As anyone who has spent time on our website can tell you, the S.T.O.R.I. office loves collecting stories. Whether we are investigating the best way to make river-cane baskets or exploring the local history of Howard College’s old campuses, we are always looking for the next adventure across the state or within our city to further understand our community.
However, the purpose of the office is to share stories, not simply to collect them. We have been exploring different avenues for spreading the content of our archives worldwide. So far, we have published full interviews with transcripts on our website and shared snippets on social media. Full interviews can be daunting to listen to, however, and small clips can only convey one part of a story, leaving most people either increasingly overwhelmed or frustratingly curious.
With this in mind, we have started Sam.wav: History Uncompressed, a podcast aimed at sharing our various oral history projects in an audio and episodic format. Because of their accessibility and variable length, podcasts provide the perfect opportunity to combine and share narratives among as many people as possible. Each episode will feature a project or subject from our archives, covering everything from individual experiences of immigration in Birmingham to local history to Samford’s own past. Our aim is to share student research projects, displaying the process of oral history as well as the knowledge gained.
This podcast has been a year in the making, growing and shifting into a project of its own right, but now it is finally here with the release of our teaser and our pilot episode. This episode introduces Sam.wav as well as Samford, reflecting on the school’s past and values. We had a lot of help making this podcast, from the inspiration of other oral history podcasts to the lending of equipment and time from other Samford offices and faculty, and we’d like to thank them for all their help.
To find the episode, you can visit our Soundcloud account here. It is also available on Apple Podcasts and Google Play for download. We’re excited to see where this podcast takes us, and we cannot wait to get more episodes out for you in the coming months. Stay tuned for more, and make waves!
Every Mother’s Day weekend, naturalists, avid birders, academics, and nature-loving families all gather at Alpine Camp near Mentone, Alabama, to celebrate Mother Nature at the annual Birmingham Audubon Society Mountain Ecology Workshop. This year, fellow S.T.O.R.I. researcher Claire Davis and I accompanied retired Samford faculty member and seasoned workshop instructor Dr. Brown to conduct oral histories of those who were essential to the creation and development of the Mountain Workshop. Samford University has close ties to the workshop; many professors such as Dr. Ellen McLaughlin, Dr. Malia Fincher, and Mrs. Larissa Charny have contributed to this special weekend as instructors and participants.
The first interviewee was Mrs. Elberta Reid, one of the workshop founders. As president of the Audubon Society during the workshop’s foundational years, Reid focused on the administrative planning aspect of the highly-anticipated weekend. Fellow founders Mrs. Jeanette Hancock and Dr. Dan Holliman of Birmingham Southern also assisted in making the workshop a success from the start. Thanks to the close friendship the Reids and the Hancocks forged with the O’Ferrall family, owners of Alpine Camp for Boys, the Mountain Workshop has remained at the camp near Mentone since its first year in the mid 1970s. Since its creation, the workshop has diversified classes in subject and number and has added and updated living and bathing quarters. A youth program, called the Young Naturalists, has also added to the overall experience. According to everyone we interviewed, however, the essence of the workshop has remained true to its original aim. Reid recounts the first workshop when she describes:
And we started small; we had just about fifteen or twenty people I think at the first one, but here at Camp Alpine. And we all, we were all taking one class together. So, we spent a half a day, the first half of the day birding, and then the afternoon would be plants, or something else. But the same period of time, though, we always started on Thursday night, and it has grown from there.
As time went on and more nature lovers joined the Mountain Workshop family, Dr. Dan Holliman gradually added other instructors such as his former students Jack Johnston and J. T. Dabbs, herpetologist Dr. Ken Marion, and Samford professors Dr. Bob Stiles and Dr. Jim Brown. The camaraderie among all the workshop’s participants is a result of a mutual love of Alabama nature and folklore as well as years of shared memories at the camp. Jimmy Stiles, son of Dr. Bob Stiles and a current reptile and amphibian class instructor at the workshop, grew up attending each year:
As a child, you know, there was fifteen years there or so that, you know, I did not teach any classes. So I got to take them all, which was great. And it is probably what, Audubon Mountain was probably the biggest driver as far as my knowledge of the natural world.
We got a taste of this sense of family that has developed over the past four decades while collecting stories about the early years of the workshop and joining in on the 6:00 AM birding hikes, classes on edible plants and forgotten folk crafts, family-style meals in the dining hall, and the annual Saturday night square dance called by Alabama author and folklore enthusiast Joyce Cauthen. Attending the Mountain Workshop was undoubtedly an experience unlike all other oral history projects. A typical interview might involve meeting someone at his or her home for a couple hours to record special memories or a life story. Because the Birmingham Audubon Society graciously welcomed us to stay for the entire three day workshop, we had the opportunity to personally experience the camp, classes, and community that each interviewee described.
