Bowles Hall

Bowles Hall is an all-male residence dormitory at the University of California, Berkeley, world renowned for its unique traditions, legendary parties and camaraderie. The dormitory was the first residence hall on campus, dedicated in 1929, and was California's first state-owned dormitory. It was built in 1928 on a $350,000 grant by Mary McNear Bowles in memory of her husband, Cal alumnus and UC Regent Phillip E. Bowles. Mr. Bowles was said to have three loves, Horses, Horticulture and the University of California. The Bowles family is said to have lost its fortune during the Depression.

The Hall displays the unique and formidable appearance of a medieval castle, with a stone exterior and a lush wood entryway. Although a University-operated residence hall, its male-only tradition, classic facade, partitioned four-man rooms, and community facilities give it a feeling much closer to that of a social fraternity. Bowlesmen have traditionally been a tight-knit group of students who regularly practice various traditions and rituals that are exclusive to the Hall. In the 1980s, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a prime example of the style of architecture called 'Collegiate Gothic'. The building is still being used as an all-men's residence up to this day, although some traditions have not survived.

Bowles Hall was a particularly desirable place to live for a number of reasons. First, with 3-room/4-man suites, returning students could get one of the private side rooms which offered significant privacy (with a locking door to the center room). Many of the rooms offered an outstanding view of the campus and Bay. Second, Bowles has a large number of adjacent parking spaces, so obtaining a permit was never an issue (unlike the Unit Dorms elsewhere near campus). Third, the Tower and the deck off one of the rooms offered a view into the Greek Theater next door. As the acoustics were perfect, one could enjoy the concerts for free. Fourth, the food was very tood. The food service manager had allegedly been "retired" to Bowles for allegedly making the highly-profitable Bears Lair complex unprofitable. His inability to manage a budget plus the smaller number of students (200 for the 3 cooks vs. 800+ in the unit dorms) resulted in very good food.

The Building

Designed by George W. Kelham, the building has eight levels comprising two-room suites and a common room (originally designed to house two, but now housing four). The Julien and Helen Hart Memorial Library was added to the building in 1939 through the gift of Professor James D. Hart, their son, and Mrs. Joseph Bransten, their daughter. Dr. Hart was a professor of English and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Literature. After retirement, he ran the Bancroft Library. Bowles Hall also has the distinction of sitting right on top of the Hayward Fault.

In order to avoid having the aging residence hall dismantled in the late 1980s, the Bowlesmen successfully petitioned to have the building added to the National Register of Historic Places (#89000195, 1989), thereby saving it for future generations.

The hall was also designated a City of Berkeley landmark on October 17, 1988.

Bowles Hall drinking song

Traditionally the Cal Band parades from nearby Memorial Stadium through the campus and streets of Berkeley after a home football game. The band will play in front of Bowles Hall during their tour, playing "By" for the Bowlesmen. The tradition of playing "By" for Bowles Hall is said to have begun back when the entire football team lived there. The band would play for the players as they walked back to their dorm after the game. However, when the football team was relocated, the band decided not to play in front of Bowles Hall. Subsequently, some of the men of Bowles lay down in the road, blocking the Cal Band from playing, until the band was forced to oblige them. Thus, the tradition of the Cal Band playing for the men of Bowles after a home football game has persisted to this day.

We're the men of Bowles Association, Coming here from over all the nation. Drinking here together one and all, We lift our voices loud for Bowles Hall!


Here's to Bowles Association. Drink it down and then, Drink a toast to home sweet home, Of California men. Rah! Rah! Rah! Fill your glasses to the brim, And lift them in the air. And drink a toast to Bowles Association, And the Golden Bear.

Men of Bowles are gathered here together, Toasting everything from girls to weather. But the very greatest toast of all, Is the one that we now give to Bowles Hall!


Other traditions

Presidents: Each year, until recently, Bowlesmen elected a President of the hall, presidents for each class group, a treasurer and secretary. The committee was charged with organising social events (i.e.: famously long and rowdy parties) and was dreaded by the UC Berkeley administration. Nevertheless, the university chancellor would usually dine with the committee on a regular basis, recognising their important social role for Bowles, and more widely on campus in general.

