History of the bouncy ball wars: How a dented portrait and a smashed eye ended an off the wall tradition

Views 14 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 4 - 2017 | By: Alec Jutila


Four years ago, students fought spring finals stress with more than just unhealthy amounts of coffee. In addition to caffeine, students opted for bouncy balls ricocheting off the walls, windows, and artwork of Voskyul Library’s first floor. Students took aim at their fellows during a three minute, unofficial, annual Wednesday night rumble pit. The event was known as “Balls to the Walls”.
Today, these wars are Westmont history, cancelled because of the serious injuries inflicted on both students and artwork. But their legacy remains indented on Voskuyl’s family portrait, continues reincarnated as WAC’s “The Drop”, and lives on in library staff’s memories.
One such person is Circulation Coordinator Ruth Angelos, who took cover behind desks and other obstacles to watch one of the fights.
“You would see them lining up around the library, on the balcony, on the mezzanine,” said Ruth Angelos, “the leader would give the signal and they’d start to throw.”
It’s unclear who “the leader” was, exactly, because neither WCSA or WAC had a hand in organizing the event. Whoever they are, the unknown group bought the bouncy balls from the Oriental trading company, spread the word, and smuggled their ammunition into the library in backpacks and plastic tubs. Once everything was set, a signal was given, and the students let the balls fly.
As red, green, orange, yellow, glittering purple, and matte black swirled from the windows to the walls in the form of rubber bouncy balls, multi-colored chaos reigned in the library. Three minutes later, the students were halted by another signal, the projectiles went back in their case, and the students went back to studying. Besides a few stray bouncy balls and sustained bruises, it looked liked nothing had ever happened.
This process repeated for two to three years, each time growing in size as more students learned about the event through word of mouth or accidental experience. As the balls to the walls got bigger, the chaos grew, until the final 2014 battle royale.
It started like all the best- with a signal, then the throwing- but it ended with two indents to a portrait and a student rushed to the hospital for a serious eye injury.
The event was already unpopular with people using the library for books instead of battle, so the injury, alongside damage to Voskyul’s family portrait, officially ended the bouncy ball wars. Faculty reformed the campus study break known as “The Drop”, which shares many of the same elements and even takes place in the Voskyul library on the same Wednesday night traditionally used by balls to the walls.
The Drop is a WAC run event providing music and prizes during the final week of spring semester. Like it’s predecessor, The Drop lasts for about a hectic three minutes, preceded by a signal, after which everyone picks up and goes home. It’s also a bit controversial. Some students enjoy the study break, but others call it disruptive. Angela D’Amour, Director of Campus life, does not know if The Drop will continue this year and has some ideas in the works for the future, but says no plan is definite.


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