Let’s win one for the Colonel!
Cal’s number-one football fan will attend his 80th Big Game on Saturday

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs



Charles “Colonel” Travers, 92, models an official Bears football jersey, presented to him by the team to honor his attendance at 80 Big Games.
D. Lyn Hunter photo

20 November 2002 | Charles “Colonel” Travers has missed only one Big Game in the last 84 years, but he has a pretty good excuse: His son was born just two days before the 1935 tilt.

“In the days just before the baby was born, I told my wife that I really wanted to go to the game because I didn’t want to break my record,” says Travers, chuckling at the recollection. “But she said that unless we wanted the child to be born in Stanford Stadium, we’d better stay home that day.”

Travers’ devotion to the Bears has kept him coming to the games year after year. And this Saturday, he’ll mark a special milestone: his 80th Big Game. It’s almost certainly a record.

“I’ve actually been going since 1912,” he admits, “but I don’t include those early years toward my record because I was too young to remember them. I started officially counting in 1918, when I was eight years old.”

Even at age 92, he can recall that matchup vividly. “We won the game 67-0, but Stanford later said the game shouldn’t count because some of their key players had been drafted for service in World War I.” Servicemen stationed in Palo Alto comprised the bulk of the Stanford team that year.

During those days, says Travers, when the Big Game came to Berkeley, it was played on California Field, located near where Hearst Gymnasium now sits, just east of Barrows Hall. Memorial Stadium, built in 1923, was completed just in time for that year’s Big Game — which, of course, Travers attended.

He came dangerously close to missing the 1925 Big Game because he couldn’t find a ticket. But the then-Lowell High School student came up with a plan to preserve his attendance streak. “I wrote to Stanford and asked them if I could sell sandwiches outside the stadium before the game in exchange for a seat, and they agreed to do it.”

Travers later attended Cal, graduating in 1932 with a degree in political science. The Great Depression left the tall, dashing graduate with few job prospects, so he joined the Army, rising through the ranks to colonel.

“I was commander of the 361st Division, stationed at the Presidio,” he says, “so I didn’t miss any Big Games during those years. And they weren’t held in 1943, 1944, and 1945 due to World War II.”

The Big Game resumed in 1946, and it came back with a bang, says Travers. “I remember the students tore out the stadium seats and threw them onto the field because the Bears lost 25 to 6,” he says, his eyes squinting as he conjures up the details of that day. “That defeat capped a 2-and-7 season under coach Frank Wickhorst. But the next year, Pappy Waldorf took virtually the same team and led them to a nine victories.”

Travers likens Waldorf’s turnaround of the Bears to current coach Jeff Tedford’s resurrection of Cal’s team, which last year lost 10 games: “With the right coach, everything changes.”

Travers has observed no fewer than 18 Cal coaches wrestle their way through what are often unpredictable Big Games. And none was more unlikely than 1982’s edition, in which “The Play” gave Cal a last-second victory over Stanford. “I kept telling everyone around me that the game wasn’t over, that there was one more play,” he says. “And that was the play that won the game. You just never know with the Big Game — anything can happen.”

Travers shares this valuable lesson, as well as other pearls of Cal football wisdom, with his family members, who sit alongside him, season after season, in row 41 of Section G, on the west side of Memorial Stadium. And as each new generation comes along, they are brought into the Blue and Gold fold.

“My son’s 67, my grandson is 41, and my great-grandson is 10, and we all go to the games together,” says Travers proudly. “It’s too late for my son and grandson, but if he starts now, maybe my great-grandson can match my record.”


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