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Stealing Victory

When the Western Oregon-Portland State rivalry went hooligan

By: Burke De Boer
Sports Editor

The Victory Bell rises over the Werner University Center. It hangs dormant in its tower above Allegro Cafe as an audio file plays to announce each hour.

But there was a time when the bell rang regularly. The bell was so named because it was rang in celebration after every home win. Old college newspapers, collected in the archives at Hamersly Library, called it the “Queen of Victory.” On Jan. 16, 1953, the Queen was kidnapped.

The men’s basketball team hosted the Portland State Vikings that night. Portland State was playing their first-ever year of competitive basketball and the Wolves were happy to whip the inaugural Vikings, 77-60. A dance was held in Maple Hall after the game. Maple Hall, where the Victory Bell was then kept.

After the Oregon Collegiate Conference was founded in 1950, the bell rang often.

The 1952-1953 year accounted for the football team’s fourth consecutive conference championship, including a 40-7 victory over Portland State. Wolves volleyball won their third straight title as well.

Evidently, the Portland State kids were sick of it.

While students from the two schools mixed at the Maple Hall dance, a crew of Vikings made the bell their plunder and vanished into the wintery night.

The alumni newspaper reported, “Rumors were many and varied at the dance … But there was no trace of the bell.”

Dr. Roy E. Lieuallen, for whom the administration building is named, was registrar at the time. He received a phone call from Portland State on Monday morning, Jan. 19. It was Dr. Stephen Epler. Both men had served as officers in the Navy in World War II, and the message was passed from one old sailor to the other: we have your bell.

It was returned on Feb. 11. The Portland State students returning it brought with them a small replica to serve as a trophy between the schools, changing hands with every victory.

That night the Wolves beat the Vikings 69-55. On Feb. 24, the Wolves beat them again, 63-61.

After the final game, the Vikings pillaged their hosts once more. This time Portland State upstarts made off with the Victory Bell’s clapper, muting the bell until it too, was returned.

Men’s basketball backslid for a few years. Seasons ranged from mediocre to abysmal. The low point was 1957-1958, when the Wolves went 1-20. The only win, a 58-43 walloping of Portland State.

No matter the results, the Victory Bell remained safe in Monmouth. Today, above the corner of Church Street and Monmouth Avenue, the Queen of Victory still reigns.

Contact the author at journalsports@wou.edu