The event did not establish a new tradition at Tech, but it cemented one. The vehicle, a restored 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe, was Tech's first official Rambling Wreck car, and it was an instant success.
Since that time, the Rambling Wreck car has joined a much older tradition-the Yellow Jacket-as the official school mascot.The current Wreck is the latest in a line of distinctive white and gold cars on campus. While there was no official Rambling Wreck before 1961, several fraternities took turns driving various such vehicles.
The first reference to a Rambling Wreck vehicle on campus was applied to a 1914 Ford owned by Floyd Field, Dean of Men. The Technique student newspaper was the first published reference to the car as the "Rambling Wreck" in 1927. The paper spoke out against Field when he considered trading the car that year, but he disposed of it anyway.
The Technique, however, continued the tradition by sponsoring a yearly collegiate auto race from Atlanta to Athens, beginning in 1929, known as the "Old Ford" race or the "Flying Flivver" race. As the years went by, though, the race became too dangerous, and it was discontinued.
In its place, the school instituted the familiar Rambling Wreck Parade, which is still held every year on the campus during Homecoming Weekend festivities. The event challenges students to produce outlandish "mechanical monstrosities" capable of transversing a short course on campus.
Tech officials decided in the late 1950s that the school needed an official car that would be known forever as the Rambling Wreck.
Vice President and Dean of Students James Dull began a search for a pre-1940 vintage model, and finally found one-parked in front of his apartment building. The owner, Capt. Ted J. Johnson, a Delta Air Lines pilot, had just finished restoring the 1930 Ford Cabriolet Sport Coupe, which he intended to give to his son as a gift.
Johnson decided to let Tech have the car for $1,000 in May, 1961. He later returned the purchase price of the Wreck to the Athletic Association in the form of a contribution to the Alexander-Tharpe Fund, fulfilling a desire to go on record as having given the Rambling Wreck to Georgia Tech. The Wreck was completely restored again in 1982, under the supervision of Tech alumnus Pete George, manager of the Ford assembly plant in Hapeville, Georgia.
Howard D. Cutter, a member of the first four-year graduating class who earned his mechanical engineering degree in 1892, wrote in the November-December 1942 issue of the Georgia Tech Alumnus that the "Ramblin' Wreck" had its beginnings during the first two years after Tech opened in 1885, specifically inspired when almost the entire student body traveled to Athens to see Tech's baseball team defeat Georgia.
By the early 1900s, "Ramblin' Wreck" was an established tradition. The earliest existing published version of the song appeared in the Blueprint, the Institute's yearbook, in 1908.
In 1910, Michael A. Greenblatt, Tech's first bandmaster, discovered the band playing "Ramblin' Wreck" to the tune of "Sons of the Gamboliers," and made his first arrangement of the song in the form of a handwritten manuscript. When Frank Roman succeeded Greenblatt as bandmaster in 1911, he wrote a new adaptation of "Ramblin' Wreck," accompanied by many trumpet flourishes, that was played by every name band in the country and became nationally known on radio. His is the version that continues to be popular today.
The fame of the song spread to such proportions that in 1959 it was sung by Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev at their historic meeting in Moscow.
In 1984, the law firm of Newton, Hopkins & Ormsby investigated the copyright situation as it applied to "Ramblin' Wreck" and found that a number of people have various versions of the song that have been copyrighted. The original version of the song, however, is in the public domain and can be played by anyone without the payment of royalties.
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer,
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear,
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.
Oh, if I had a daughter, sir, I'd dress her in White and Gold,
And put her on the campus, to cheer the brave and bold.
But if I had a son, sir, I'll tell you what he'd do.
He would yell, "To Hell with Georgia," like his daddy used to do.
Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds,
A college bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it around.
I'd drink to all good fellows who come from far and near.
I'm a ramblin', gamblin', hell of an engineer.
At a mass meeting, the students appointed a committee to recommend colors to be worn and cheers to be used at the game. The committee suggested white and gold, and about 200 students attended the game wearing school colors for the first time.
In 1893, when Tech's football team played its first official game against Georgia, a group of young women from the Lucy Cobb Institute for Girls, dressed in white and gold, attended the game to cheer for Tech. These ladies were some of the earliest Tech supporters to show their allegiance by wearing the now-traditional colors.
Down with the Red and Black
Georgia Tech is out for the victory
We'll drop the battle axe on Georgia's head
When we meet her, our team is sure to beat her
Down on the old farm there will be no sound
Till our bow-wows rip through the air
When the battle is over, Georgia's team will be found
With the Yellow Jackets swarming around.
As far as can be determined, the first reference to Tech students as "Yellowjackets" appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in 1905 and came into common usage at that time.
Historians say the name, spelled as one word, was first used to describe supporters who attended Tech athletic events, dressed in yellow coats and jackets. The actual mascot was conceived at a later date, still undetermined.
Other common nicknames which have applied to Georgia Tech teams include Engineers, which is still used by some writers; the Techs, the first known nickname which was phased out sometime around 1910; and the Blacksmiths, which was common between 1902 and 1904 and is thought to be an invention of sportswriters at the time.
The Golden Tornado is another former nickname thought to be created by sportswriters when John Heisman led Tech to its first national championship in football in 1917. Tech was the first team from the South to earn the honor bestowed by the International News Service, and any team thereafter which approached the same level of excellence was referred to as the Golden Tornado. The nickname was used as late as 1929, when Tech defeated California in the Rose Bowl.
The rat cap has been a distinctive symbol of membership in Tech's freshman class. Freshmen are to decorate their rat caps by writing winning football scores upright, losing scores upside down, and tie scores sideways. Co-ops circle the top button.
The most accurate accounts claim that Burdell was the creation of student Ed Smith. While completing an application form, Smith was struck with the impish idea of enrolling a non-existent student. He even turned in separate exam papers for Burdell, convincing professors that George was a student in good standing. Burdell received a bachelor's degree from Tech and later earned a master's degree.
During the years since Smith's graduation, other students have kept George P. Burdell alive at Tech and elsewhere. In the spring of 1969, the first quarter that Georgia Tech used completely computerized registration, George beat the system by registering for every course the school offered-more than 3,000 credit hours!