Summarizing this Mountain Workshop experience, J. T. Dabbs, instructor of the Edible Plants class and student of Dr. Dan Holliman, explains:
It is a group of people who care about our state and care about what is going on here. They care about the great resources we have and protecting them, but they also have a lot of fun, and that they make a difference, I think, in our community. . . Anybody can come here, whatever your background is, and, and have fun and learn a lot of great things. . . But I think the combination of this camp, where we are located in the state of Alabama, and then the people that do it, it, it is a special combination that has allowed it to last forty years. . . It is a unique culture and experience that has been put together that I think is hard to replicate.
The special community that gathers at the Birmingham Audubon Society Mountain Ecology Workshop each year has an unparalleled heart for nature and for one another that is exceptionally clear from the moment one first steps foot on the grounds of Camp Alpine. Newcomers and longtime workshop veterans alike are welcomed with open arms, ensuring the preservation of the Mountain Workshop legacy and the curiosity and wonder of the natural world for future generations.
Dr. Jim Brown, who led this project, with student interviewer Keely Smith after his folklore class at the workshop.
Students Claire Davis and Keely Smith with their thumb-sticks and flower crowns from Dr. Brown’s class.
Ever wondered how you could help us in our mission to save and share history? Today is the day! During the next 36 hours, we aim to raise $5500 for our Big Give project. You can help STORI bring history to life for future generations by donating funds to help us buy more recorders and new video equipment to further our mission in documenting personal history. Stories turn history into shared experiences. They remind us of where we come from and where we need to go. STORI has helped dozens of students interview and record oral histories about everything from the Cold War to local history in East Lake and Marion. Putting more equipment into students’ hands not only expedites the interview process for the individual but also increases the history archived for future generations.
What will my gift do? Your gift will fund Samford’s initiative to record and preserve oral histories for the university and the wider public. Preserving and sharing the shared history of our institution, as well as the larger community Samford’s serves, is integral to the university’s mission.
Who will my gift impact? This initiative will serve not only Samford, but the local community and the state at large by preserving our shared history.
A few weeks ago, Samford opened its new Sports Hall of Fame on the third floor of the Pete Hanna Center, celebrating the achievements of students from the very beginnings of the school’s athletic program in 1901. In honor and celebration of this grand opening, we combed through Garrett’s Sixty Years of Howard College to find the origins of baseball, football, and basketball at Howard. The first sport to break onto Howard’s campus was baseball, as Garret recorded in his work:
“When the soldiers returned from the Civil War, they brought baseball with them. The game grew rapidly in public favor and soon found a ready place in all the schools. The students of the University of Alabama were playing baseball as early as 1872. The first reference to a game by Howard boys is the following from the Marion Commonwealth of April 11, 1878:
‘A game of baseball was played last Saturday (April 6) between a nine of the Howard College club and a nine of the Southern University club, of Greensboro. The game was hotly contested and resulted in the favor of the Howard College club by a score of 42 to 35.’ When it is remembered that the Southern University at Greensboro was the progenitor of Birmingham-Southern, the Howard boys ought to appreciate this score.”
Football came next on screen, taking over the campus for almost a decade before an official team could form. Garrett continues:
“Football, as the game is now played, came into vogue in the nineties. In all probability, the first movement to introduce football into the colleges of Alabama is described in the following news item from the Age-Herald of January 11, 1891:
‘The meeting was called to order by Cadet Frank Peabodly, and it was decided to adopt the American intercollegiate football rules. . . The students of the different colleges are very anxious to make this association a success, as it will be both a pleasure and a benefit to them. The students fear, as this is a new move, that they will have opposition from some members of the different facilities: but as the leading colleges in the North favor such associations, they hope, by playing on holidays and Saturdays, to be allowed to proceed. The first game will probably be played within the next month, and the boys hope to be encouraged by a large crowd to witness their first attempt.’
At Howard College some of the boys may have been seen, at certain seasons of the year, kicking a football about the campus; but no football team was organized at Howard until the fall of 1902. The first football coach at Howard was Houston Gwin, an old Auburn man, and the first intercollegiate game was played with the Marion Military Institute on October 26, in which Howard was victorious by a score of 6 to 0.”
