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Ramblins - Stumpy's bear, Sideways the dog remembered in Tech history
By Pat Edwards
Ramblin' Reck Club
Tech has always had its share of animals around campus. They range from the semi-feral cats that roam East Campus avoiding Brittain Dining Hall cooks to the various fraternity house dogs that will yelp and run into a dumpster at the first sign of a beer tap.
Although these animals have always been welcome reminders of home for Tech students, two four-legged friends have taken prominent places in Tech's history. These animals were a California bear and a crippled dog.
In 1929 Tech, playing in her first major bowl game, beat California at the Rose Bowl. As a result of that victory, a rather unusual gift was given to the noteworthy Tech fullback, 'Stumpy' Thomason: a young brown bear named Bruin, who came to live at Georgia Tech and quickly became part of campus life.
Stumpy's bear was not unlike many of the bipedal inhabitants of Tech. Dean of Students George Griffin once said of Bruin that "he was at least as smart as most Tech students, with all of the vices of modern youth." He often enjoyed drinking beer and Coca-Cola, and was fond of taking rides in the back of Stumpy's car and showering in hot weather.
Bruin lived under the East stands of Bobby Dodd Stadium, where he was somewhat tenuously chained. He often escaped his confines when Stumpy would forget to feed him and wandered the city of Atlanta.
On some of these occasions Atlanta Police would receive calls from frightened Atlanta homeowners complaining of a bear on their back porches.
The police, who were familiar with Bruin, would pull up to the house, open their passenger door, and beckon Bruin into the car. They would return him to Grant Field with a request to Coach Alex to have Stumpy feed his bear.
Stumpy was so regular a fixture at the Athletic Association that he was almost ignored by the staff. Newcomers, however, found his acquaintance a difficult one to forget.
In August of 1929 Mike Chambers and Lee Jensen, new trainers for the Yellow Jackets, arrived in Atlanta. They reached Tech a few hours before their expected time. The coach, who was still in practice, had them wait for him in the team's equipment room.
The two men believed Atlanta to be a sleepy southern town, devoid of excitement. They complained to each other that they had made a mistake coming to "this last outpost of civilization" where "nothing ever happens."
Just then Bruin, hearing stranger's voices, ambled into the room to meet the new men.
Both of them dove for the first containers big enough to conceal them: a locker and a medicine cabinet. Bruin, thinking that they were playing some sort of game, sought to get at each of the men, clawing and biting at the metal hiding places in which the men were hiding.
A few hours later Coach Alex returned to the room, shooing out Bruin, to look for the new trainers. Only after the bear had left did he hear the muffled cries of the men in the lockers. Opening the medicine cabinet one of them fell out, exhausted from the heat and lack of air, and declared to the coach, "I will never again say that nothing ever happens in Atlanta."
Eventually, Bruin outgrew the campus and was moved to New York, where he became the mascot for a football team there. He later retired to a zoo in Crystal Springs, Canada.
Sideways the dog came into Tech hearts through a tragic case of abuse.
In March of 1945, a small black and white dog was thrown from a moving car near where the Varsity stands today. Tech students, rescuing the dog, brought her back to campus and nursed her back to health.
She recovered, but was left by the accident with a walk in which her head was permanently at an angle from her tail. This odd, off-centered gait gave her a name: Sideways.
Sideways would often accompany students to and from their classes, displaying a preference for certain professors' lectures. It was said that she would sit up and listen raptly to interesting lecturers, while she would curl up and sleep for a less engaging speaker.
Sideways would spend every night in a different dorm room, and would always get her meals at Brittain Dining Hall.
Sideways often had run-ins with the law and was frequently caught by the dog catcher, but was always bailed out of "prison" by her loyal student benefactors.
Her life came to an abrupt end when she ate some rat poison. She was buried on the northwest corner of Tech Tower, where her grave marker still stands today. From that vantage point on The Hill, she continues to watch over her benefactors in the student body.
Copyright © 1998 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor and by the Student Publications Board
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