The entrance to WAA’s Goodspeed Family Pier begins with familiar lyrics: “If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me ...”

The entrance to WAA’s Goodspeed Family Pier begins with familiar lyrics: “If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me ...”

Moon Mirage

Is it possible that we Badgers have all been blinded by the light, by the light, by the light of the moon? That celestial orb — celebrated by generations of UW students and highlighted with arm gestures — doesn’t figure at all in the original lyrics of the song that we call “If You Want to Be a Badger” today.

In the early 20th century, Scandinavian studies professor Julius Olson 1884 served as chair of the UW’s faculty committee for public functions. That made him the master of ceremonies for the Varsity Welcome — something like today’s Convocation for freshmen, at which there was a band concert and upperclassmen serenading incoming students with school songs. Not all of these were the product of ancient tradition.

Julius Olson, circa late 1800s
Julius Olson, circa late 1800s

For 1919’s welcome, Olson penned what he called the “Badger Ballad,” which went like this:

“If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me
To the bright, shining halls of Minerva’s hallowed home.
She has wisdom in her keeping and will fill a cup for you
In the bright, shining halls of her home.

In the halls of her home,
In the halls of her home,
In the bright, shining halls of Minerva’s hallowed home.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me
To the bright, shining halls of her home.

If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me
To the bright, shining halls of Minerva’s hallowed home.
Like the owl she sees in darkness and will give that sight to you
In the bright, shining halls of her home.

If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me
To the bright, shining halls of Minerva’s hallowed home.
She is crowned with leaves of olive and will twine a wreath for you,
In the bright, shining halls of her home.

In the halls of her home,
In the halls of her home,
In the bright, shining halls of Minerva’s hallowed home.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me
To the bright, shining halls of her home.”

It’s not clear when the moon enters into things. But it’s certainly more romantic than Minerva.