College campuses are rife with pranksters, and the greatest prank in UTEP history took place sixty-one years ago today, in 1952.
At the time, live alligators were part of the downtown attraction at San Jacinto Plaza. On the night of December 10th, 1952, a group of students who gathered more than enough “liquid courage” at the Kern Place Tavern, planned to steal Oscar the Alligator from the downtown plaza.
Each of the seven students involved played a role – one made the plan, one drove the car with a large alligator-sized trunk, one was the weightlifter strong enough to wrangle a gator, one was the gator-catching “expert,” and the other 3 were along to provide help where help was needed.
San Jacinto Plaza was alit with Christmas lights and filled with visitors…so students bided their time in Juarez gathering more liquid courage, and returned to the plaza after midnight.
While avoiding onlookers – 1 pedestrian and a guard – 2 students pulled the sleeping 400-pound alligator from the pond and roped his jaw closed. He was placed in the getaway car – an old Studebaker which had to be push-started. They also had to re-tie the gator’s mouth – the ropes were coming loose.
In the pre-dawn hours, 1 student scaled the wall of the Geology Building (now Quinn Hall), crawled in through a window, and unlocked the door so that they could haul the gator through the halls, up the stairs, and leave it in the office of Dr. Howard Quinn, a geology professor. Why? One of them said it was out of a “spirit of love and comradeship.”
Alligators were involved in another prank some years later – one was left at the bottom of the campus swimming pool.
Jessica Molinar Muñoz is the director of communications for UTEP's Centennial Office.