In recent years, I have tried to attend a Cal football and basketball game each season. But as the years pass me by, the trips to Berkeley are less frequent, but still cherished. I love the campus, UC, Berkeley, and memories of my undergrad and grad school days at the best public institution in the world. For those of you not born yet, I started as a 17-year-old freshman in 1964!!! Tuition was $121.50 a semester, and the dorm and 20 meals a week totaled $440. Plus, I had some scholarship funds. From 2009: As most of you know by now, my years at the University of California as an undergrad and graduate student are among my favorites for many reasons. And not the least of which was attending athletic events, mostly football, basketball, and rugby. Today, I am headed up to old Memorial Stadium in Strawberry Canyon, above most of the Berkeley campus.
I never missed a home game when I was an undergrad. I even went to a few road games, like the Big Game at Standfurd, and the LA rivalry games at USC and UCLA. In later years, I took my son when he was a youngster, then later, some of my old UC buddies. I do not go as often, maybe once every 2 or 3 years now. But it is always enjoyable and brings back memories.
When I was an undergrad, I always sat in the student rooting section, and in a seat that participated in the halftime card stunts. Problem was, after the stunts, many students started throwing the cards like frisbees. Very dangerous to say the least. But another fun activity was “roll ’em up”. Some poor students, usually a girl or someone who accidentally wore red, got rolled up on his/her back up the entire student rooting section. This also got a little dangerous if we dropped her, amidst all of the groping and fondling.
The best cheerleader we ever had was a guy named Jamie Sutton. He was both creative, a just a little bit loco for Cal sports. And we had a real babe as a rally girl by the name of Jennifer Peak. The rumor was that Playboy was trying to recruit her, even back then. I wonder where she is today and what she looks like? Who was the best player I ever saw on the Cal side? Probably Joe Roth, who died before he could play in the NFL. The best opposing player was either Dick Butkus from Illinois, or Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman as a junior, from Navy. The best games were when we beat USC or the Cardinals.
The stadium opened back in 1923, and seats almost 72,000, making it the largest Bay Area football stadium in terms of capacity. The stadium was funded by public contributions as a memorial to Californians who lost their lives in WW1. The chief architect was John Galen Howard. And from the top rows, the scenic SF Bay area is one of the best views in college football.
A nice feature is that Memorial Stadium does not have a running track. Seats run all the way down to the playing field. Generally, only football and rugby are played here. The field can also hold soccer matches. The eastern backdrop of the stadium has a large hill, called “tightwad hill”, allowing free viewing for those hardies enough to climb up there.
The field was originally grass, converted to Astroturf in 1981 for 14 seasons. Then back to grass until 2003, when the next generation artificial turf called Momentum Turf, was installed. The Hayward Fault passes directly beneath the stadium, almost from goal post to goal post. In 2005, the Chancellor announced plans to renovate Memorial Stadium in several phases. Phase 1 which caused some sit in and demonstrations, Berkeley style, calls for a 142,000 square foot Student Athlete High Performance Center. Phase 2 will renovate the earthquake vulnerable west side of the Stadium.
Over the years, I have sat in almost every location in the stadium, from 50-yard line, to low in the end zone. Nothing beats the atmosphere of a college game. My first pro football game in LA was a rude awakening: no cheer leaders, no band, and the players walked on and off the field. I love the college game enthusiasm and relative exuberance.
Saturday, with fellow Bear fan (Donna) at my side, we dashed the hopes of the Arizona Wildcats to attain the Rose Bowl. We have not been there since 1958, so why allow these upstarts a free pass to Pasadena. BTW, did you know Oski, the Golden Bear mascot, is staffed by a secret group of people who are all 5 foot 5 inches tall? And I always wished I would have been able to play in the Cal band. No time due to chemistry and zoology labs in the afternoons. I will try sing the fight song and “Hail to California”, if I can remember the words.
Fast forward to 2022, I am attending the Cal UCLA basketball game. Over the years, I have seen the great Bruin players, from Kareem to Bill Walton. This year, we will see last year’s Final Four team, led by new star, Johnny Juzang. My favorite Bruin team was the 1965 NCAA champs, coached by legendary John Wooden.
I love the UC campus and Berkeley. I have fond memories, mostly of growing up after high school, becoming independent, and learning how to study and succeed. It was a wonderful and challenging journey in most every way.
Here is another good Berkeley article:
Another college town is ramping up the bookish culture! You’ll always see people with a book in hand here, and the atmosphere will give goosebumps to any bookworm.
Berkeley is home to the Bay Area Book Festival, a two-day event with 250-300 authors for panels and keynotes, an outdoor fair, and kids’ activities. The UC Berkeley Library is accessible to the public, and the Central Library also deserves a visit if you’re out on a book adventure. There are interesting bookstores in the city, as you’d expect.
Moe’s Books and Pegasus will come up often when you talk about a cheerful, neighborly bookstore. Both amplify the reading culture in Berkeley and have a buy-back policy. They also host events and readings, so definitely keep an eye on their calendar. Non-profit Friends of the Berkeley Public Library runs two used bookshops that are perfect for casual browsing—if you buy anything (cash only), the proceeds will fund community programs.
If you ever get to Berkeley, please find time to walk through campus and take a gander at the Bancroft Library. It is an amazing and inspiring sight. I spend many evenings there as an undergrad.
Meanwhile, Go Bears!!!