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GEORGIA TECH TRADITIONS
It was September 30, 1961. The opponent was Rice University for the home
opener. For the first time, the official Rambling Wreck car was unveiled
to 43,501 fans at Grant Field, leading the Georgia Tech football team
onto the field. It has happened at every home game since.
The event did not establish a new tradition at Tech, but it cemented
one. The vehicle, a restored 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe, was Tech's
first official Rambling Wreck car, and it was an instant success.
Since that time, the Rambling Wreck car has joined a much older
tradition-the Yellow Jacket-as the official school mascot. The current
Wreck is the latest in a line of distinctive white and gold cars on
campus. While there was no official Rambling Wreck before 1961, several
fraternities took turns driving various such vehicles.
The first reference to a Rambling Wreck vehicle on campus was applied to
a 1914 Ford owned by Floyd Field, Dean of Men. The Technique student
newspaper was the first published reference to the car as the "Rambling
Wreck" in 1927. The paper spoke out against Field when he considered
trading the car that year, but he disposed of it anyway.
The Technique, however, continued the tradition by sponsoring a yearly
collegiate auto race from Atlanta to Athens, beginning in 1929, known as
the "Old Ford" race or the "Flying Flivver" race. As the years went by,
though, the race became too dangerous, and it was discontinued.
In its place, the school instituted the familiar Rambling Wreck Parade,
which is still held every year on the campus during Homecoming Weekend
festivities. The event challenges students to produce outlandish
"mechanical monstrosities" capable of transversing a short course on
Tech officials decided in the late 1950s that the school needed an
official car that would be known forever as the Rambling Wreck.
Vice President and Dean of Students James Dull began a search for a
pre-1940 vintage model, and finally found one-parked in front of his
apartment building. The owner, Capt. Ted J. Johnson, a Delta Air Lines
pilot, had just finished restoring the 1930 Ford Cabriolet Sport Coupe,
which he intended to give to his son as a gift.
Johnson decided to let Tech have the car for $1,000 in May, 1961. He
later returned the purchase price of the Wreck to the Athletic
Association in the form of a contribution to the Alexander-Tharpe Fund,
fulfilling a desire to go on record as having given the Rambling Wreck
to Georgia Tech. The Wreck was completely restored again in 1982, under
the supervision of Tech alumnus Pete George, manager of the Ford
assembly plant in Hapeville, Georgia.
Ramblin' Wreck Song
It is doubtful that anything has ever meant as much to an American
college as has this Georgia Tech fight song, a curious mixture of words
and music that grew out of an old folk ballad, "The Sons of the
Gamboliers." Since the early 1900's, it has been one of the most
important vehicles in making Georgia Tech's name known around the world
and in the development of the school as one of the most cosmopolitan
institutions of higher learning in America.
Howard D. Cutter, a member of the first four-year graduating class who
earned his mechanical engineering degree in 1892, wrote in the
November-December 1942 issue of the Georgia Tech Alumnus that the "Ramblin'
Wreck" had its beginnings during the first two years after Tech opened
in 1885, specifically inspired when almost the entire student body
traveled to Athens to see Tech's baseball team defeat Georgia. By the
early 1900s, "Ramblin' Wreck" was an established tradition. The earliest
existing published version of the song appeared in the Blueprint, the
Institute's yearbook, in 1908.
In 1910, Michael A. Greenblatt, Tech's first bandmaster, discovered the
band playing "Ramblin' Wreck" to the tune of "Sons of the Gamboliers,"
and made his first arrangement of the song in the form of a handwritten
manuscript. When Frank Roman succeeded Greenblatt as bandmaster in 1911,
he wrote a new adaptation of "Ramblin' Wreck," accompanied by many
trumpet flourishes, that was played by every name band in the country
and became nationally known on radio. His is the version that continues
to be popular today.
The fame of the song spread to such proportions that in 1959 it was sung
by Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev at their historic meeting in
In 1984, the law firm of Newton, Hopkins & Ormsby investigated the
copyright situation as it applied to "Ramblin' Wreck" and found that a
number of people have various versions of the song that have been
copyrighted. The original version of the song, however, is in the public
domain and can be played by anyone without the payment of royalties.
