When I was in grade school, we had real summer vacations. We got out of school for months, not weeks! Of course, lots of things have changed since then. We actually played backthen. Weplayedpickup ballgames, ‘kick the can,” and even swam or fished in lakes. We got dirty. We actually sweated! There were no computers, cellphones or video games. But I guess that topic will have to be the subject of another article. In the spirit of this time of vacation, I thought we could discuss a UGA tradition, instead of “law stuff.”
When I thought of all the great traditions in Athens, it seemed appropriate to first explore the tradition of the Arch, which has become the unofficial symbol of UGA
The official “entrance” to “North Campus” (the originalportionoftheschool grounds) is on Broad Street in downtown Athens. At the entrance is a large black archway called “The Arch.” This black metal arch is one of the famous photo ops on campus. But where did the Arch come from, what does it symbolize, and what legends lie beneath the iron surface of this modest structure that UGA students and graduates hold dear?
According to the UGA DepartmentofHousing,the Arch was built around 1857, long after the University was first established. The Arch was made from discarded light posts and boilers from around Athens. The iron ivy that decorates the top of the archway came from a porch on an Athens home. So why was the Arch placed there? Originally, the “Arch” was actually called “The Gate” or “The Gates” by students. And it was just that, a gateway in a fence that surroundedNorthCampus.The fence separated the college campus from Broad Street which was of course dirt in the 1800’s. The fence was not ornamental. It was built to prevent cows, which were frequently herded along Broad Street, from easing over onto the campus lawn for a snack. Students called the structure” “The Gates” until the early 1900’s when the two gates that hung in betweenthethreelightposts of the Arch were removed. The old fence was replaced with an ornamental fence around North Campus. There is plenty of side walk on both sides of the Arch so you won’t have to walk through the Arch when you enter the campus.
If you watch for a few minutes when school is in session, most undergraduate students walk around the Arch instead of through the Arch. Why? Because the legend is that if you walk through the Arch, instead of around the Arch, before you graduate, you will never graduate! Of course, that is only a legend and many undergraduates have walked right through the Arch only to go on and graduate on time and even with good grades! When I was a student, I was told by a “knowledgeable” upperclassman not to walk through the Arch before I graduated because it would make me sterile. I have four examples of why that is not true!
The Arch is a common spot for photographs of new graduates of the University of Georgia. It is a very crowded area on graduation days! If you look at a lot of official University of Georgia products, you will see the black Arch symbol. When you visit the historic old campus, take time to get a picture of you with the Arch. It truly is a classic symbol of the University of Georgia. In the future, I will explore the tradition of the Chapel Bell, also located on North Campus. Until then, you kids get outside, play, get sweaty, and enjoy the rest of your Summer!