One particularly notable committee election occurred in 1997/98 when a group of students ran under the slogan of the Chi Chi Party. Bowlesmen voted overwhelmingly for the curiously named Chi Chi party (Bowles had never had a partisan election in its history) only to find out that Chi Chi was, in fact, an inflatable monkey that provided 'spiritual guidance.' Needless to say Bowlesmen, while used to a number of frivolities, were somewhat confused. The election was also notable in that Paul Lyon (a.k.a Ringo), co-founder of the Chi Chi Party, received every vote for the Junior President post. Lyon – now, according to LinkedIn, a Director at an investment bank in London - also became the first non-American to hold a Presidential post for the Hall (he is English). Toby Jeg, also co-founder of the party, scooped an impressive victory to be elected Secretary. Jeg is now a household name to millions of punk rock fans, founder of Punk Voter and founder of RedScare Records. Other key Chi-Chi members included Swiss Mike (because of his nationality he was made Treasurer) and J. Durazo II, who by living up to his fanciful epithet "LOGR" (Last of the Great Romantics) was well-suited for his role as PR consultant. Nobody knows what happened to the monkey (who was owned by freshman Doug). Aram the Taslagyan Devil ran that piece for a semester.

Captain Cal: A position where the strongest guy in the hall wears a blue cape with the letter C in gold on the back, a black mask and pants. He position was to harass and inspire anyone nearby, aka make fun of and be an inspirational mascot, particularly at bbq's in the back on Friday's and running around the lawn while Bowles waited for the Band to come and play. It has been held by at least three members, the last being "the Fly" in 1992. Captain was also seen at football games acting the same. Captain Cal likes to be drunk. This tradition has consequently been discontinued

The Grill Master: The Grill Master is in charge of barbecuing Hamburgers.

The Dorque: The Dorque is a quasi-official member of the hall student government. His function is to hide the Thing somewhere on the premises of the hall and post a clue each week to its location. If the Thing is found before the end of the semester, the Dorque used to have his choice of the "Three Choices". The first, and the one selected most often was to streak naked around Kleeburger field. As this was announced well in advance, there would be a significant audience, including some residents from the nearby, all-female, Stern Hall. The second was to have his pubic hair shaved by a committee of Bowlesmen. The only person to have selected this option was said to have been confronted by a drunken group with a straight razor, and subsequently changed his mind. The third was to provide the hall with a keg of beer of the hall's choice. The punishment, after Bowles became an all freshmen dorm, was for the Dorque to sing a solo after the Bowles's weekly serenading of the ladies of Stern. The Dorque is also responsible for signing the hall up for intramural sports. The Dorque for the new semester is chosen at the semester-ending banquet by the current Dorque. There have been times that multiple residents found and rehid the Thing together and took up the title as co-Dorques. There have been occasions where non-Bowlesman became the dorque.

The Thing: The Thing is a quasi-Polynesian statue purported to imbue Bowlesmen with "virility without fertility" as long as it remains touching the building. Hidden each semester by the Dorque and sought after by Bowlesmen.

Suicide is Painless: The three-sided hall would concentrate sound from loudspeakers placed in the windows of the central rooms. During finals, it was traditional to play the theme song from the TV show "MASH" which was "Suicide is Painless", as a way of invoking gallows humor regarding finals.

Alakazoo: During finals week, there would be a serving of finals snack food (pizza, hot dogs, chili) at approximately 11:00PM. At midnight, those who chose to participate in the "Alakazoo" (a midnight water fight in the central courtyard) would gather and do the Alakazoo cheer which went:

Alakazoo, Alakazam! Horse Shit, God Damn! Witches Tit, Bloody Cunt! Rah, Rah, Fuck!

As finals week went on, the fights would grow in size and intensity as more and more students completed their last final (and last classes in some cases) and celebrated.

