Coming Up Roses For Caltech: The Great 1961 Rose Bowl Prank - Blog! - Two-Fisted History


Coming Up Roses For Caltech:
The Great 1961 Rose Bowl Prank

This past week, 95,173 spectators watched the Spartans of Michigan State beat the Sanford Cardinal in the 100th RIt wasn't even on the field!ose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  53 years ago, the real ‘Play of the Game’ didn’t belong to either the Minnesota Golden Gophers or the Washington Huskies, but to a plucky band of Caltech students.

Caltech, whose football team (the Beavers) often played at the Rose Bowl stadium located only a few miles from the Caltech campus, had never played in a Rose Bowl game and felt as though they were routinely ignored to up to and during the game.  Fourteen students had decided that enough was enough and decided to take matters into their own hands.Your mission, should you choose to except it.

After discovering where the marching band and cheerleaders from the University of Washington would be staying, Caltech Junior Lyn Hardy showed up masquerading as a high school newspaper reporter.   He asked them about their plans for the halftime Flipcard Routine.

The Flipcard Routine is a means by which huge images are shown in a stadiumThis was in the days before Jumbotrons by having spectators hold large coloured placards over their heads.  The placards form images that the other spectators, as well as people watching on TV, can see.

The cheerleaders happily shared the details of their routine, and even showed the Caltech spy where all of their materials were.  After all, this was halftime - not a CIA Op Hardy learned that Washington would use 2,232 spectators to execute fifteen images in their routine, and that each would have a set of individualized instructions.

On 31 December, while the cheerleaders were spending the day at Disneyland, the ‘Fiendish 14’ as they came to be called, broke into the cheerleaders’ dorm room and made off with the master instructions.  Back at Caltech, the Fiendish 14 mapped out their own Master Plan – carefully changing each seat’s instructions according to a grid map.

When they were done, they broke back into the dorm, replaced the master instructions where they had found them, and then replaced all 2,232 individualized instruction cards with their revised cards before making off with the originals.

Two days later, game day arrived.  By halftime, the Huskies were up 17-zip and the Washington marching band came onto the field for the halftime show.  The Caltech students had left most of the images unaltered, but when it came to the 12th image, the Plan began to unfold.

The 12th image was supposed to look like a husky.  This huOur badsky had a rounded head and buck teeth – looking suspiciously like a beaver.  The cheerleaders thought that they had messed up the design and kept going.

The 13th image was supposed to say ‘HUSKIES,’ but when the signal caActually, people disagree on whether it said 'Washington' or 'Huskies'me, the Caltech students had rigged the text to appear backwards, reading ‘SEIKSUH.’  The Washington cheerleaders were horrified.  Hopefully the last two would be error free, they thought. 

All of the previous alterations were just a taste of the 14th image.  The cheerleaders gave the signal and the next image appeared.

Silence fell over the stadium.  The band’s march died.  One word appeared over the Rose Bowl.


The silenThe last image, and American flag, had been left unalteredce was soon broken as the stadium erupted in laughter.  The Washington marching band left the field in shame – refusing to even give the signal for the last image.

Halftime ended and Washington & Minnesota returned to the field.  The game ended Washington 17, Minnesota 7.



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