Nevertheless, organizing a game without established conferences can make the first few seasons a little rocky, leading college presidents to take matters into their own hands. In 1946, Spright Dowell of Mercer University wrote Major Davis, saying that,
“It occurs to me, therefore, that it might be exceedingly helpful if you, President Allen, of Stetson, and President Plyler, of Furman, and I with, say one other member of our respective staffs in attendance also might meet at some convenient time and place and as early as practicable and see if we can reconcile our points of view and possibly organize a league of our own that we could control and keep on a strictly amateur, non-subsidy basis. . . Does this idea of a conference appeal to you and, if so, would you think it well to meet in Atlanta, Macon, or somewhere else, and how soon could you conveniently attend?”
Major Davis agreed, writing back that “In my opinion it would be helpful for us to hold a conference as suggested in your letter, and ascertain whether or not we could find a solution of this very pressing problem which you mention. I would be glad to attend, if you arrange it.” Who knew that all it took was a letter or two to start a conference?
Basketball, on the other hand, didn’t make its debut at Howard College until 1900, sparking much debate and curiosity across campus. While it’s hard to imagine a world without basketball in our lives so soon after the NCAA tournament finals, students had had no prior experience with the sport, leading to this humorous reception:
“‘When it was announced two or three weeks ago that we would play our first game of basket ball on the next Thursday afternoon, there was a visible stir in the camp. What is it like? How many baskets? How many balls? Was heard on every hand. Every man has his own basket, was the information volunteered by one who, no doubt, was better acquainted with picking cotton than with this new game.
The memorable afternoon came and with it a great rush for the ‘peanut gallery’ in the gymnasium. Even our ever-attentive matron neglected to give Peter his daily scolding in order to get off in time to see this wonderful game.
‘Boys, I believe we could sell preserved seats to these games,’ said a mercenary looking Freshman, as we crowded up the back stairway.
Finally the instructor called out the chosen men to take their places, and the game began. ‘I don’t see any baskets,’ said several spectators; and for a while it seemed that the players also failed to see the baskets. After much puffing and blowing and many fouls, one side succeeded in making a score.’”
Nevertheless, Howard College quickly caught on and continued to win game after game in its region, beating rival Birmingham-Southern several times over and becoming famous for their skill on the court.
Over one hundred years later, the Samford athletics program has churned out 7 NFL drafts, basketball teams that appeared twice in March Madness, and 22 drafted baseball players. The new Sports Hall of Fame will make an important connection for current student athletes and Bulldog fans to the humble foundations of their sports on this campus.
–Sixty Years of Howard College, 1842-1902 by Mitchell B. Garrett
-Letters between Spright Dowell and Harwell G. Davis, 1946
Banners hanging in the caf, hushed whispers of rumored themes for Dudes-A-Plenty, students scurrying around campus in bear costumes. From the start of the spring semester until performance weekend, Step Sing is all the buzz on campus. The show attracts three nights of sold-out performances attended by parents, students, faculty, alumni and people within the community. From carefully choreographed dances to humorous cultural references, Step Sing has become a source of great entertainment for Samford and the Birmingham community. In 1951 on the East Lake Campus, a director led a group of students in a half hour “All Campus Sing” on the steps of Renfroe Hall. Within a few years, a competition formed called the “Annual Step Sing.” Just rummage through some old Entre Nous, and you will see few Samford events generate as much excitement as Step Sing.
But did you know that there was a time that Step Sing almost wasn’t? On January 4, 1988, the administration announced a change in policy to a gathering of fraternity presidents and Inter-Fraternity Council representatives – henceforth they would no longer be allowed to organize social dances on campus. A protest ensued, and in a letter to the SGA, the fraternities announced their withdrawal from Step Sing, citing their decision to follow the new dance policy. Within days, the administration adjusted the policy, allowing for social dances in specific locations with the approval of the student affairs office.
Nevertheless, the fraternities remained true to their word and did not participate, thus eliminating a whole division from the competition. Sororities still participated, but opted only to sing while sitting or standing in place, much like the original Step Sing shows. These holes in the lineup offered other groups the chance to shine. The football team, after years of sitting in the audience, decided to suit up in their field uniforms and groove to songs like “Eye of the Tiger” and “We are the Champions.” Another group that elected to dance and sing was, ironically, the Ministerial Association, who performed a show on the majesty of Jesus featuring many new and old hymns with their moves.
