Traversing The Ages

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For many, football is a religion. Over the years Cal football has amassed a congregation of fans willing to keep the faith through the program's darkest hours.

There is a minister to this assembly, the Temple of the Gridiron Bear. He has offered up prayers, witnessed miracles and held firm while the diabolical red flames of the Cult of the Cardinal sought to undermine his faith.

His name is Colonel Charles Travers, and he is the mortal avatar of the indomitable Cal spirit.

Since its inception in 1892 there have been 102 Big Games. By his count, Colonel Travers has been to 78 of them.

"I was there at the 1912, 1913 and 1914 Big Games," says Travers. "But I don't count those because I was only four years old (in 1914) and I don't really remember anything. I only count the games I can remember.

"What I consider to be my first game was in 1918. It was the last of the war years and I was eight years old. Both universities had football teams but the athletes were all taken up by the Army. Every one of them could've been sent overseas, so it was a big relief when the armistice was signed. We won that game 67-0, and Stanford's team was so terrible they tried to get their name dissociated from that game."

Travers has attended every Big Game since 1918 save two - the 1933 and 1935 games, both hosted by Stanford.

A career officer in the U.S. Army, Travers was posted in Eureka, Calif. during the 1933 competition but was unable to get leave to watch the game.

In 1935 Travers' son was born on Nov. 20, soon after the Big Game.

"I was going to go," says Travers. "But when my wife asked me if I wanted my son to be born in a Stanford Stadium I decided to stay home."

His Army duty in 1933 and the birth of his son in 1935 are the only blemishes on Travers' otherwise impeccable attendance record.

"I've seen every game played in Memorial Stadium since the stadium opened," says Travers.

During his tenure as a Cal fan, the ever-dependable Travers has seen the Stanford Axe change hands 27 times - not including the numerous thefts.

"I was never any part of the pranks," says Travers. "Although we'd read about it all the time. Then they made it a trophy to be passed back and forth and things settled down."

Travers graduated from Cal with a degree in political science a year before the Axe was officially established as the prize of the Big Game in 1933.

A prize which has remained in the Cardinal's clutches since 1995.

"I'm saddened by it," says Travers. "But the other side of the coin is that while you can feel a lot of things, when the team and the season are in progress you have to go out and support it.

"My feeling as a graduate of the class of '32 is that I will support everything we do. I'm as big a Cal fan as anyone in the country. I just love Cal and football"

Travers' love of Big Game itself is non-partisan in nature.

"The Big Game is a wonderful, thrilling game," says Travers. "Not every game can be spectacular but it's a wonderful game."

"I've written some documents on it calling it 'The Miracle of Miracles.' The most exciting games I can think of are the 1972, 1974 and 1982 games. All were miraculous comeback plays to win with no time on the clock that can never happen again."

Travers was born in Tacoma, Wash. and made a permanent move to the Bay Area when he was five. He currently lives in Marin in the house he built for his family in 1960.

He has remained an ardent Cal fan his entire life and makes a point of giving back to the University. Each year two political science students receive scholarships in his name. Cal safety David Watts was this year's recipient of Traver's athletic scholarship.

Memorial Stadium is home to the Travers Big Game Room and the Louise Travers Memorial Room. Travers also sponsors a program in Ethics, Politics and Government in the political science department.

Above all, Travers contributes with his presence and his character, serving as an example for all those who support the Bears.

Travers hopes to see the Bears to the promised land by attending his 79th Big Game this Saturday at Memorial Stadium.


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