The Day the Music Almost Died

The sophomore class of 1959 receives a division award for their Step Sing performance on Vail steps.
The sophomore class of 1959 receives a division award for their Step Sing performance on Vail steps.

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.

The sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha sit to perform their show, "Winter Wonderland", in protest against the new dancing policy.
The sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha sit to perform their show, “Winter Wonderland.”

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.

The football teams sings the Samford Fight Song in uniform, gracing the Step Sing stage for the first time in 14 years.
The football teams sings the Samford Fight Song in uniform, gracing the Step Sing stage for the first time in 14 years.

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.

This year's banner drop in the Wright Center, kicking off another Step Sing season.
This year’s banner drop in the Wright Center, kicking off another Step Sing season.

 

References:

– Archive.com – 1988 Entre Nous, pp. 32-33: https://archive.org/stream/entrenous1988samf#page/32/mode/2up/search/step+sing

– Archive.org – 1985 Entre Nous, pp. 176-177: https://archive.org/stream/entrenous1985samf#page/176/mode/2up/search/step+sing

-Photo credits are due to the Archived Entre Nous and the official Samford Step Sing Twitter account, who posted the last photo.

 

Howard Gets Mail Boxes

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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.”

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The Central Post Office, known on campus as the “Vine Covered Shack.”

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.

Oral History Origins

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 1973 letter 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.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Dr. Wright and Mr. Weeks look over the construction plans for Robinson Hall.
Dr. Wright and Mr. Weeks look over the construction plans for Robinson Hall.

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.

See and hear the history on campus this Homecoming, like the story behind Samford's student-led football team in 1948.
See and hear the history on campus this Homecoming, like the story behind Samford’s student-led football team in 1948.

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!

Link to Guidebook app: http://www.guidebook.com/g/samfordhc

101 Bulldogs: A Centennial Celebration

Four girls try to match the mascot's smile in this shot from 1956.
Four girls try to match the mascot’s smile in this shot from 1956.

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.

A 1920 Entre Nous boasts this cartoon of a bulldog for a title paper.
A 1920 Entre Nous boasts this cartoon of a bulldog for a title paper.

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:

Duke takes a rest from his job of encouraging the students and team.
Duke takes a rest from his job of inspiring the students and the team.

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!

 

References:

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.

Philip Poole. “Libby, Samford’s Bulldog Mascot, Dies.” Samford University. 30 September 2011. https://www.samford.edu/news/2011/Libby-Samfords-Bulldog-Mascot-Dies

“Bulldogs, Tigers, and Bears.” Samford University Library – Special Collections and University Archives. January 2008. http://library.samford.edu/about/sc/treasure/2008/bulldogs.html

“Lady Liberty ‘Libby’.” Samford University Library – Special Collections and University Archives. 2012. http://library.samford.edu/about/sc/treasure/2012/libby.html 

 

Laying Foundations in Past and Present

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:

cornerstone ceremony 1955
Mrs. Fred Kilgore and other members of the board each took turns laying the stone at the ceremony.

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.

Bill Mathis

Eating for Your Alma Mater: Culinary Degree from Howard College

graduation sillhouette 1963 ENCommencement is a time of celebration, honoring those students who persevered through the trials of classwork and papers to earn their diploma. It’s also a time of community for the neighborhood, as those nearby give back to the university that helped them during the year. Modern day ceremonies can be lengthy, but the commencement of 1915 would have scoffed at the couple of hours we call commencement today. Beginning that Sunday, May 23, the celebrations lasted for four days, finally ending with the reception of diplomas Wednesday, May 26. There were field games, oratorical contests, dinners and receptions of all kinds, as well as a ceremony for those who left college in the 1860s to fight in the Civil War to receive their diplomas.

