Lore has it that the concept of the gum tree
originated in the 1920s when it was against the rules to chew gum in
class. You had to get rid of the stuff somewhere, so students who had
classes in Pickler Memorial Library found the perfect repository.
An antique suit of armor was on display just inside the front door and
good ole Oscar, as the armor was affectionately known, was just standing
there, all hollow and so very convenient …
In later years,
Oscar was replaced by a tree on the east side of the Quad, handy to both
Kirk Building and Ophelia Parrish. Some folks said that adding
your gum to the sticky mass would bring good luck. Others were
more specific and swore that a contribution on the way to an exam was
the way to ensure an A (or at least a passing grade).
That particular gum tree met its demise at the hands of axe-wielding
vandals in October 1999 -- but you can’t keep a good tradition, even a
slightly disgusting one, down! Within days a new tree (pictured
here) had been appointed and anointed. This tree, unfortunately,
was recently lost due to the Summer 2012 drought (it was cut down in
2013)--but the tradition still continues on, as yet another tree has
become the designated "gum tree."
As for the original, it
made its farewell appearance as a “float” in the 1999 Homecoming parade.