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1st Street Gang's Legacy
Groundbreaking student organization celebrates 50th year.
On Monday, May 4, 1970, the 1st Street Gang had an intramural softball game scheduled for 5pm. As students finished their classes, the 1st Street Gang gathered on “The Ledge.” That’s the granite window ledge that looks out on Lake Superior, a perfect place to sit and watch students pass through the Kirby Student Center.
1st Streeters, wearing their signature white jerseys, which was traditional game day attire, arrived as they finished their classes. Among them were two cousins, Tom Larson '73 and Bob Hofstrom '74, 1st Street Gang founding members. “We all made it a point to wear our jerseys to games,” said Hofstrom. “We came out to cheer for our teams, the men’s and the women’s.”
Between classes and intramural games the group often headed up to the Rafters, which was on the third floor of Kirby. The lounge area was popular, complete with chairs and tables, a fireplace, burgers from the short order kitchen, and beer.
Challenging the Frats
As Hofstrom tells it, “The Gang was started as a rap against the frats." In those days, UMD intramural sports were dominated by fraternities. “Before the 1st Street Gang came along, if you wanted to play intramural sports you had to join a fraternity,” Hofstrom said. “We formed our 1st Street teams to challenge this situation.” The “frats” had several teams. The May 3, 1970 Statesman lists intramural teams with names including Gamma, Phi Chi, Alpha Nu, Sigma, and Beta.
Gang recruited student athletes and soon took the lead in the standings for intramural ice hockey, floor hockey, basketball, golf, bowling, softball and broomball. Both the women and men played in several sports.
A Changing World
Beginning in the early years, the 1st Streeters stuck together. A group of them, both men and women, lived together in a house up the hill from the Pickwick, 502 East 1st Street. Later, they moved to 1818 E. Third Street and 322 N. 21st Ave. East.
Larson recalls, "We became mavericks, and in an awkward way we became the 'anti-frat' movement. Maybe it was the Vietnam War and the era of protesting that made it seem the right thing to do. We broke the lock on who ran campus life by starting our own group and using our own ways of operating.”
The U.S. was changing and the 1st Street Gang was helping UMD catch up. The fraternities and sororities didn't appeal to everyone, and often came off as too exclusive. Read more.
Above: The original 1st Street Gang members