The Auburn Family sat in shock and disbelief as news broke this past Wednesday of the Toomer’s Oaks poisoning. This enormous tree, symbolizing an age-old tradition and spirit that is unafraid, has graced the corner of Auburn’s campus for more than 130 years. The stretching branches have been hung countless times with rolls of toilet paper, a testament to every accomplishment the University has achieved throughout many, many decades.
Students, rightfully so, have gone through a mix of emotions. Anger, confusion and even a sense of helplessness have overcome those who hold the Auburn tradition near to their hearts.
Auburn freshman Zac Lee, a forest engineering major, first heard of the tragedy Wednesday morning on Facebook, where the feeling of anger immediately met him.
“I was mad because this was a classless act by a classless individual,” Lee said. “I was mad because this is a tradition of my college.”
This tradition is said to have began when Toomer’s Drugstore, which sits across the intersection of Magnolia and College Street from the trees, was the only location in town with a telegraph machine. Whenever employees of Toomer’s would receive word of an Auburn win, they would hang ticker tape from the telegraph over the branches of the oak trees to signal the victory.
The tradition held true. Today, Toomer’s Corner is a place of celebration both on and off the athletic field. Whether it be a close-call win, a graduation, a successful signing day, or a National Championship, streams of toilet paper can be seen floating in the wind over the infamous intersection.
Currently, the city of Auburn and the University are taking all precautions to save the iconic oaks, but the chances of survival are very low.
“I think they are doing all they can do right now, but it was a very lethal dosage of poison,” Lee said. “It’s going to be very hard to save the trees, but hopefully they will pull through.”
The day after word of the poisoning came out, Harvey Updike of Dadeville, Al was arrested and charged with one felony count of criminal mischief. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
When asked what he would say to Updike if he had the chance, Lee responded, “I would tell him that he needs to learn what’s important in life - and college sports are not the most important thing.”