If all the dorms were personified, Bowles Hall – the famed castle on the hill that resembles Hogwarts–has an undeniably commanding presence. Standing right next to the Greek Theatre, Bowles Hall is an all-boys residence hall and is a dorm full of history. Since its inception, it has been lauded as a historical landmark with halls through which Cal spirit eternally resonates. Thanks to an interview the current publicity chair, Danny King, and co-presidents Riley Murray and Julius Schwarz, here are insights into why they are proud to be Bowlesmen.
Did you know that Bowles Hall was built in 1928 as the first residence hall on the Cal campus, and that it’s California first state-owned dormitory? It was built in 1928 upon a $350,000 grant donated by Mary McNear Bowles in memory of her husband, Cal alumnus and UC Regent Phillip E. Bowles. In a building that has existed for so long, it’s inevitable that rich history can be found within it.
First of all, to the right of the front door, right by the grand staircase, is the lounge. All the socials are held here, and the lounge is always graced with the presence of a piano, where a musically-inclined Bowlesman may always be found playing a beautiful song. Once, regents had weekly dinners with Bowlesmen in this room.
Behind the staircase is a pair of double doors that lead to Bowles Hall’s personal library. The Julien and Helen Hart Memorial Library was added to the building in 1939 through the gift of Professor James D. Hart, who was a professor of English and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Literature at Cal. He was fond of Bowles and he donated money to have the library built. This is the sole library on campus that operates 24/7 (no, not even Moffitt Library, the default study location of many Cal Bears, is open 24/7), and provides a refuge for Bowlesmen who desire the tranquility and security of a library that never closes. Here, in the library, is the first edition of Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, published in 1962. Silent Spring is the book that is credited for pioneering the environmental movement. Without it, no environmental textbook as we know it would exist today. Not only is the library home to Silent Spring, it also houses a copy of Molière’s plays dating back to 1898, and Cal yearbooks that date back to the 1920’s. It is astounding to see how the years of glory of Cal can be concentrated into a single building.
There are many traditions that make Bowles Hall unique. One of the most famous traditions is to go serenade the girls at Stern Hall. Every Thursday night, Bowlesmen will walk to Stern Hall and serenade the girls.
Also, every semester a Dorque is chosen within the dorm. The Dorque is given the honor to hide the Thing, a small wooden Polynesian/Mayan/Tiki/who knows(?) statue that’s supposed to imbue Bowlesmen with “virility without fertility,” as long as the Thing is touching the building. While the Thing is hidden, clues that point to its location will be given to the Bowlesmen, and the Bowlesmen will go around searching for the Thing.
Another tradition is the Bowles Hall Olympics. Each floor forms a team, and different sports, such as football, track and field, water pong (yes, you read that correctly), and some other esoteric games are played. The objective for each team is to gather as many points as possible. The team with the most points will earn a plaque with their names engraved on it. Because this Olympics take place in Bowles Hall, there are bragging rights in becoming champions in the Bowles Hall Olympics. Unlike other dorms, where bragging rights may last a week at most, people legitimately respect Bowlesmen champions.
It also doesn’t hurt that at the end of every game, no matter if Cal loses or wins, the band will walk down the street and play Bowles’ drinking song.
This is perhaps the most important aspect that makes living at Bowles such a memorable experience. I have been told that there has not been a single guy who did not make any friends here. Here at Bowles, there’s something for everyone. If you’re interested in partying, the frat houses are right down the street. If you want to have some quiet time and study, not only is the library a prime location, but your own room is a great place because Bowles is located up on a hill, far from the fast-paced distractions of Southside. If you want to work out, there’s a gym down in what is nicknamed “The Dungeon.” There is no reason not embrace everything Bowles has to offer. The RA’s and the mentors here work hard to create an unforgettable experience at Bowles, by arranging activities and making sure everyone’s needs are met.
The brotherhood here is very strong. Everyone watches out for one another, and if a group of Bowlesmen go out for an evening, they do so responsibly, and make sure that everyone gets home safely. In addition, Bowles alumni do not forget their experiences and the camaraderie they have had here. Many Bowlesmen end up having successful careers, and keep in contact and make sure that the livelihood of Bowles in the present is just as strong as it was back in their days, if not better. In addition, the alumni dinners are great networking events. One of the Bowlesmen attended an alumni dinner, and found himself sitting next to the United States Secretary of Transportation on one side, and the CEO of a successful company on his other side.
The general consensus seems to be that no matter who you are, no matter what your interests are, Bowles Hall is always a welcome place where there will always be something to suit your interests, all while being imbued with Cal pride and spirit!
All photo credits go to Caliber’s staff photographer Olivia Crawford.