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From the Archives: Frog in training for Calaveras County jumping competition

March 23, 1976: A bull frog lifts weights during training at Croaker College for the upcoming Calave
March 23, 1976: A bullfrog “trains” at Croaker College for the upcoming Calaveras County frog jumping competition.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

Blame Mark Twain — his 1885 short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” inspired the annual frog jumping competition at Angels Camp. Since 1928, the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is held each May.

And each year — maybe inspired to top Twain — journalists look for an unusual jumping frog story. For example, David Larsen reported on Croaker College in the March 28, 1976, Los Angeles Times:

SACRAMENTO – Life for a frog isn't always what it's croaked up to be.

There's more to it than just sitting on a lily pad, counting your spots.

For one thing, there are those constant jumping competitions. Pressure, pressure, pressure."It gets to them after a while," explained Bill Steed.

For this reason he began Croaker College, an institution of higher learning for frogs. In its six years of existence, more than 150 graduates have jumped out into the world, their egos shining.

"It started in 1970 when I wrote the late Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller in Arkansas about the frog he was going to enter in the contest at Angels Camp," Steed recalled. "I told the governor I could teach his entry to be a positive thinker."

This occurred to Steed because he deals in recording and literature on sleep learning.

"When we go to sleep, our screening defenses are down," he explains. "The subconscious accepts what it hears."

After Rockefeller's frog arrived, Steed set about to hypnotize him and build his confidence.

"I told him his spots were as nice as anybody else's, and I kept repeating: You must win, you can win, you will win!"

And, on the day of the Calaveras County jumping competition, the governor's frog did win.

Since then the word has spread and bullfrogs by the dozen are sent to Steed to be brainwashed for the annual amphibian Olympics in May. …

This photo by staff photographer John Malmin accompanied Larsen's article.

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee website is frogtown.org.

For more, check out this Oct. 18, 2013, Los Angeles Times story "Scientists get schooled at Calaveras County frog-jumping contest.”

This post was originally published on Sept. 4, 2014.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


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