100 Years of Buggy History – 1946-1949

Previous Articles: Intro & 1920; 1921-1923; 1924-1927; 1928-1932; 1933-1935; 1936-1939; 1940-1945

The war is over, and we won! This week, the 100 Years of Buggy History series brings back Fraternities, Spring Carnival, and most importantly, Buggy! The post-war era brought a whole new style of buggy, but also brought with it some controversies. It also saw the entry of multiple non-Greek organizations for the first time! (As a reminder, the Men’s Dorms were permitted to enter in 1928, though it’s unclear if they actually did).

1946

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 3 at 4:30pm; Finals on Saturday, May 11* at 2:00pm

Sweepstakes Committee: John H. Siepel (Chair)

Race Results: (1) DTD (3:49?); (2) KapSig; (DQ) PiKA

Design Comp: (1) Beta

Weather: Cloudy, High 66/Low 47 on Friday; Rain on Saturday, May 4; Overcast, High 67/Low 49 on Saturday, May 11

1946 saw the return of Buggy, though not all of the Fraternities were back yet. It also saw a rain delay and a very controversial result.

  • Buggy is Back!  The War is over, and Spring Carnival is back with Buggy!  The first year back was a short one though, as Spring Carnival was only a 2-day event, kicking off with Buggy at 4:30pm on Friday.  The field was small (only 9 teams), as not all of the fraternities on campus had reactivated following the War. Buggy secrecy came back as well, as the April 30, 1946 Tartan reported that DU was building their new buggy off-campus, and were so secretive about it that not even their brothers had seen it yet!
  • And On New Roads!  This is the first record we have of the roads being paved!  2 weeks before Raceday, the City of Pittsburgh re-paved the Buggy course, allowing the buggies to race on fresh roadways.  Pittsburgh Police were also out in full force on Raceday to assist with course control…Though as you’ll see, this was probably only during the Prelims.
  • New Rules in Place.  The April 9, 1946 Tartan printed the 12 rules for Buggy, our first look at the rules in several years.  A lot of the rules carried over from the pre-war era, including that track and cross-country runners were ineligible, buggies must stay in their lanes on the front hills, buggies may have no less than 3 and no more than 5 wheels, and no switching of drivers.  But a few of the specific rules changed slightly, or are worth noting again:
    • All drivers, pushers, designers and builders were required to members of the organization they’re competing for
    • All team members (including designers and builders) must be “eligible” under the Executive Board’s requirements, which include a minimum of 36 units and being in good academic standing (with a minimum GPA requirement).
    • The buggy/driver combo must weigh a minimum of 180 pounds (up from the previous 160 lbs)
    • Teams in the outside lane are given a 3 yard head start due to being required to go the long way around the traffic dummy
    • Each pusher must have at least 1 hand on the buggy at all times, except in the transition zone; but no more than 1 pusher may be in contact with the buggy at any time
    • In addition to the driver, pushers, and alternates, Rosters also included all designers and builders
    • Buggies entered in Design Comp must also finish the race in order to qualify (but exceptions are permitted)
  • Tau Delta Phi Tries To Make Its Debut; PhiKap Struggles.  Tau Delta Phi put together a buggy with a bubbled canopy for its first try on the course.  Unfortunately, they broke their rear wheel axle (presumably during practice) and were unable to compete on Raceday. On another note, PhiKap lent their buggy to the PhiKap chapter of Pitt for Pitt’s buggy race. Unfortunately, the buggy didn’t have a very good year, as it lost the Pitt race and didn’t qualify for Finals at CMU.
  • Beta Defeats PiKA in Design.  Beta’s new design was the winner of the first post-war Design Competition.  The buggy, designed by Rick Saxton, was shaped like a bug with welded tubular steel.  The real design battle seemed to be between Beta and PiKA, and the Tartan noted that PiKA’s buggy had a better appearance.  However, Beta’s was structurally superior and that allowed it to take home the design trophy.
1946 – PiKA’s Buggy (from the 1947 Thistle). It didn’t win Design Competition, but it had the best aesthetic design.
  • Prelim Heats and Results.  The Prelims were run in 3 heats, with 3 teams in each. The rules initially stated that the winner of each heat would compete in the finals, but it seems that the rules changed to be the three fastest times instead, as the Prelim results printed in the May 7, 1946 Tartan indicate that the Finals was just a rematch of Prelim Heat 1.  According to the May 7 Tartan, Heat 1 saw a very tight race between KapSig, DTD, and PiKA, with KapSig winning in 3:24.5, DTD finishing in 3:25.1, and PiKA finishing in 3:26.3.  Those were the top 3 times and they advanced to the finals.  Prelim Heat 2 paired Beta, SAE, and DU, and SAE won the heat by default, as Beta was DQ’d for a pushbar violation and DU was DQ’d for a Hill 4-5 transition violation (the Tartan reports that they “shoved the buggy into the last zone instead of pushing it”).  Prelims Heat 3 was a battle between PhiKap, Theta Xi, and Scobell House (Men’s Dorms), but again, Theta Xi won by default, as both PhiKap and Scobell were DQ’d for a Hill 4-5 transition violation (the same problem that DU had).
  • Rain or Shine, But Not Really… One other rule stated that the race would be rain-or-shine.  However, that didn’t turn out to be true.  The Finals, initially scheduled for 2pm on Saturday, May 4, were ultimately postponed until Saturday, May 11, due to a downpour that cast a damper on an otherwise exciting Spring Carnival.
  • Controversial Finals.  An overcast sky threatened rain on the makeup date as well, though it held off long enough for the race to be run.  But some of the spectators may have wished the rain came sooner.  Although signs were posted about the makeup date, cars ignored the notices and ended up blocking part of the front hills, causing more congestion for spectators on those hills. A police tow truck was present, but it was not permitted to clear the street.  Up the front hills, DTD was in the lead, followed by PiKA and KapSig.  DTD went into the freerolls first, but the drama was behind them.  As PiKA entered the freeroll, PiKA’s buggy crowded KapSig’s buggy and forced KapSig wide, causing KapSig to swerve and hit at least 1 spectator (the Tartan says that KapSig “got out pencil and paper to try to figure out how many pedestrians they had hit”).  The impact was severe enough that KapSig’s buggy was dented, and the time it lost from the impact made it impossible for them to catch up. PiKA eventually passed DTD in the freeroll and went on to win by 30 yards, but by then it didn’t matter.  The judges decided to DQ PiKA for interference.  The brothers of PiKA didn’t take it lightly though; they immediately lodged a protest against the judge’s decision.  After an hour-long argument with the judges (and presumably the Sweepstakes committee), the decision to DQ PiKA was upheld and DTD was awarded the victory.
  • Final Time. The Tartan reported that DTD’s winning time was 3:49, but our database has the time as 2:49. 3:49 would be significantly slower than any other race on this course, but I also think it’s possible. Bleak skies threatened the race (meaning it may have been bad weather), the best Prelim time was 3:24.5, and DTD was the 2nd buggy to cross the finish line in the Finals. So is it possible that DTD rolled 35 seconds faster during the Finals? Sure. But I think I buy that they were 25 seconds slower a little more.