Even with these valiant efforts, tickets sales were low – with groups performing to nearly empty audiences. The school witnessed the near collapse of Step Sing that winter, but you know the rest of the story. The competition lived on, year by year reaching new levels of excitement and fervor. Such traditions, it would seem, do not fade away easily.
If you’ve been on campus in the past couple of months, you likely noticed the flurry of activity happening in the mailroom in the University Center. Ben Brown Plaza has become a work zone with saw tables, trucks, and wood planks. And construction workers are passing in and out of the University Center, where the sound of electric tools can be heard within. For students at Samford, convenient access to mail is a given. Every student has his or her own mailbox. But with more convenient and efficient mediums of communication such as e-mail, this perk can often be overlooked… Until you don’t have it that is. Sooner or later, every student is grateful for that mailbox. Because even now mail still serves an important function.
Today, having a mailbox is a simple convenience easily taken for granted, but this wasn’t the way for our students before. There was a time when mail was a hassle for students, back on the East Lake campus. On January 23, 1942, a Howard Crimson headline read:
“Howard Gets Mail Boxes.”
A Central Post Office with private metal boxes for students and faculty members will be established in the “vine covered shack” next semester.
The metal boxes were presented to the school by the Alpha Phi Omega, service fraternity, in an effort to relieve the congestion and eliminate disorder under the present mail delivery system.
Under the present set-up mail can be obtained only at certain hours but with the new postal facilities students who pay a fee of twenty-five cents for a box may obtain their mail at any hour of the day.
Maybe it’s hard for us to understand the excitement this news could have held for students then. Imagine reading a Samford Crimson headline such as: “Samford Gets Wi-Fi Across Campus.” It gives one perspective. So be grateful for all the ways that Samford keeps its students connected with the community at large, even with a well kept, up-to-date mailroom.
Though the Samford Traditions and Oral History Initiative is only a few years old itself, Samford has a long history with fostering an oral history program. Samford history professor and alum Wayne Flynt is one who paved the way, getting the information necessary to do oral history right.We recently found this 1973letter to Dr. Flynt answering his questions about recorders and recommending he join the Oral History Association.
We even located one of the Sony recorders Dr. Jones suggested – still here in the history department! No doubt it recorded many interviews arranged by Dr. Flynt and Dr.Marlene Rikard.These early efforts by Samford history professors laid the groundwork for continued oral history practice on campus as a way to learn more about ourselves and the stories we tell.
If you’ve heard any Samford news recently, chances are that you know that we are celebrating our 175th anniversary this year. From humble beginnings in Marion, Alabama, the school has had more than a few exciting events in its past, ranging from devastating fires to amazing football games to even a little thing called Step Sing. The festivities are mounting on campus as we begin this week of Homecoming and alumni from all over the nation visit to honor their alma mater’s past and look towards its future.
It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement, especially in a department devoted to the recognition of the past and its influences on our present. So we at the University Historian’s office decided to join in the fun and create a new way for the Samford community to interact with its past. For the last few months, we have been working on a campus tour that celebrates Samford’s past and utilizes some of the oral histories available in the archives. We, along with the Office of Alumni, are happy to announce the debut of the Samford Walking History Tour. Featuring clips from oral history interviews and recorded speeches, this interactive tour takes listeners through time, connecting iconic buildings and views on campus with images and voices from our past. The tour’s nine stops highlight pivotal moments in our history and honor some of the generous individuals that gave of their time and resources to shape the university into what you see before you today.
If you are making the trek to campus for Homecoming this year, you can download the tour on the iTunes U App or through the Homecoming Guidebook App. Don’t worry about getting lost; directions are included on flyers, and to make it even easier, there are sandwich boards with pertinent information about the site as well as historical pictures. Just plug in your headphones and get started. The tour as a whole runs approximately 45 minutes, but feel free to take your time at any stop you wish.
There’s a great week of Homecoming ahead, and we hope you take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about Samford’s history. Happy Homecoming, and Bow Wow Bulldogs!
Football season is upon us and visions of our trusty mascot are everywhere to spur on school spirit. The bulldog is proudly displayed on uniforms, t-shirts, and collectible cups – even spray painted on the center of the field. The costumed Spike runs, jumps, and cajoles the crowds to cheer louder. We even have our own live mascot, Rex, who parades about during Homecoming, eager for belly rubs and treats.
It’s no surprise, then, that Samford’s best friend’s makeover is a weighty subject. As a celebration of the school’s 175th anniversary and part of Samford’s re-branding process, a new design of the Crimson Bulldog is being released today and tomorrow in special viewing sessions across campus. While you’re waiting eagerly to see the new canine face of Samford, take some time to learn about the reason behind our mascot and the stories it holds.