Through it all, Frank Barnett, the editor of The Alabama Baptist, recorded and wrote his reactions to the festivities. Before buying the publication in 1902, he had made a name for himself all over the world, studying at an impressive list of universities from NYU to The University of Berlin, and renowned for his excellent speeches across the South.  Read on to see how this man of the world reacted to Howard College’s way of celebrating:

 “At Houston we went into a man’s restaurant and took our seat on a stool and propped out feet on the rail and picked up a bill of fare, but was saved the trouble of reading it by a young man at our side who said: ‘Waiter, bring me scrambled eggs, and make ‘em red.’ Having fed in restaurants for several score of years we thought we knew most of the lingo, but his order was something new.

 We turned and said: ‘Brother, we are something of a culinary artist ourselves. If you don’t mind telling, what’s your color scheme?’

Laughingly he replied: ‘Oh, out here my order meant scrambled eggs with chili.’

So we said: ‘Waiter, bring us scrambled eggs, and make ‘em red.’

picnic on quad cropped (2) We thought it impossible after 13 years of continuous attendance upon picnics, all-day singings, fifth Sunday meetings, associations and conventions to run across anything new in the way of serving dinner on the ground, but out at the Howard commencement we got as big a jar and surprise as we got at Houston. For when we arrived Mrs. Shelburne handed us a piece of pasteboard, to which was tied a string, and on the board was the letter R.

We laughingly said: ‘Well, what tag day is this?’

‘Never mind,’ said she; ‘just wait and see.’

After the exercises everybody was tagged with a letter and told to go out on the campus and find their group and sit down. This we did, and soon found the various trees labeled with large letters.

We found the one with an R and took our seat, and soon from the ventral tent there came a procession of pretty girls and charming matrons bearing trays. It was truly a bounteous feast that had been prepared by the hospitable women of East Lake and served to 600 without the least confusion.

It beat anything we had ever seen or ever expect to see, unless somebody steals the idea.

We soon discovered that the letters made ‘H-O-W-A-R-D.’

We have heard many say they would die for their alma mater, but we feel sure that it is much pleasanter to eat for one’s alma mater; and especially is this true as it happens to be dear old Howard.

It has always worried us because we are not an alumnus of Howard, but on commencement day we took the complete culinary course and graduated full of honor, and now have all the rights and privileges to the new degree and are entitled to write our name as follows:

              FRANK WILLIS BARNETT, E.A.T.S”             

So, class of 2016, go forth with your newly-earned degrees, and think back on your Samford experience. Perhaps you earned a few “unofficial” degrees yourselves!

 

Adapted from:

The Alabama Baptist June 2, 1915

Be a Part of the STORI

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We need your help.  During the next 24 hours, we aim to raise $4000 for our Big Give project.  You can help bring history to life with STORI and Special Collection by donating funds to digitize rapidly deteriorating reel-to-reel recordings of stories from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Stories turn raw data into a catalyst for action. They remind us of where we come from and where we need to go. Samford University’s Special Collection houses close to 1,000 Samford related stories on reel-to-reel tapes that are currently unavailable for public use. Digitizing these stories will bring them back to life and make them available to be shared with a new generation.

What will my gift do? Your gift will fund Samford’s initiative to digitize oral histories for the university and the greater community’s use. 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.

Be a part of the STORI today!  DONATE HERE
Make sure you are following STORI on Facebook to learn about Big Give challenges and project updates!

double row of reels

Finishing Well

Lottie Jacks, Entre Nous 1950Entre Nous 1950

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie Jacks has led an accomplished life.  She has raised four children, published a book, led a career as a medical technician, served as president of the Samford Legacy League, won the Lolla Wurtele Wright Award, and always found ways to help others whether it was through her day to day work or on mission trips to Los Mochis, Mexico.  At 85, she is not slowing down.

This weekend she will walk across the stage of the Wright Center and finish something she started in 1948.  This is her Samford Story:

LOTTIE JACKS:  I am one of ten children.  I was born in the western section of [Birmingham].  It was unincorporated at that time.  It is kind of what is Green Acres now or Powderly. . . .  I . . . graduated and I got a full scholarship to Samford [then Howard College] through my church.

