Tag Archives: cowboys

Western Day: Today’s featured digital object

Student traditions at Pepperdine University have varied over the years, often reflecting the social trends of society at large. Given its relatively small size, Pepperdine has always cultivated a tight student community enthusiastic about social activities, trends, and traditions. The history of student life at Pepperdine is, therefore, also a study of U.S. popular culture and the milieu from which it arose.

Student dressed for Western Day in 1968

During its heyday on its southwestern Los Angeles campus, Pepperdine College enjoyed several annual all-school events organized by the student-run Social Committee, including the All-School Picnic, Homecoming, the Christmas Party, and the Luau. Between 1950 and 1969, one of the most anticipated all-school events was Western Day, for which students, faculty, and alumni would come to school dressed like frontiersmen, homesteaders, cowboys, and (yes) Indians. Classes would end early and the campus lawn would be transformed into the Wild West. In this photo, student Zak Johnson shows off his prize-winning Native American attire during the 1968 Western Day.

Activities centered on eating, entertainment, and sport, including barbeque, cowboy singing, and donkey races. Students that showed up in “eastern” dress (say, a jacket and tie) risked ending up in a makeshift “Wave City Jail.” Celebrity appearances included Chuck Connors from TV’s The Rifleman. The fun of Western Day was indeed inspired by the popular Westerns of cinema and television, and, like that genre, declined in the late 1960s, not surviving Pepperdine’s move to Malibu. Click here to see more photos from Western Day at Pepperdine College.