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Gong with the Wind

From the files of the UCLA History Project

Published Oct 1, 2006 8:00 AM

On November 28, 1950, more than 5,000 Bruins spilled out into Westwood to celebrate UCLA's 39-0 thrashing of USC and the return of the Victory Bell after three long years in the hands of the hated Trojans.

"As a new device to build up the spirit of the rooters, the famed UCLA Victory Bell was introduced and immediately became the object of a rising wave of interest. Stolen in a scurrilous manner by an illiterate band of knaves, the bell was returned in time for the USC game, where it tolled a history-making victory ..." — 1943 Southern Campus yearbook

The Victory Bell has rung for UCLA since 1939, when it was presented to ASUCLA as a gift from the Alumni Association. But the bell soon became the symbol of one of the fiercest college football rivalries in America.

For its first two years, the 295-pound locomotive bell, mounted on an undercarriage with wheels, was toted to rallies and football games and proudly rang out each point after Bruin touchdowns. In 1941, however, the bell was stolen by six sneaky Trojans disguised as Bruins.

UCLA supporters searched high and low for the bell but had no luck until its photo appeared in The Wampus, a Trojan humor magazine. Then it got ugly — blue paint dumped on Tommy Trojan, banners of both schools stolen, big "USC" letters burned into UCLA lawns. It finally reached the point where school officials threatened to cancel that year’s crosstown clash if the pranks weren’t stopped.

Extensive negotiations by ASUCLA President Bill Farrer and USC Student Body President Bob McKay produced a deal in 1942 that satisfied everyone: The bell would be a perpetual trophy awarded to the winner of the annual USC-UCLA football game, with the USC student body purchasing a half-interest ($150) in the bell. Happily, the Bruins beat the Trojans that year, 14-7.

For other notable moments in UCLA's history, visit the James West Alumni Center and browse UCLA Through the Years. Featuring snapshots in time and artifacts from UCLA's past, the exhibit will be on view indefinitely in the West Center. Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free; parking on campus is $8. Call (310) 825-2586.