Lowell Graduate, Football Coach,
Stole Stanford Axe for California

The Lowell, 30 March 1933

When you interview MUSSOLINI you speak of Fascism and of dictatorship, when you interview "Babe" RUTH you talk of baseball, and when you interview Paul CASTELHUN, M.D., football is the subject. Once started on his favorite topic, the doctor is hard to stop. Since he entered Lowell High School in 1891, he has been a football fan. He has played it, coached it, and talked it for forty-two years.

Oddly, the part of his school experience that interests most other people is not what interests him. It was in 1899 that a group of loyal California rooters stole the famous axe from its Stanford guardians, and people have been debating the circumstances of that theft ever since, everyone, that is, but Paul CASTELHUN. He stole it! So we asked the doctor to tell us the why and wherefore of the now famous incident....

Stanford-California Game in '99

In the '90's, big football games were held at Sixteenth and Folsom streets, in San Francisco. The California-Stanford fracas of 1899 was the occasion, as usual, for the gathering of a large crowd. The symbolic axe, not very well-protected, was in the possession of about three Stanford men. This was too fine an opportunity for the Blue and Gold supporters to let pass. CASTELHUN suggested to a friend that they try to get the axe away from its guards. The friend agreed. The same idea had struck several other Californians. In all, there must have been half a dozen groups plotting the theft. The game over, they mingled in the crowd near the axe. Its protectors suddenly realized what was about to happen, and one of them exclaimed, "What's the idea?" This was taken as a signal by the Californians. In the melee which followed, Dr. CASTELHUN was the first to have possession of the symbol. He got out of the crowd as soon as possible and started running for Valencia street, where there was a cable car line. But he was wearing a heavy coat, and with the weight of the axe and all he was out of breath when he reached Valencia, two blocks away. There was a car passing, but his breath was so far gone that he couldn't even whistle, so he missed the car. He was surrounded by the crowd which had begun to catch up. He passed the axe to a California man named BACIGALUPI, who in turn gave it to Bill DRUMM, a sprinter. It at last reached Berkeley, where it remained until two years ago [in 1931]. It is interesting to note that DRUMM and BACIGALUPI, as well as CASTELHUN, were former Lowellites. Another Lowellite in the axe-stealing was Deputy Superintendent of Schools Archibald J. CLOUD. Thus goes the "inside" story of how California took Stanford's axe.

More interesting to CASTELHUN, however, is football. In reply to a general question about his interest in the game, he gave us a good deal of information. First of all, he made it clear that old-time football, and he played it, made just as much of the brainy man as of the brawny one. The greatest coach California ever had, in his opinion, was COCHRAN. The linesman learns more actual football than his backfield team-mate. The team with brains will beat the "tough" one any day. Football has changed only in tactics in the past thirty years; the game is fundamentally the same.

After gaining so much information on subjects the doctor likes to talk about, we started on a subject he isn't so pleased to speak of: himself.

When CASTELHUN entered Lowell in 1891, he was only five feet two, exactly big enough to join the R.O.T.C. That is hard to believe, for he appears to be about six feet four now with other proportions to match. While he was at school he took a four year course, which was a year longer than the ordinary one. For two years he followed the "Classical" course, then changed to the "Latin-Scientific" course. He liked all his studies pertaining to science, be was only perfunctory in his study of history and English. Mr. Frank MORTON was principal during Dr. CASTELHUN's time at Lowell. After his graduation in 1895, he attended the University of California for two years. He then taught for two years at Tamalpais Military Academy, coaching the football team there. He returned to U.C. to finish his pre-medical course, graduating in 1901.

Coached Lowell Grid Team

At this time, Lowell was in need of a football coach and CASTELHUN took advantage of an offer to spend the next two years filling the position. During 1901 and 1902, while he was coach, the Card team won the city championship. This was the first time in many years that Lowell had had a winning team.

Dr. CASTELHUN returned to California in 1903 to take his medical course. After finishing there he took up the practice he has continued ever since. During the World War he belonged to the Navy's medical staff. His daughter, now a senior at U.C., attended Lowell a few years ago.

In the '90's, when the doctor was a student at Lowell, the attitude of the teachers was against all forms of athletics. This had changed when he returned as coach in 1901. But even then the players had to purchase their own outfits and to pay their own way at games. Track and football were the major sports, although baseball was played.

"The greatest value we got from our courses at Lowell was a knowledge of how to study. If we learned anything, it was that," concluded the doctor.

Note: This is the fifth in a series of interviews with prominent alumni. The sixth will appear in the next edition of "The Lowell".

©1933 The Lowell




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