GETTING INTO UCLA AND THE NROTC; THE UCLA VS. USC RIVALRY
by Art Munzig
In the summer of 1942, after completing my third semester at San Diego state, (after an initial semester at San Bernardino JC), I made my final decision to transfer to UCLA. The war with Japan and Germany was now six months old, and I would eventually have to serve in one of the military branches. My father had served on destroyers in World War I, and had told me stories of his anti-submarine experiences. Also, I had read many books about submarines and was fascinated by them. It was for these reasons that I decided to try to get into that service. But first I had to get into the Navy.
I decided to investigate the possibilities of getting into the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) that I had learned about from the Navy recruiters who had recently visited the SDSC campus. After phoning to be sure I could meet with the proper parties, I drove to UCLA and was interviewed for possible acceptance in the next NROTC class starting in September. I also made similar inquiries to the UCLA Registrar’s office.
After arranging for my high school and college transcripts to be forwarded, I waited to hear from them. A month or so later I received favorable replies from both UCLA and the NROTC.
We had a great football team at UCLA in 1942 . Bob Waterfield completed 57 passes for 1,095 yards, and UCLA scored an all-time high of 1 73 points during the season. At the receiving end of the passes was All-American Burr Baldwin. Our head coach was Babe Horrell, and Ray Richards was line coach. UCLA had never beaten USC in football, and had never played in the Rose Bowl. The UCLA-USC ‘big’ game battle for the Rose Bowl bid was hard-fought, but UCLA came out on top, 14-7 .
On the following Monday night a big moonlight rally was held on campus, with a bonfire, and a street dance on Gayley Avenue (fraternity row). At about nine o ‘ clock, everyone marched down Westwood Boulevard, through the Village, and stopped in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard for a yell session. Then we went back to the Village and all of us marched into the Bruin Theatre, making the manager stop what he was showing and put on the newsreel of the UCLA victory over USC. After playing the newsreel several times, head yell leader George Hallberg led several yells, ending with one for the theatre manager. Then we left, crossed the street to the Village Theatre, and did it all over again, ending with another yell for the manager. UCLA went to the Rose Bowl for the first time on January 1, 1943, but didn’t do as well, losing to Georgia 0-9, in spite of Joe E. Brown, UCLA’s #1 rooter, leading our yells. I can still see Joe E.’s big mouth, and hear him belting out one of our fight songs:
“By the old Pacific’s rolling water,
Loyally we send each son and daughter,
Hail the emblem of our Alma Mater,
Mighty Bruin bear-r-r-r…….”
UCLA had a big bell that the cheer leaders took to all the football games. It was so large that it was mounted on a wagon with pneumatic tires. The wagon, bell, and towing handle, with surfaces of polished chrome, was quite impressive. During games, the bell was kept on the edge of the playing field, right in front of the cheering section, and was rung every time UCLA made a score – one ring for each point. Both UCLA and USC used the Los Angeles Coliseum for their home football games. The USC campus was literally next door to the Coliseum, and UCLA was ten miles away. When the two schools played each other, in their ‘big game’ towards the end of the football season each year, they alternated being the home team, allowing the visiting team to sit on the shady side of the Coliseum while the home team faced the sun. That’s about as far as the chivalry went.
At one of the first home games that UCLA played, the year following their victory over USC (I don’t remember the team we were playing – but it wasn’t USC), during half-time activities on the field, a group of USC students who had infiltrated the area near our bell, suddenly grabbed it and raced down the sidelines and through a tunnel, apparently to a waiting truck. They made a clean get-away. It was done so smoothly that I didn’t see them until everyone started yelling and pointing. I just got a glimpse of the bell as it disappeared into the tunnel at the west end of the Coliseum.
At each USC football game after that, they would roll out our bell and ring it, the same way we used to. If you don’t think that didn’t gall the UCLA students, then you are too anemic. The main topic at UCLA for months was, “How can we get our bell back?” We thought of, and tried, everything. We had ‘spies’ enroll at USC, we hired ‘fire inspectors’ to make inspections of all their fraternity and sorority houses, but all to no avail. Long after I left UCLA, USC was still using our bell Just the thought of it still annoys me. Many years later, someone’s conscience at USC (or a long series of USC football wins over UCLA making them over-confident), caused them to decide to offer our bell as a perpetual trophy – with the winner of the annual ‘big game’ taking possession of the “Victory Bell.” It wasn’t a victory. At best, it was a stand off. Anyway, that’s the story of the UCLA-USC Victory Bell tradition.