It all began in December of 1916, when the Crimson Bulldogs won out over the Baptist Bears in a school-wide vote. This decision may have been made in part because of Howard College’s then-arch rival, Birmingham Southern College, who championed themselves as the Panthers. In fact, Howard College used to be more feline friendly, playing as the Baptist Tigers several years prior to the vote until a quickly-growing school called Auburn came onto the college-football scene.
From there, it was love at first sight. The new mascot appeared everywhere, from the title pages of the Entre Nous and the cover of the student handbook to cameos with cheerleaders and sprints up and down the field during games. The image was so important that a stuffed felt bulldog was one of the few objects walked over from the old campus in East Lake to Homewood to represent the Howard spirit. Myralyn Allgood, alumna of 1961, recalls picking up the mascot for football games from the president’s house:
[The Wrights] were at every event, and they kept our mascot. The Duke, he was called, the Duke of Samford, he was a bulldog. He lived at their house. So my job before every football game was to go get him and bring him. And we ran out on the field, and I got to take Duke, and he was always chewing on my socks. I almost fell over him several times. But it’s just that kind of relationship.
However, there’s no history without tragedy, and it struck during Billy Gamble’s time as superintendent of the physical plant on campus in the 1970s. He relates the story below:
We had a bulldog always as the mascot of Samford University, and [Duke], I believe, was the name of the bulldog that was the current mascot, but he was getting kind of old. And somehow or other, somebody had donated another brand new young bulldog to take his place. And in the middle of a football game, we were going to have the change of the guard . . . it was early in August, or maybe September, but the day was hot, and the dog was dry… And finally by the time the sun went down, they carried old Beauregard back down to his lot up on the Wright’s. Sunday morning, before I could go to church, I had a call that said Beauregard died from heat stroke … And she wondered if I could get somebody from the Physical Plant and come by and get him. So . . . me and Curt Stevens went to the Wright’s. By the Physical Plant we found an old footlocker which made an excellent coffin for Beauregard. We went up and behind their garage or somewhere up there, and we dug a fitting grave for Beauregard . . . . We were ready to throw the first dirt back on top of the coffin when Mrs. Wright and Dr. Wright came out to hold a little service. And Dr. Wright made a very appropriate prayer and wished Beauregard well in dog heaven . . . .
Fortunately, this tragic accident has never happened since, and the lineage of bulldogs continues today with Rex, who ascended to his rank in 2011 after his predecessor, Libby, retired. Libby was the first live mascot in the previous three decades. Following her death in 2011, she became the second canine to receive an honorary degree from the university, specializing as a “Doctor of Canine Humanities”. Today, her successor carries on the tradition, and we can all agree that seeing Rex at the tailgates makes Homecoming an even more festive experience.
So wear the new Samford swag with pride – there are one hundred years of Crimson Bulldog history behind the new logo, which recalls Samford’s past glory while coupling it with Samford’s hopes for the future. And, as always, bow wow Bulldogs!
Oral History interview with Myralyn Allgood conducted by Bryan Kessler, November 14, 2012.
Oral History interview with Billy Gamble conducted by Michelle Little, August 23, 2012.
This summer, many Health Sciences faculty and staff are making preparations for moving to the newly acquired Southern Progress property. Sixty-one years ago, the entire campus was in a similar state of hustle and bustle, starting to make preparations to move the college campus from twelve miles south in East Lake to Homewood. On April 29, 1955, a cornerstone ceremony marked the beginning of great things to come. Bill Mathis, an alumnus from the class of 1956, left his own account of the event:
A great day in the history of Howard. I worked on floats the night before until 2 o’clock. Our senior float was “A Tale of Two Cities” – Marion and B’ham. I blistered as red as a piece of raw beef.
Lunch was a festive occasion. There was an abundance of barbeque and plenty of cold drinks. School spirit was magnificent; Cooperation was unexcelled; classes were cut intentionally and freely to work on floats; sleep was scarce or unheard of; energy seemed to be inexhaustive; a sense of being a part of some great, momentous historical event made every heart throb “breast-burstingly” with joy; through all this there was a renewal of vows, a rededication of time and talents, and a renewing and resurrendering of the self to the purpose of higher education and to the Higher Power – God!
Thank God for Howard!! May she live long!
Thus written and signed for future generations on this day after the ceremony, April 30, 1955.