Traditions Through the Years at San Jose State University

  A review of year books, student handbooks and other materials at SJSU's Special Collection reveals that throughout the years, various traditions were followed or celebrated on campus. These range from Homecoming festivities, still carried out in some form today, to Noon Dances, a tradition no longer carried out on campus. Many of the traditions seem more like activities we would see at a high school today and reflect a student body that probably didn't have to work as many hours as many SJSU students work today. Following are reprints from student handbooks explaining various traditions.

  1926      1949    Frosh     Spardi Gras     Spartan Revelries      Camps     French translaction by Vicky Rotarova

Source: 1926 San Jose Teachers College Student Handbook and Frosh Bible, page 13.

Customs and Traditions

  Student Body Dances come every other week.

  Noon Dances are held every Wednesday from 12:30 to 1:00 o'clock.

  Student Body Jolly-Up is held at the beginning of the new semester.

  Hello Day is held every semester for the purpose of getting acquainted.

  Women's Jinx takes place in the fall of the year. Fancy dress affair.

  Men's Club Banquet - "Stag affair" - held each semester.

  A.W.S. Dinner. Once a semester. Every woman in college goes.

  Junior College Prom also held every fall semester. A looked-forward-to dance.

  Junior College Picnic. Every member of the Junior College goes. Held in the spring term.

  Senior Ball. The big dance of the spring session.

  Spring Fete in May or April.

  Home-Coming Day. held in the last week of the spring semester. Alumni return to take part.

  Tie-Up is held every semester. A struggle for supremacy between the Sophs and the incoming freshmen. A real battle which takes place in the quad.

  Men's Club Dance, which takes place during the fall semester, usually in the last few weeks of the school, is one of the best affairs of the year.

Source: San Jose State College Campus Compass 1949-1950, pages 10 - 13.


Tower Bells
  The old bell which hangs in the small tower at the right of the main entrance is worthy of a brief eulogy. It was bought and installed in the brick building in 1881 at a cost of $1,217.00, and was rung regularly at eight o'clock each morning until the earthquake in 1906 stilled its voice. When the new building was constructed in 1909 a specially designed tower was built to house the bell.

  It was rung on special occasions until the college obtained the new chimes in 1946.

  For many years each graduating class had contributed to a fund for the purchase of Carillon chimes to be placed in the Tower. Through the efforts of the Class of '46 the plans were completed and the chimes installed. They are heard at graduation and on all special occasions.

Westminster Chimes
The chimes heard each quarter hour are the Westminster Chimes which were the gift of the Class of '47. They ring out the same tones that are heard from the famous Big Ben in England.

Guarded exclusively by members of Tau Delta Phi, men's honor fraternity, the tower room has been known for years as the spot on campus where no women are allowed. Wild rumors circulate as to the punishment inflicted upon co-eds successful enough to gain entrance to the sacred spot.

Service Flags
One of the proudest traditions of the college is that of service. During World War I, thirty-five men from the small enrollment served overseas. The service flag honoring them is now in the Treasure room in the college library.
  During World War II, more than 4,000 Spartans entered the armed services. For each of these former students a star was placed on one of the large service flags which hung in the Morris Dailey auditorium. These flags, made by the Inter-Society Council, under the direction of Miss Helen Dimmick and Mrs. Izetta Pritchard, serve as a symbol and reminder of our fellow students who so courageously gave their services to our country. On Memorial Day, the student veterans on campus hold an impressive assembly in which the flags are removed from the Treasure room and placed in the college's auditorium. They will be kept in the Treasure room until the Memorial chapel is built and then will be given a prominent home there.

Recognition Day Assembly
Once a year during spring quarter, the college pauses to give recognition to students who have proved themselves outstanding in scholarship, activities, and sports. It is at this time that awards are presented and the new members of Black Masque and Spartan Spears, two women's honorary groups are announced.

High School Sweaters
No man is allowed to wear his high school block or a block from any other college on campus. A high school or college sweater is permissible if the block is removed.