1947

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 2 at 1:00pm; Finals on Saturday, May 3 at 2:30pm

Sweepstakes Committee: Robert Kerr (Chair)

Race Results: (1) DU; (2) PiKA; (3) DTD

Design Comp: (1) PiKA

Weather: Overcast turning to Rain on Friday; Drizzle on Saturday; High of 65/63, Low of 52/49

For the second year in a row, we had another controversial Finals involving PiKA (but thanks to limited info in the Tartan, we’re missing some juicy details). But this time it earned one fraternity, with their unique buggy/driver combo, their first and only winning trophy.

  • Fight Over Carnival Schedule.  Now that Spring Carnival was back on, the students had to decide how they wanted it – As 2 days in May (losing a day of vacation) or one day in April (not sacrificing any other off days).  Buggy was going to happen either way, but ultimately the students voted on a 2 day Carnival, keeping the tradition intact and putting Raceday on the schedule for May 2-3.
  • Time Trials.  It looks like this post-war period was when the race changed from a head-to-head to a time trial.  1946 was the first clue, since the 3 buggies advancing to the Finals were from the same Prelim Heat.  But in 1947, it became more obvious, as there were 4 Prelim Heats but only the 3 teams with the fastest Prelim times advanced to the Finals.
  • Prelims.  Sadly, the 1947 Tartan was not very interested in Buggy, so we don’t know much about the race.  In fact, all we really know from the Tartan is that PhiKap’s buggy was built by DeBolt, Malenock, Butters, and Gregg, and was driven by Danny Gallo.  But thanks to the 1948 Thistle, we know that DTD, DU, and PiKA had the top 3 times from the Prelims and advanced to the Finals.  We also know that storms moved in right after the Prelims on Friday, creating some concern about whether the Finals would run as scheduled.
  • ANOTHER Controversial Finals. For the second year in a row, there was a major controversy during the finals.  Unfortunately, this time we don’t actually know what the controversy was.  According to the CIT Alumnus from May, the finals were “undecided”, and per the 1948 Thistle, the race ended in protest.  But whatever happened seemed to be between PiKA and DU, because the two of them were granted a reroll to determine the winner.  And in that reroll, DU’s “Flying Pork Barrel” buggy, with cowboy hat-wearing driver, crossed the finish line first, earning the victory.  DTD apparently came in 3rd, finishing in a time of 3:00. If you know anything about this protest (or anything else that we’re missing), let us know! We’ll come back and update this (and any other articles in the series) if we get additional information.
1947 – DU’s Champion Buggy, the “Flying Pork Barrel”, won a Reroll following a protested Finals (from the 1948 Thistle).
  • 1947 Photos. Here are some photos from 1947. Some of the buggies are unidentified, so if you can ID those, let us know and we’ll update the captions.
1947 – DU’s Flying Pork Barrel (with cowboy hat-adorning driver) being pushed during Prelims (from the 1948 Thistle). DU would go on to earn their first and only Buggy championship. (Unknown buggies in background)
1947 – KapSig’s Buggy (from the 1948 Thistle)
1947 – PiKA’s buggy (from the 1948 Thistle).
1947 – SigNu buggy, driven by Keith Thomas (photo from the BAA Gallery, submitted by Michael Serebrennikov)
1947 – Starting Line of a Prelims Heat (from the 1948 Thistle). Unknown buggy in Lane 1, Theta Xi in Lane 2, and an unknown (barely visible) buggy in Lane 3.
1947 – Prelim (Unknown Heat) Back Hills (from the 1948 Thistle). Unknown Buggy leading (far left), KapSig 2nd (far right), SigNu trailing (middle)
