The Mighty Caesars

Jeff M. Sauve

Salad Days of The Mighty Caesars

In the mid-1930s, ten St. Olaf fellows boarded off campus at 914 West Second Street. They called themselves “The Mighty Caesars.” This name was derived from a “liberated” brash red and white-lettered Burma-Shave sign that was ceremonially nailed above the front porch entrance to “their” house.

One of the boarders, Dick Solberg ’38, wrote in 2005 that the identity of the one who procured the sign had remained a guarded secret, “but a shadowy and tentative finger pointed toward Theos Morck ’38.” The complete jingle read:

Pity all
The Mighty Caesars
They pulled
each whisker out
With tweezers
Burma Shave

Students living off-campus commonly named their abodes, e.g., “Seldom Inne Knights,” “Lazee Man Shun,” “Bee Hive,” and “Blue Goose.” The Mighty Caesars went one additional step by printing personalized stationery (see image). Solberg’s parents kept all of his letters home, and he later provided these to the St. Olaf College Archives. His letter of December 3, 1935, read in part, “Don’t be alarmed at the stationery. How do you like it? [Ivan] Hinderaker ’38 fixed it up when he was home for Thanksgiving.”

As of 2015, all ten men, who shared five rooms on the second floor, have passed away. All but Jerome Helland ’40 were members of the Class of 1938, including: Art Feroe, Al Grundahl, Erling Kloster, Selmer Peterson, Ansle Severtson, and Roy Thorson. When the men parted as housemates in 1937, the Burma-Shave sign was sawed into ten pieces. It was agreed that the sign would be “put back together” when attending a future class reunion.

In 1988, at the fiftieth anniversary class reunion, eight “Mighty Caesars” attended. Severtson recalled, “I was the only one who brought my piece of the sign; the others said they had lost track of theirs.” Nevertheless, Severtson pointed out in his memoirs that the men formed lifelong friendships, and The Mighty Caesars name “was thus permanently attached to this group of ’38ers throughout our remaining college years and even beyond our 50th class reunion in 1988.”

Each man became successful in his own right with varied careers that included: pastors, an attorney, a college treasurer, college professors, a university chancellor, medical doctors, an engineer, and a businessman.

N.B. Dick Solberg is the father of actor David Soul of TV’s “Starsky and Hutch” (1975-1979).