A Boxer Love Story

Pala and Bill Carden '51 with Boxer. (Courtesy Photo)


It was a cool, crisp October night. The year was l950.  A Halloween “hoe-down,” sponsored by the Philos, (Phi Lambda Omicron) was planned in the basement of Herrick Hall.

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It was a cool, crisp October night. The year was l950. A Halloween “hoe-down,” sponsored by the Philos, (Phi Lambda Omicron) was planned in the basement of Herrick Hall. The Phi Betes, (Phi Beta Tau), who were special invited guests, came tumbling through the lower open windows which had been decorated to mimic a ghostly entrance.

Cookies and punch were a bland offering for the jaunty group of a dozen or so. But here they were all lined up to do the Virginia reel, the guys on one side, the gals on the other. One “reeler” took my eye. He was tall, (I was 5’9” and I was looking for height); he was good-looking and he had a great smile, this former U.S. Marine named Bill. At the end of the evening, we found each other. I lived off campus with two other friends, and he offered to walk me home. It was a short kiss, warm and friendly, a hug and a good-bye when we reached the door. I liked his demeanor, his respectful nature, his good looks and his height; I was impressed.

We dated for the next seven months, I wore his Phi Beta Tau pin every day, and one evening, after dinner and a show, we sat reminiscing, cuddling and finishing our sacks of popcorn in the front seat of his old, polished 1941 Chevy. At the bottom of my popcorn bag was a small box containing a beautiful diamond engagement ring. We set the wedding date for the beginning of June, just after graduation.

It was some time between the art of the proposal and the end of the school year that we heard rumbles about an upcoming Boxer flash, a periodic “toss out” by the present-day keepers. One year this 25-pound Chinese temple dog was frozen in a block of ice and dumped on campus. Another year it was hung like an effigy from one of the tall oaks. I can’t remember how it appeared this year. It was just there, and the battle was on to capture this highly prized mascot.

Bill had become student body president and I was now president of Phi Lambda Omicron. It was
after Beatrice Young’s French conversation class that I heard
the noises outside Marsh Hall.

I rushed to the heavy front doorto get a peek at the commotion. There in full, muddy regalia were several young men flailing their arms and legs trying to subdue the guy who had an arm-hold on the sacred Chinese idol, the mascot called Boxer. Spring rains had left the campus a muddy quagmire and the earnest warriors slithered and slipped in their attempt to grasp a portion of the bronze body. The whole onslaught moved southward, down across the campus, toward the science building, and with them a gaggle of curious onlookers, students and town’s people yelling and taunting the stalwarts onward.

Much to my astonishment, in the middle of this mucky mess was my dearly betrothed. I learned later that some of the Phi Betes had secretly planned to escape with the bronze prize with cars at the ready and a special escape route. After bloody noses, scraped skin, torn muscles and ligaments and a bath in mud, the “Lucky Thirteen,” as they called themselves, emerged the winners. When they were all cleaned and suitably dressed, they took Boxer to downtown Portland and strutted their stuff.

We were married on June 2, l951. We found a small unit at Vandervelden Apartments where other students also lived. I began teaching seventh grade at B.W. Barnes Middle School in Hillsboro. Bill continued studying for his M.S. degree in biology. On a quiet summer day, Boxer came to live at our apartment. With the utmost secrecy, we stashed him in a make-shift, portable closet, behind shoes and Bill’s tennis paraphernalia. One evening, we sat on the sofa and chiseled our names on the bottom of this icon, “Pala and Bill, ’51.” In a few weeks time, we relinquished our prize to the next Phi Bete warrior. We kissed the bronze idol goodbye and felt gratified to have spent a few moments in history steeped in honor and tradition.

In June of 2011 we will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary, and we will always remember those exciting and memorable days that brought the two of us together. Pacific gave us the building blocks to pursue our lifetime careers in education, but it also gave us something more intrinsic in the experiences of college life: challenges to face adversity, situations to test our abilities, guidance in times of need, unforgettable moments to cherish and friendships that we will treasure forever.

Pala Hearth and William C. "Bill" Carden '51
Oceanside, Calif.

Visit www.pacificu.edu/flickr for more Boxer Love photos