Freshman Cake Race

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1922 Freshman Cake Race Winners

The Freshman Cake Race is one of the oldest traditions at Georgia Tech. Originally created in 1911 to recruit runners for the cross country team, this event emerged into a race where the top finishers would receive a cake at the finish line from their mothers, sisters, wives, or sweethearts [1]. This event earned its name “The Freshman Cake Race” in 1935 when all freshmen, except disabled freshman, were mandated to participate in this run at Georgia Tech. One significant winner of the Freshman Cake Race was Al Butler in 1952 [2]. Shortly after his win there was an additional prize at the finish line. In 1954 with the addition of the homecoming queen, the winner also received a kiss from Ms. Georgia Tech at the end of the race [1]. Throughout the years, this tradition has changed slightly in its distance, rewards, and purpose but remains vital to the culture at Georgia Tech. Today, the Freshman Cake Race is part of Georgia Tech's Homecoming week's traditions and most fraternities and sororites choose to send their freshman members to run in it. Today, the Freshman Cake Race is no longer mandatory for freshman, but it endures as a distinct tradition at Georgia Tech where the kiss is typically valued higher than the cake prize.


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Early Beginnings

Start of the 1922 Freshman Cake Race

The Freshman Cake Race began as a cross country run from Grant Field Stadium and evolved into an annual RAT tradition. When the Freshman Cake Race began in 1911, it was originally termed the Georgia Tech Cross Country Run. Starting in 1913, cakes were involved as prizes for the top finishers. Females such as faculty, wives, mothers, sisters, and sweethearts baked the cakes for those who ran in the race. There are photographic records of the 1922 Freshman Cake Race which depicts the cakes the females baked for the winners. These records also indicate information about past races. For example, the photograph above of the 1922 Freshman Cake Race pictures the winners, Horace Moore, Tom Roberts, O.D. Calhoun, and T.H. Mitchell, holding their cakes that their wives, mothers, sisters, or sweethearts made for them [3]. Another image, depicted below, shows the start of the same race in 1922; the large crowd is eager to begin the race [3]. Therefore, it is obvious that this tradition attracted many participants even though the event was not compulsory at the time of the picture.



Additionally, the images from the Freshman Cake Race in 1924 of the winner John T. Barret help to demonstrate the significance of this event to those Georgia Tech. Barret, a sophomore at the time of the race and class of 1926, displays his cake after winning the race in 18 minutes and 44 seconds [4]. Mary Lamar Knight, the sponsor of this event and baker of the cake, presented the cake to Barret who was dressed in R.O.T.C. uniform along with W.W.I.G.I shoes. Unfortunately, the reward of the kiss from Ms. Knight was not a prize of winning the race in 1924. However, interestingly enough, Barret did ask Miss Knight on a date three days after winning the race [4]. However, there was not a second date. Although there is no correlation between the two events, it is interesting that Barret ended up dropping out of school and did not graduate until 1929.

Memories of the Freshman Cake Race

Through the memories of participants in past races, Georgia Tech can maintain the value of the tradition of the Freshman Cake Race today. James Furlow and Lyman Hall Sr. were both participants in the Freshman Cake Race who shared their experiences running the race during the 1930’s. [5] [6] Although their stories are separate accounts from the past, they both describe details that have shaped the knowledge today about this Tech tradition during the past. Their memories in turn relate the evolution of the Freshman Cake Race from yesterday to today.

James Furlow

James Furlow, a member of Georgia Tech’s class of 1931, claims to have placed second in the Freshman Cake Race. During an interview with Marilyn Somers he recalls one of his most significant memories at Tech, the Freshman Cake Race where he placed second [5]. Although he did not win, Furlow’s memory of this event was still a positive one. Through placing second and networking with people at the race, Furlow found housing closer to Tech. He has a very fond memory of running the Freshman Cake Race because of how he found housing when money was short for him and his family.

Lyman Hall Sr.

