In March 2013, 62-year old Alabama fan, Harvey Updyke plead guilty to poisoning the original oak trees that stood in Auburn’s legendary “Toomer’s Corner” in Auburn.
Toomer’s Corner is on the corner of Magnolia and College Street in Auburn, Ala. The oak trees were named after businessman and State Senator Sheldon Toomer, who established Toomer’s Drugs in 1896. 130 years later, the drug store is still in the exact same location.
In 2010 following Alabama’s win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Updyke (using the handle ‘Al from Dadeville’) called into the Paul Finebaum Show and claimed to have poisoned the trees with an agent called “Spike 80DF.” Due to the nature of the claim, Auburn launched an immediate investigation and determined there was a high concentration of poison around the trees, but that it had not contaminated the water.
Updyke was found guilty of criminal damage of agricultural facility — a Class-C felony in the State of Alabama. He was sentenced to six months in jail, plus five months of supervised probation, on top of a lifetime ban from the Auburn campus, and attending any college sporting event. He was also ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution.
Auburn tried saving the trees, but its efforts were no match for the herbicidal poisoning, and it had no choice but to remove them.
On Feb. 16, 2015, two full-grown oak trees that are being imported from South Carolina will be planted in the beds that once housed the iconic trees. In Addition to the 35-foot tall oaks, trees produced from cones from the original trees will be planted in the area as well.
In the past, it’s been tradition to “roll” Toomer’s Corner with toilet paper — a tradition said to have begun when Auburn beat Alabama in the 1972 Iron Bowl. On April 20, 2013, Auburn fans rolled the corner one last time, as the trees were cut down three days later.
Fans won’t be allowed to touch the trees for at least a year after the new ones are planted. And I imagine there will be an increase in security to ensure this never happens again.
*Section Photo credit to Mike Zarrilli, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to USA Today Sports.