Sunday, April 21, 2013

The mystique of Big Bertha

The mystique of Big Bertha

September 3, 2030

Weekly Report Posted: December 17, 2012 14:00

Big Bertha is a bass drum used by the Longhorn Band of The University of Texas at Austin. The Big Bertha name was chosen to evoke the famous German Big Bertha howitzer.
The university considers Big Bertha to be the world's largest drum; it measures 8 feet (2.44 m) in diameter, 44 inches (1.12 m) in depth, and stands 10 feet (3 m) tall when on its four-wheeled cart. The drum weighs more than 500 pounds (230 kg). Big Bertha is wheeled onto the field for the half-time show during varsity football games, and is used in other occasions such as parades and spirit rallies. The drum is managed by the Bertha Crew, sometimes called "drum wranglers." The crew move the drum and play it after touchdowns. Big Bertha is nicknamed the "Sweetheart of the Longhorn Band".
In 1922, the University of Chicago commissioned C.G. Conn Instruments to build a bass drum for the school. Its first use was in the 1922 game versus rival Princeton University. When the University of Chicago ended its varsity football program, the drum was stored under the school's bleachers. It later became radioactively contaminated as a result of research for the Manhattan Project conducted at the stadium during the 1940s.
Colonel D. Harold Byrd, a former Longhorn Band member, brought the drum to the university in 1955 after purchasing it from the University of Chicago for $1.00 and paying to have it decontaminated and restored.
In 1961, the University of Texas and Purdue University chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi pledged to bring their drums to the national convention in Wichita, Kansas; however, only the Purdue Boilermakers showed up with the Purdue Big Bass Drum, thus claiming the title of "World's Largest Drum". In March 1980 a Kappa Kappa Psi pledge class hand-scraped years of toxic lead paint from the body of the drum and the drum's trailer returning the finish to a high luster. The 6 pledges' names are inscribed on the inner wall of the drum and can only be seen when the drum heads are removed.
The Big Bertha name was chosen to evoke the famous German Big Bertha howitzer. In 2005, the university celebrated the 50th anniversary of Big Bertha.

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