Lyman Hall Sr., a member of Georgia Tech’s class of 1932, remembers running the Freshman Cake Race during his first year at Georgia Tech. During an interview with Marilyn Somers, he shares many memories of the events and organizations he took part in such as the varsity lacrosse team, the Rose Bowl Shirt Tail Parade, Freshman Rat Caps, the YMCA board, and the Freshman Cake Race [6]. He also says that participating in the Freshman Cake Race was very enjoyable. Even though the race course can vary from year to year, Hall remembers that the route he ran included the water works near campus. Although Hall was not a winner, he can recall that there were 300 cakes awarded at the finish line.

Al Butler

Al Butler is a noteworthy winner of the Freshman Cake Race. Shortly after Butler's win in 1952 marked the emergence of what the Freshman Cake Race is known as today. Through Butler’s win, the tradition of the Freshman Cake Race was displayed as more than a chore, but an honor to Georgia Tech Institute of Technology that would attract many surrounding residents in the city of Atlanta. An interesting remark about the race is that Butler was exhausted almost to the point of being ill, but managed to accept his prize of a cake. It is unusual that Butler won the race due to his stature and large number of people in the race. Butler’s win was significant due to the number of freshmen that year which also attracted many spectators. According to The Technique, Butler was larger compared to most runners, which made his win surprising [2]. Also, it is interesting that Butler was also involved in many other campus organizations such as the fraternity Pi Kappa Pi and the Bull Dogs Club [7]. At the time of his win the race was still a mandatory event for all freshmen and mostly considered a chore for participants. Nevertheless, the Technique regarded his win as an honor to Georgia Tech. Due to the large number of participants, about 900, and Butler’s ability to beat all of his competitors, he was awarded as a worthy winner of the Freshman Cake Race. In the year of 1952, there were also twenty-five cupcakes for the next top twenty-five competitors. Butler's win marks a significant time in the history of the Freshman Cake Race because shortly after his win, two years later, the tradition of kissing the Homecoming King/Queen emerged. In 1954, the tradition of having the winner of the Freshman Cake Race kiss the Homecoming King/Queen began [1].

Evolution of the Freshman Cake Race

Freshman Cake Race

Even though the Tech tradition of the Freshman Cake Race remains intact today, there have been many variations made to the distance, participation requirements, rewards, and purpose of the race. Originally the race course varied and the distance fluctuated from two to four miles. Today the race course remains the same from year to year through the Greek section of campus and the distance is about a half a mile. Members from all classes participated in the Freshman Cake Race in the beginning although they were not required. When the race became a part of Georgia Tech's homecoming in 1935, it was mandatory for all freshman hence the "Freshman Cake Race." In 2010, the race is not mandatory for freshmen or any class because there is an established cross country/track team, but it continues to draw a significant number of participants as a Homecoming event. In addition, cake used to be the only prize for the winner starting in 1913 and there were cupcakes for top finishers. However, since 1954 cake and a kiss from the homecoming king or queen is the prize for the top male and female winners. Many of the winners, such as Sam Nunn in 1957, appreciated kissing the homecoming queen as much as receiving the cake [8]. When the race began in 1911, it was held to find runners for the cross country team; today in 2010 the race is held for tradition’s sake of the homecoming activities.





Learn More

View this video about Georgia Tech Traditions to see an example of Freshman Cake Race.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 (1963). In Dress Her in White and Gold: A Biography of Georgia Tech. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from The Georgia Tech Foundation, Inc
  2. 2.0 2.1 (October 31st, 1952). In The Technique, Volume 37, Issue 18. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://hdl.handle.net/1853/33648
  3. 3.0 3.1 (1922). In Georgia Tech Archives Digital Collections. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/913
  4. 4.0 4.1 (March 8th, 1924). In The John T. Barret Photograph Collection VAC340, Archives. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://hdl.handle.net/1853/21240
  5. 5.0 5.1 (August 8th, 1995). In Georgia Tech Archives Digital Collections. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/3669
  6. 6.0 6.1 (June 15th, 1995). In Georgia Tech Archives Digital Collections. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/3658
  7. (1955). In Georgia Insititute of Technology Blue Print. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://hdl.handle.net/1853/27463
  8. (1957). In Georgia Tech Archives Digital Collctions. Retrieved October 3rd, 2010 from http://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/5141
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