Saturday, February 11, 2017

The 1965 UC Davis Picnic Day: Moments At the End of an Era (261)

1. L to R: Clark Kerr, Emile Mrak, Pat Brown
Browsing Davis topics on eBay, I recently acquired at auction a reel of 8 mm home movies that included about two minutes of 1965 UCD Picnic Day scenes.

Among other moments and views, there are shots of Pat Brown, Clark Kerr and Emil Mrak riding together atop a long convertible, of Aggie males chasing panicked greased pigs, and of the elaborate floats student groups made for the parade.

I was quite struck by the perhaps two dozen scenes making up the film and I think they are worth sharing. I have therefore converted it to the MP4 digital format, enhanced it, slowed the some two minutes to a more viewable 8-minutes, and uploaded the result to YouTube,  here:


Most striking to me is the fact that we are looking at California post-WWII boom and exuberance at their height and this exaltation is -- at the same time and outside these views -- starting seriously to come apart.


The trio of Pat Brown, Clark Kerr and Emil Mrak had, by 1965, been key in constructing the premier higher education system of the world. Pat Brown is special in that he, as much as anyone, was at the center of creating modern California.  

But, as we view these men here at their height, we are forced also to recognize that Brown and Kerr are near the end of their major careers. The epoch-marking Berkeley Free Speech movement began only months before this day in April. California conservatism was on the rise and Ronald Reagan would defeat Pat Brown for the governorship in 1966, only a little more than a year from this day. 

Then, Reagan and company would fire UC president Clark Kerr about a year later, in 1967.


But, in this footage, these and other shocks of “the Sixties” are not seen and have barely begun. What we view here are pieces of one of the last days of an Eisenhower world in which female students can be organized into troops of “Denim Dolls” and male students can be sent scurrying after terrified greased pigs. The times are fine, Davis is booming, and life is good -- or so it appeared.

2. Greased Pigs Chase

3. Float

4. Welcome to Malcolm Hall

5. El Rodeo, 1965, page 108