Who wore it best? 1947 – DU and an unknown buggy on Hill 1 during Prelims (from the 1948 Thistle).
1947 – KapSig being pushed on the back hills (unknown buggy trailing) (from the 1948 Thistle).

1948

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 14 at 1:00pm; Finals on Saturday, May 15 at 1:00pm

Sweepstakes Committee: Robert Kerr (Chair)

Race Results: (1) DTD (2:48); (2) KapSig (~2:48.5); (3) PiKA

Design Comp: (1) KapSig

Weather: Sunny; High of 62/72, Low of 54/50

1948 saw the first independent orgs and the start of DTD’s run of greatness, but it wasn’t easy, as they barely held off KapSig for the championship.

  • First Non-Greek Orgs.  14 Organizations were entered for Raceday in 1948.  They included all 12 fraternities (ATO, Beta, Beta Sigma Rho, DTD, DU, KapSig, PhiKap, PiKA, SAE, SigNu, Tau Delta Phi, and Theta Xi), the Men’s Dorms, and Citcom Clan (the commuters – “Citcom” is short for “CIT Commuter”).  Although the Men’s Dorms were permitted to enter as far back as 1928, this is the first year that we have evidence that any organization other than a Greek actually did so. Training started in April, and the organizations snuck out at midnight to get some practice on the course.
  • Avoiding Controversies.  After the controversy of 1947 (which, sadly and as noted above, we don’t have details of), Sweepstakes decided to tighten up the rules to avoid any confusion for Raceday.  Of course, we don’t have the rules that were tightened either.  We’ll keep digging, and if we find it out, we’ll update this post.  On the plus side, 1948 didn’t appear to have any controversies.
  • Prelim Results.  Raceday itself was pretty uneventful, which leads to a boring story.  Prelims were run in 5 heats, with DTD, KapSig, and PiKA advancing to the Finals (DTD put up a Prelim time of 2:51).  There were no crashes.  In fact, the only thing of note that we know about is that Beta Sigma Rho was DQ’d for a pushbar violation (the DQ was not protested, as their time wasn’t fast enough to make the Finals anyway).
  • Finals.  The Finals was a very tight race (see photo right).  We don’t have many details of the race itself, but DTD took the win, just barely edging out KapSig, who was less than 1 second behind.  DTD’s goggled driver was Dick Stanley, and the Hill 5 pusher working very hard was Barry Rowles.  As a consolation prize, KapSig’s streamlined aluminum buggy (which looks just like a slightly larger version of today’s designs, with an extra wheel) took home the Design Comp trophy.
1948 – Barry Rowles (DTD Hill 5) works hard to get DTD (left) across the finish line first, edging out KapSig (right) for the trophy (from the 1949 Thistle).
  • First “Broadcast”.  1948 is the first indication that we have of a “broadcast” on Raceday.  According to the May 18, 1948 Tartan, a jeep patrolled the course and carried both the starter and a PA system, allowing the occupants of the vehicle to broadcast the race to the spectators on the course (as long as you were in range to hear the PA system).
  • 1948 Photos. Here are some photos from 1948. Let us know if you can ID any of the “unknown” buggies.
1948 – Design Competition (from the 1949 Thistle). Identified buggies: KapSig (3rd from the left, back row); PiKA (4th from the left, back row); Beta Sigma Rho (far left, back row)
1948 – Hill 1 of the Finals (from the 1949 Thistle). KapSig in Lane 1 (left), DTD in Lane 2 (middle), PiKA in Lane 3 (right)
1948 – Another angle of the neck-and-neck finish of the Finals (from the 05-18-1948 Tartan). DTD, on the left, won the race, with KapSig, on the right, less than 1 second behind.
1948 – DTD’s winning buggy (from the 1949 Thistle).
1948 – KapSig’s buggy at a Back Hills transition (from the 1949 Thistle).

