is another possible origin of the saying Gig’ Em. In the late 1930s and 1940s, the word “gig” was used on the A&M campus as a form of demerit for a minor or imagined infraction. The seniors began to use the gig as a way to harass the underclassmen and a very common expression on the campus.
- At Yell Practice and other similar events, the Junior Yell Leaders will pace back and forth. Although this just seems like all the other crazy traditions, there is a story behind it. It started with an old Yell Leader named Peanut Owens who had very large feet. At this time, Yell Practice was held at the YMCA building which has extremely narrow steps, so poor Peanut could not fit his feet on the steps. So, he began to walk back and forth in order to keep his balance, and then the other boys began to join in.
- There have always been many questions about the War Hymn: Where did Hullabaloo come from? Which verse are we meant to sing? Well, the War Hymn was written by JV “Pinky” Wilson, class of 1920, while he was stationed in the trenches of France during WWI. The verse that we currently sing is the original song; however, Mr. Wilson went back in 1938 and wrote what he considered to be a more appropriate verse that can apply to all opponents. As for the much disputed phrase “Hullabaloo Caneck Caneck,” Mr. Wilson borrowed this phrase from an Old Army yell written back in 1907. However, when Dr. Jack K. Williams, the President of Texas A&M University, went before the Texas Legislature for some other issues, he was asked what “Hullabaloo Caneck Caneck” meant. He responded, “It is Chickasaw Indian for ‘Beat the Hell out of the University of Texas.’”
- Bonfire has always been a very important tradition to Aggies, so important that other schools, especially t.u., felt the need to try and destroy it before we had a chance to burn it. The first time that t.u. tried to prematurely burn Bonfire was back in 1945 when three onghorns thought they could sneak up on Bonfire and light it with a few matches and a little bit of gasoline. Well, the guard patrol on duty that night caught them, and as punishment they shaved off “that beautiful t.u. wavy hair and sent them back down the road to set an example not to mess with the Ags.” Apparently they did not get the point, because 3 years later in 1948, two longhorns created a few homemade gasoline bombs, flew their private plane over Bonfire, and dropped their bombs. Of course, this was not successful and Bonfire burned right on-time that year. After that, there had been multiple other attempts to destroy Bonfire, like setting up bombs around the perimeter, running past the guards to throw matches on the stack, or even a College Station Policeman, a former Texas Tech student, using his authority to get past the guards. No one was ever successful at destroying Bonfire and every year, besides 1963 and 1999, it burned on time before the t.u. game.
- A&M is known all over the nation as the Fightin' Texas Aggies, but where exactly did we get this name? Although this is just a rumor, the story is told that when Lawrence Sullivan Ross became President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College, it was under the threat of being shut down. Lucky, Governor Ross would not have this, and he went down to the Legislature and fought to keep his school open. He got so angry that he punched a senator over the issue. From then on, we have been known as the “Fighting Farmers” that later became the “Fighting Aggies."
- Many people wonder why in the world we put pennies on the feet of Sul Ross’ statue. The story is told that when Governor Ross was President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College, his door was always open for any student to come by when he needed help with anything, even class. Ross was known to tutor multiple cadets when they needed it, and when they would offer to pay him, all he would accept was a penny. So today, we put a penny at his feet for his good luck on our next exam.
- In 1951 after the death of Reveille I, the student body at the Agricultural and Mechanical College took a vote to see whether they would continue using Reveille as their mascot. Of course, Ms. Reveille won by over 2,500 votes. They also decided in that vote to make her a German shepherd, which would later become an American Collie. The funny thing about this vote is the runner up to Reveille with about 200 votes was a woman. How they planned on picking which woman would be lucky enough to represent all of A&M by being their mascot, who knows?
- If you think the dorms are bad now, imagine being here back in Old Army days! Two times during our school’s history, students were forced to sleep out in “tent city,” or rows of tents located where Simpson Drill Field stands today. In 1907 the Eagle said “there are seventy-two out of the 350 students living in tents over at A and M College. That’s grit as well as gumption!” Also, after WWI from 1920-1923, the college grew so quickly it couldn’t get the money to build dorms fast enough and at least 300 students were forced to live in tents. They responded by saying that it was actually much cooler than the barracks.
- Everyone has heard the story about Bevo getting his name, but what really happened? Well according to the most popularly accepted story, t.u. had been looking for a mascot and finally found a steer with a burnt orange hide, so they decided to reveal it at half time of the 1916 AMC vs. t.u. football game. At the time, it was simply referred to as the “Texas steer.” After announcing publicly that they were going to brand its side “21-7” (the final score of the 1916 game, which t.u. won), some Aggie pranksters snuck in and branded “13-0” on the steer’s side (the score of the 1915 game, which the Aggies won). t.u. then decided to name it Bevo after the title of a “near beer” or nonalcoholic beer that was popular in Austin at the time. The steer was not re-branded however, because costs of feeding it were too great for the university to afford. Instead, t.u. officials decided to slaughter it and serve it at a university banquet in 1920. Texas AMC officials were then presented with the section of hide that had the 13-0 brand. Its current location is unknown.
- The Yell Leaders are bringing back a lot of old yells these days. Well, how about bringing back the very first yell. Begun in 1896, the very first AMC yell went like this:
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Hi! Ho! Ha!
Boom! Cis! Bah!
- We all know that when the lights go out during Midnight Yell, those with dates kiss and those without “flick their Bic” in hopes of finding a random mug. This tradition of flicking your Bic began in the 1970s when freshmen without dates would light matches in order to watch their upperclassmen mug down. It was said that they were supposed to “watch and learn.”
- Even though Aggies today proudly wear their Aggie ring on the fourth finger of their right hand, when E.C. Jonas designed the 1894 Aggie Ring, he actually intended for it to be worn on the middle finger of either hand.
- Membership dues for The Association of Former Students were actually abolished in 1942 because it was agreed that any Aggie graduate was automatically a member of their alumni association in spirit and fact.
- The Aggie Band performs the Four Way Cross during the last home game each year. The maneuver was first checked by a computer in the 1970s and declared impossible because two people would be in the same place at the same time. As you know, the Aggie Band has proven differently.
- The Aggie Sweetheart Ring was an exact replica of an Aggie Ring that a male student used to have the option of giving to his mother, fiancé, or wife. The ring featured the student's class year. The last class to order them however was the class of 1972.
- As we're sure you know, we actually sing the second verse of the fight song today. “Pinky” Wilson wrote it in 1918 while he was standing guard on the Rhine River during World War I. After returning from the war, he received a lot of criticism for its hostility towards the University of Texas so he decided to write another, first verse. The students refused to sing it however. It goes like this:
Hullabaloo, Caneck, Caneck
Hullabaloo, Caneck Caneck
All hail to dear old Texas A&M
Rally around Maroon and White
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight
That good old Aggie Spirit thrills us
And makes us yell and yell and yell
So let’s fight for dear old Texas A&M
We’re gonna beat you all to
Rough, Tough, real stuff Texas A&M
- Getting a date to A&M football games has always been a part of football weekends, but it actually used to be a much bigger deal than it is today. Until the mid 1980’s, both Corps and non-reg dates would dress up for each home game and wear mums purchased from the horticulture department. In 1985, the horticulture department stopped selling mums, but Corps and Band dates continued to dress up for games. Although mums can no longer be seen at football games today, they were worn well into the 1990s.