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer,
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer,
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear,
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.
Oh, if I had a daughter, sir, I'd dress her in White and Gold,
And put her on the campus, to cheer the brave and bold.
But if I had a son, sir, I'll tell you what he'd do.
He would yell, "To Hell with Georgia," like his daddy used to do.
Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds,
A college bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it around.
I'd drink to all good fellows who come from far and near.
I'm a ramblin', gamblin', hell of an engineer.
White & Gold
In the fall of 1891, before Georgia Tech organized a football team of
its own, a game was scheduled between Auburn and Georgia. Due to the
rivalry established in baseball games between Tech and Georgia (which is
still strong after more than 100 years), the Tech students were invited
to the game to cheer, of course, for Auburn.
At a mass meeting, the students appointed a committee to recommend
colors to be worn and cheers to be used at the game. The committee
suggested white and gold, and about 200 students attended the game
wearing school colors for the first time.
In 1893, when Tech's football team played its first official game
against Georgia, a group of young women from the Lucy Cobb Institute for
Girls, dressed in white and gold, attended the game to cheer for Tech.
These ladies were some of the earliest Tech supporters to show their
allegiance by wearing the now-traditional colors.
Oh well it's up with the White and Gold
Down with the Red and Black
Georgia Tech is out for the victory
We'll drop the battle axe on Georgia's head
When we meet her, our team is sure to beat her
Down on the old farm there will be no sound
Till our bow-wows rip through the air
When the battle is over, Georgia's team will be found
With the Yellow Jackets swarming around.
The Yellow Jacket
The Yellow Jacket nickname and mascot are two of the most beloved
trademarks of Georgia Tech athletic teams, but many conflicting accounts
exist as to the origins and beginnings of the Yellow Jacket. One thing
that is clear, however, is that the nickname did not grow out of the
familiar six-legged insect, but instead that the insect mascot, known as
"Buzz," grew out of the nickname.
As far as can be determined, the first reference to Tech students as "Yellowjackets"
appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in 1905 and came into common usage
at that time.
Historians say the name, spelled as one word, was first used to describe
supporters who attended Tech athletic events, dressed in yellow coats
and jackets. The actual mascot was conceived at a later date, still
Other common nicknames which have applied to Georgia Tech teams include
Engineers, which is still used by some writers; the Techs, the first
known nickname which was phased out sometime around 1910; and the
Blacksmiths, which was common between 1902 and 1904 and is thought to be
an invention of sportswriters at the time.
The Golden Tornado is another former nickname thought to be created by
sportswriters when John Heisman led Tech to its first national
championship in football in 1917. Tech was the first team from the South
to earn the honor bestowed by the International News Service, and any
team thereafter which approached the same level of excellence was
referred to as the Golden Tornado. The nickname was used as late as
1929, when Tech defeated California in the Rose Bowl.
Tech has several customs especially created for its freshman class
members. One of the oldest and proudest freshman traditions, wearing
Tech's gold-colored rat cap, originated with the ANAK society in 1915.
The term rat, originally used for first-year military students,
gradually expanded to include all freshmen.
The rat cap has been a distinctive symbol of membership in Tech's
freshman class. Freshmen are to decorate their rat caps by writing
winning football scores upright, losing scores upside down, and tie
scores sideways. Co-ops circle the top button.
George P. Burdell
In 1927, a Tech tradition began when a mythical student named George P.
Burdell appeared on class rosters, registration forms and grade reports,
and he has since become one of Tech's most notable students.
The most accurate accounts claim that Burdell was the creation of
student Ed Smith. While completing an application form, Smith was struck
with the impish idea of enrolling a non-existent student. He even turned
in separate exam papers for Burdell, convincing professors that George
was a student in good standing. Burdell received a bachelor's degree
from Tech and later earned a master's degree.
During the years since Smith's graduation, other students have kept
George P. Burdell alive at Tech and elsewhere. In the spring of 1969,
the first quarter that Georgia Tech used completely computerized
registration, George beat the system by registering for every course the
school offered-more than 3,000 credit hours!