1949

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 13 at 10:30am; Finals on Saturday, May 14 at 1:00pm

Sweepstakes Committee: Jack Johnson (Chair)

Race Results: (1) DTD (2:42.5 – COURSE RECORD); (2) PiKA (2:43.5); (3) KapSig

Design Comp: (1) SAE; (Honorable Mention) PiKA

Weather: Sunny; 66-72 Degrees on Friday, 70-75 Degrees on Saturday

In 1949, DTD earned its second straight nose-length victory and set a course record in doing so. Other than that, the year seemed uneventful.

  • Déjà vu.  Much like the prior years, the Tartan didn’t seem too interested with Buggy in 1949.  So what we know is that 1949 seems very similar to 1948.  Once again, 14 organizations (all 12 fraternities, Dorm Council and Citcom Clan) entered the race, and Prelims were run in 5 heats.  The first 4 Heats had 3 buggies each, while the 5th Heat had only 2.
  • Record-Breaking Year.  There was little, if any, doubt that a course record would be broken this year.  And in fact, each of DTD, PiKA, and KapSig, the 3 teams qualifying for Finals, broke the post-war record.  In the finals, it was another close battle, with DTD squeaking it out over PiKA.  DTD’s winning time of 2:42.5 was fast enough to set the course record, and PiKA’s 2:43.5 was only ½ second behind the prior record.
  • SAE’s Best Design.  SAE took home the trophy for Design Comp with their sleek aluminum buggy. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a photo.
  • 1949 Photos. Here are photos from 1949. If you can ID any of the unknown buggies, let us know.
1949 – Design Competition (from the 1966 Buggy Book). Identified buggies include KapSig (far left), Men’s Dorms (#7, 3rd from the left), and DU (#11, far right). Unknown Buggy: #4 (2nd from the left)
1949 – Citcom Clan Buggy (#9) (from the 1950 Thistle).
1949 – KapSig’s buggy with front hatch removed, being inspected (from the 1950 Thistle).
1949 – PiKA’s Buggy and team (from the 1950 Thistle)
1949 – DTD’s winning buggy (photo from the BAA Archives, courtesy of Amy Bluma)
1949 – ATO’s buggy (from the 1950 Thistle). The buggy is flat and white, and has side view mirrors!
1949 – KapSig’s buggy being pushed on the Back Hills (from the 1949 Thistle)
1949 – PiKA’s Buggy (from the 1950 Thistle)
1949 – Buggies at the top of Hill 2 entering the freeroll (from the BAA Gallery, courtesy of the CMU Archives). PiKA is the leading buggy (center of the photo), unknown buggies are in Lane 1 (far left) and Lane 2 (left).

One thought on “100 Years of Buggy History – 1946-1949”

  • “But this time it earned one fraternity, with their unique buggy/driver combo, their first and only winning trophy.”
    cries in King Eider

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