Local News
World News
Campus News
Police Beat


news Sports Opinions arts variety interact Wildcat On-Line QuickNav

Cat Capers

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 7, 1999
Send comments to:


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo courtesy Dave Clark In 1974, UA alumnus Dave Clark and a group of friendstopped the Administration Building with an 11-foot Playboy Bunny symbol.

During its history, the UA has boasted an intelligent, determined and sophisticated student body.

Yet peppered among more publicized student achievements are runaway trolley cars, stolen birthday cakes and Administration Building break-ins - all brainchilds of University of Arizona students looking for a laugh.

The Administration Playboy Bunny, 1974

If there were a yearbook for UA pranksters, 1975 alumnus Dave Clark's picture would adorn its cover.

During his senior year at the UA, Clark was a participant in a number of mischievous activities, much to the glee of UA students.

Clark, along with several friends he met at Apache-Santa Cruz Residence Hall, completed their most famous prank a few days before Easter in 1974.

Editor's Note

The Century 1999, the turn of the century will be a worldwide year of historical reflection and celebration. The Arizona Daily Wildcat features the seventh in an occasional series on the events and people that shaped the University of Arizona community.
Upon discovering a hidden maintenance stairwell in the Administration Building, Clark conceived a plan to hang an 11-foot Playboy Bunny symbol over the university seal.

After placing several mounting studs on the building the day before, Clark unleashed his plan.

"We pulled fire alarms around the university," Clark said. "We got up on the (Administration) roof and lowered the banner over the edge. Then we chain-locked the door shut and poured ammonia on the floor to make it difficult to get in."

UA administrators, however, were not as thrilled as Clark and his colleagues.

"They immediately sent the police," he said.

Clark's group aroused the attention of officials by mastering the underground maintenance tunnels.

"We used to run around in tunnels," he said. "They (UA officials) weren't too happy about that."

Clark's pranks sometimes failed, however.

Before a nationally televised football game, his group strung fishing wire across Arizona Stadium, home of the Wildcat football team.

Clark had constructed a simulated UFO out of Styrofoam and added lights to string on the wire. He hoped to pull it across the field during the game, but the prank was discovered before kickoff time.

His pranks, however, weren't always large-scale. Clark also participated in more traditional pranks, such as putting a box of detergent in the Old Main fountain.

"I never did get to see that, though," he said.

The fun ended in the spring of 1974, when university officials discovered the jokesters.

"The police came over to the dorm and we just basically went in and told them what we'd done," he said.

The group was suspended for a semester, causing him to graduate a year late, but Clark said he doesn't regret his actions.

"I learned a lot from doing this," he said. "The Playboy bunny thing was actually logistically complicated. I had to figure out how to get it up there."

The Stolen Birthday Cake, 1962

For Bill Risner, a UA and Kappa Sigma alumnus, the 16-layer cake for the Memorial Student Union's birthday celebration was just too tempting.

"I showed the cake to my date," Risner said. "It was in a big room, and it was just too tempting. It seemed amusing to me to steal it."

Risner left the room and immediately ran into a group of his fraternity brothers and a few other friends.

"They all thought it was a good idea, too," he said.

When Risner returned to the room, people had begun to file in for then-university President Richard Harvill's address.

The group composed themselves, Risner said, and asked for the cake under the pretense that they were working the event and needed to put candles on it.

"We rolled it right out the back door," he said.

The group eventually took the cake - which was "about 150 pounds" and shaped like the union - to the Kappa Sigma fraternity house.

But the cake's "tower" fell off outside the house, leaving a frosting mark, Risner said.

After eating a good amount of the cake, Risner said it was taken to an alley between the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house and the Sigma Chi house, but police eventually followed a cake trail to Kappa Sigma's house.

Inside, police saw Risner and his date eating the cake, and ended up expelling him and another fraternity member from school.

"We were actually expelled for violating the social code, for being in a (bed)room with females," he said. "The fraternity was put on probation."

The Tragic Panty Raid, 1960

Former dean of students Robert Svob said panty raids were a favorite pastime of men during the 1960s and 1970s.

"We took all day and all night to track those things down," Svob said. "We (the administrators) would get down to campus, and we'd settle down things."

UA journalism professor James Johnson said he remembers when his fraternity brothers participated in a prank which had a not-so-funny ending.

A group of Sigma Chi men stole a telephone pole in preparation for a panty raid on the Delta Gamma house in 1960, Johnson said.

But the situation took a tragic turn when the men broke the door down.

"The house mother was standing there saying, 'boys, boys, boys,'" Johnson said. "It hit her right between the legs...it knocked her down and broke her arm."

The incident caused quite a stir on campus, Johnson said, resulting in a suspension for Sigma Chi.

"We got in deep doo-doo," he said.

The Cactus Garden, 1952

Some pranks came with casualties.

The UA's scientific and educational Cactus Garden, created in 1891, was the victim of a destructive - and legendary - act of vandalism Nov. 19, 1952.

Buildings and Grounds staff found three 100-year-old ancient saguaro cacti mutilated and the rest of the garden destroyed.

"The events...were the beginning of the end for what were the remnants of the scientific and educational garden," according to Phyllis Ball's Photographic History of the University of Arizona. from 1986.

The Trolley Cars, 1924

Roy Drachman, a Tucson resident who attended the University of Arizona in 1924, said the trolley cars that run along East University Boulevard were targeted by student pranksters.

After a UA football game, Drachman said about 150 to 200 male UA students used the trolley cars as part of their celebration.

"They took the street car and captured it," Drachman said. "They pushed it up the street to the Aggie Building, which was a big hangout at that time."

He said UA students had a whole series of capers revolving around the trams. The biggest - students would grease the trolley tracks, making the car slide off the track for about 150 feet and into the main university gate.

"They were kind of innocent, nutty things," Drachman said. "No one knew who did it."