October 15, 2008
Y Days has its origination with the creation of the Block Y in 1906.
For more information on the establishment of the Block Y click here . Y Day was typically held in the spring and was a way for students and faculty to show their loyalty to Brigham Young University. The main purpose of the day’s activities was whitewashing the Block Y with a fresh coat of lime. Everyone participated in the activities. The faculty cleared the trail, freshmen hauled water from a spring, sophomores lugged the whitewash up the mountain and mixed it in large wooden troughs, and juniors and seniors poured the mixture on the large Y.
According to the centennial history all of this activity was accompanied by the music of the BYU band in an effort to keep school spirit alive during the strenuous work. While the men whitewashed the Y, the women prepared lunch. Students who refused to participate in the whitewashing of the Y or the preparation of lunch risked being tossed into the Botany Pond or having their hair shaved or getting a Y painted on their forehead.
Each year Y Day became more elaborate with the addition of a matinee dance (always held after lunch) as well as swimming, bowling and other activities in the 1930s. By the 1960s both male and female students participated in the whitewashing of the Y. In 1972 the bucket brigades were replaced by a helicopter and this part of Y Day ended for students.
An important change to the nature of Y Day occurred in 1957 that made the eventual elimination of whitewashing the Y palatable to students. That year Y Day began to include a community wide clean-up. Students were encouraged to clean city parks, clip grass in cemeteries, wash windows, clean-up widows homes, and other service oriented projects. It is in this spirit that Y Days is still celebrated at Brigham Young University. Although the time for Y Day has shifted from the spring to the fall, the underlying spirit of service to the community remains.