The Mighty Oaks

Saturday, April 20, 2013, the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Alabama, were rolled for the last time.


A time-honored tradition, that began when Toomer’s Drug Store would toss telegraph paper over the power lines to let the people of Auburn know that a win had taken place during the away games.

On December 2, 1972, the Auburn Tigers played the second ranked, undefeated, untied, Alabama Crimson Tide. With 10 minutes left to play, and Alabama winning 16 – 0, an Auburn drive stalled, and the Tigers managed only a field goal.  The score is 16 – 3, thus ruining the point spread of 14.  The fans start to boo, including the Alabama fans. (For ruining the point spread.)  Alabama was forced to punt on the next possession and Auburn’s Bill Newton, blocked the punt.  Teammate David Langner, ran the ball back 25 yards for a touchdown. Score, 16 – 10.


Photo credits: Larry Parker

Photo credits: Larry Parker

Hold on, it gets better!


Alabama was forced to punt, and again, the punt was blocked by Bill Newton and returned for another touchdown by David Langner.  (I see a pattern here.)  The extra point was kicked by Gardner Jeff and that gave Auburn the lead.

Final score: Auburn – 17, Alabama – 16!

Tradition began that night with the power lines at Toomer’s Corner being rolled with toilet paper.

Photo credits: The War Eagle Reader

Photo credits: The War Eagle Reader


In the mid 1980s, the power lines were buried, and the Oak trees across the street would now become the center of attention while being engulfed in long billowing trails of toilet paper after Auburn wins.

Fast forward 38 years to November 26, 2010.  Tigers beat the Tide 28 – 27.  One particular Bama fan took this loss a little harder than anyone else. Mr. Harvey Updyke  poisoned the trees at Toomer’s Corner, and then got on a talk radio show and bragged about it.  He was sentenced to three years in prison this past March.




For the past two and a half years, a team of specialists have tried to save the trees, but to no avail.  The trees have died.


Saturday, April 20, 2013, was the day set for Auburn’s A-Day game.  This year, there was a record attendance of 83,401.  After the game, the party moved to Toomer’s Corner, and I do believe there were more than 83,401 people there.


The rolling of the trees, and I mean ALL trees, every tree you could find, began.  We were packed like sardines, and I, for one, was grateful for the crisp spring day.  As I slowly swam up-stream, to find a spot where I could breathe, I somehow managed to get my camera out and snap a few pictures.




The frosty beverages were flowing like the Colorado River, the Auburn Cheerleaders started the Auburn fight song and the toilet paper was flying through the air in hopes of landing on a branch of one of the most famous trees in Alabama.


The party continued until the wee hours of the morning, I did not.  I had to be up in the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday morning for me, started before the sun showed his bright face, and I was hoping before the cleaning crew began their daunting task of getting downtown Auburn back to it’s previous clean state.




I wasn’t the only one with the brilliant idea of getting up early to snap pictures without the throngs of people, but this is what I shot.












Monday, April 22, 2013, the cleaning continued.  I spoke with one of the men on the cleaning crew, and he said, “After they (Auburn) won the National Championship, it was bad, real bad.  Crazy bad, but that was nothing compared to this.  I ain’t never seen nothing like this!”  The men would get as much as they could with the “grabbers” (that’s what I call them), and the rest of the toilet paper would be removed with the force of water.  The grass and pine bark was raked and hundreds of trash cans would be filled.



Then they came down.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013, the dead Oaks were gently removed. I, along with a couple hundred other spectators watched as the first limb was lowered to the ground. Watching this happen was rather sad.






I believe the trees were tired.  They had spent many a year being covered with their own offspring, and then cleaned with the force of high pressured water, time and time again.


The Mighty Oaks have fallen, but the Auburn Spirit lives on, and as one tradition has come to an end, a new one is about to begin…


Now, the Eagles stand alone.


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2 Responses

  1. Traci Sommerville

    That just really makes me sad. It’s awful that someone would be so heartless, and it breaks my heart that tradition was put to an end. I think it’s great that you’ve taken some AWESOME pictures and chronicled the history for posterity. It made me teary-eyed, and when I told my mom (she remembers hearing about the tradition), she said it made her sad, too. She said that guy should’ve gotten many, many years in jail.

    • It is hard to believe that someone could do something like that, but it happened. I’m glad I had the opportunity to be there and be a part of the history.

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