On campus it is a tradition that no one smokes in the Quad or buildings, observed not only for its own sake, or because it helps keep our Quad neat, but it bolsters in however small a way the morale of the Spartans. The only building in which smoking is permitted is the Student Union, upstairs, and in the Spartan Fountain, below.   

[See Cartoon - click here.]

Spartan Hymn
Whenever the Hymn is sung, Spartan men and women stand; men remove their hats. The college hymn is highly respected by all Spartans. It is usually sung at the end of football games and is played on the chimes at graduation exercises.

The term "Spartans" was originally the name applied to our athletic representatives. More recently, it has become the term used for all members of the student body, as the school has been referred to as "Sparta."

A heated debate was held in 1925 over the effort of some students to change the school colors from gold and white to purple and white. Tradition won out, and it was decided to keep the original colors - Gold and White. This same issue came before the students again in 1946, when after many weeks of discussion, the question was voted on. Once again tradition won.

Fairness with respect to examinations, other written assignments, and grades - both on the part of the faculty and on the part of the students - has been much discussed at San Jose State. Neither an "honor system" which places all responsibility on the students, nor a "policy system" which places all responsibility on the faculty, seems to meet our present needs. Instead, we are seeking to foster a "campus system" which unites students and faculty as partners for good citizenship. The recommendations of the Fairness Committee for the conduct of examinations and related matters are designed to combat the false belief that cheating is necessary for success, and to protect the great majority of students in their preference for honest work. Any deviation from fair practices should be reported to some member of the Fairness Committee, the chairman of which is Professor Elmo Robinson.
  Let's make fairness a tradition at San Jose State - it is up to us!

Some Traditions By and For Freshmen as Noted in the 1960 La Torre

  • The annual Quadrangle Conference attended by Cal, Stanford, San Francisco State and SJS.

  • A faculty auction.

  • A Spartan from the Start - handbook for frosh that included information on school government, rules and customs, organizations, as well as photos of the campus

  • Freshman Camp - a three-day activity held at Asilomar in Monterey, sponsored by Associated Students. Camp featured group discussions, games, entertainment, and time to become acquainted with San Jose State.

Spardi Gras and Spartan Revelries

Based on information from the La Torre yearbooks, Spardi Gras was first held on Washington's birthday in 1929. It was described in the 1929 yearbook as follows:

"Another event which met with unprecedented participance by the entire student body was the first annual Spardi Gras or Hobo Day on Washington's Birthday, a gala occasion of play, sport, and merrymaking later authorized by the Executive Board as an annual event because of its great success."

The last entry about Spardi Gras appears in the 1950 yearbook.

Another longstanding event in SJSU's past is "Spartan Revelries" described as follows in the 1960 La Torre:

"Spartan Revelries has been a tradition on the San Jose State College campus for more than thirty years. This all-student college musical event is written, produced, and presented entirely by students, and any student on the campus may participate in its production. The first Revelries, as a full-fledged musical comedy is shrouded in mystery. Some sources indicated that it began in 1929 as a grand finale to Spardi Gras. Others suggest that it had its beginning in 1933. At least we know that back in those days a spring musical of some sort was represented each year. In 1930 there was a student-written and produced show called 'Jazzmania,' which enjoyed tremendous success. In 1949 a Revelries Board was established to carry out the business and management of each year's show, which has grown to be an event requiring the efforts of many students and several months of preparation."

The last yearbook mention of Spartan Revelries was 1962.


Sparta Camp was an annual event from probably 1953 to 1965 based on La Torre information. It was held every spring at Asilomar and was open to all students with an interest in student government. Students had to apply to go. The students attending had opportunities to attend workshops and discussion groups on leadership. 

Freshman Camp was held in September at Asilomar to help new students get oriented to the campus and the "Spirit of Sparta."  Students had to apply to attend.  The picture below is from Freshman Camp (from La Torre). This retreat was sponsored by Associated Students.



Return to SJSU History at a Glance


February 22, 2015

Last Modified: Mar 11, 2020