Greetings: The traditional greeting of a Bowlesman or alumnus passing the Hall is to yell "Hello Bowles Hall!" The traditional response is for everyone within earshot to respond "Hello asshole!". Other traditional greetings include "I hate this fucking place". To which the Bowlesmen closest to their windows respond "This fucking place hates you!"

Social Secretary: The job of the Social Secretary is to liven up the weekly housemeeting recanting the antics of the past week. The slogan of the Secretary is, "If you can't be funny, be crude." The Secretary traditionally opens his remarks with, "Good Evening, Gentlemen," to which the proper reply from the assembly is, "Good Evening, Asshole." Beware if you ever address a group of Bowlesmen and begin, "Good Evening, Gentlemen." In recent years the title of the Social Secretary has morphed into A.S.S./H.O.L.E. (Associate Social Secretary and Head of Light Entertainment) If the weekly housemeetings were not funny enough, the A.S.S./H.O.L.E. would be carried by the audience to the nearest shower stall and given a cold shower as encouragement to do a better job next time.

Rites of Spring: The Rites of Spring was a brisk jog held at midnight in the Spring semester. Traditionally it would start in the attic with each participant taking a drink from the sacred bottle of rum (or any other liquor), and singing the sacred Bowles Hall prayer -- "Oh Philip ...Oh Phillip...Please Bless Our Balls". The group would then jog down the front steps of Bowles Hall, down to Sather Tower, around Sather Tower a number of times, and back up to Bowles Hall without any clothes on. The route would often include a trip through the computer center in the basement of Evans Hall (in the days before PCs) and through Stern Hall (the nearby all-female dorm). This later changed to the tradition of Bowlesmen in Boxers (1994), which did the same thing, except with boxer shorts being worn. (During the 1979 to 1982 period, most Bowlesmen would carry shorts and the group would scatter and don shorts in the event the campus police was encountered.)

In the Spring of 1985 the UCPD decided to crack down on the Rites of Spring. Bowles Hall was warned. Campus police were stationed along the route and even at Bowles itself, waiting to capture returning streakers. The Bowlesmen were a step ahead and positioned lookouts with radios along the route. Bowlesmen returned via the backside of the Greek Theater and were given boxers as they entered the dorm. Campus police were foiled.

Drake's Revenge: Drake's Revenge was a means of getting back at or prank on someone on the 6th floor while using the lavatory. This involved waiting for the target to use the lavatory on the east side of the 6th floor. A bucket of water would be dumped into a vent on the 7th floor which quickly emptied onto the unsuspecting victim surprising him/her instantly. Best results were achieved when the victim was in the sitting position.

Bowle's Halloween Haunted House: Given its status as a castle, it is a tradition for Bowlesmen to redecorate the hall into a haunted mansion every Halloween for the neighborhood children.

Home of the Alumni: Graduating Bowlesmen would traditionally paint their name and class year in the attic as a permanent momento of their attendance.

Current status

The UC administration attempted to dismantle Bowles Hall and build a new residence hall in its place, but this was deterred when Bowles Hall was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. In April 2001, food service in the dining hall was ended and the dining room made into a generic "recreation room." The dining hall had previously hosted popular barbecue dinners on Friday evenings.

Through each of these incidents, the fundamental culture of Bowles Hall persisted with the continual support of returning upper classmen who mentored the younger generations in both Hall and University life. In recent years, however, the dormitory has come under fire from the university housing administration who view Bowles life as "rowdy". Starting Fall 2005, new policies were instituted. Bowles Hall now only admits freshmen and aims to promote an academic atmosphere. Bowlesmen, both alumni and current residents, contend that the move stifles long-held traditions. In the fall of 2006, the Haas School of Business was planning to turn Bowles into an educational center and conference facility, but since then the school has backed down from that decision.

Famous alumni

  • Norman Mineta - United States Secretary of Transportation (2001–2006)
  • John Tuggle - New York Giants (1983)
  • Gale Gilbert - Former pro quarterback
  • David Cudaback - 1929–2006

Movie appearances

  • Boys and Girls - Known as Carmen Hall in the movie.