Mrs. Jacks began college in 1948 on the old campus in East Lake.  During her freshman year she lived with three other girls in a small dorm room outfitted with two sets of bunk beds.  Unfortunately she did not get to live on campus after her first year.

JACKS:  I had to go back home and live, because the church that was giving my scholarship said they could not afford for me to live in the dormitory.  So then I had to find transportation all the way across town from east to west, which made it harder on me.  And I think I was kind of overwhelmed with trying – doing [it] all.  It took an hour and a half to get across town on a streetcar, but then I finally found there were two young men that lived over there, and I finally got a ride with them . . . .

Living off campus and contending with a long commute, Mrs. Jacks was not able to experience the close knit community so characteristic of Howard College.

JACKS:  I just did not blend in like I should have.  I made good friends, [but] it was completely different.

A year shy of graduation, Lottie married her college sweetheart and left school.  She always regretted not finishing her degree.

JACKS:  I had four children and I just did not go back to school.  Dr. Simon who was the head of the clinic [I worked with] offered to pay my way, but I just did not want to go to school at night and leave my children, because I had been gone all day. . . .  But I have always regretted that I did not. . . so I just had this desire to [finish], just a burning desire . . . to do this.

Lottie feared that she might not fit in among the younger students.  Despite her worries, she found the Samford community to be welcoming and supportive in her endeavor to finally graduate.

JACKS:  Everything good that has happened to me has been through Samford. . . .  Dr. Westmoreland . . . was praising me about doing this.  I said, ‘Do not praise me yet.  Wait until I finish!’  And he said, ‘You better finish!’  But the best part was when I started [back].  I thought, ‘Oh what are these young students going to think of me?’  I was worried about them thinking, ‘What is she doing here?’  The students have been the most wonderful part.  They have been kind.  They have been accepting.  They help me.

Mrs. Jacks admits that coming back to school has been very challenging.  While there have been many new experiences, she is amused by how the times have changed.

JACKS:  I laugh now when I am here on campus.  I am just amused at the way the girls dress, because when I went [to college] I had one suitcase full of clothes and I wanted so badly to have pretty clothes, you know. (Laughter)  Now, they can go to Walmart and buy theirs for a dollar . . . but we wore sweaters and skirts [only].  We did not wear pants at all.

Mrs. Jacks will complete her undergraduate career this Saturday, May 14 at the Howard College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony.  She says she owes it all to the work of the Lord and the support of the Christian community here at Samford.

-by Marley Davis

Lottie Jacks 2016

Adapted from:

Oral history interview with Lottie Jacks conducted by Marley Davis, fall 2015.

 

Here He Comes, The Candidate: We Like Ike and Lunch at the Birmingham Airport

Birmingham Airport postcard
The Birmingham Airport, where Margaret Sizemore Douglas got to chat with the candidate in 1952.

Last week everyone clamored to get tickets to Yellowhammer Media’s presidential candidate forum, held in the Wright Center.  While a number of political figures have traversed Samford’s quad (Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter, Mike Huckabee, Laura Bush, and Bill Clinton to name a few), a presidential forum has never been held on site.

On Wednesday morning September 3, 1952, Major Davis was in a similar predicament hoping to catch Dwight Eisenhower during his campaign stop in Birmingham. Unfortunately for Major Davis, he was not the only person trying to get a glimpse of the candidate. According to Birmingham police chief Charles Pierce and police commissioner Eugene Connor, 40,000-45,000 people crowded into Woodrow Wilson Park to hear Ike’s speech. An additional 75,000 Alabamians lined Eisenhower’s route from the airport to Woodrow Wilson Park.

Then Dean of Women, Margaret Sizemore Douglas recounted how the Major’s best laid plans didn’t fall into place, but her lunch date with Gene Kelser at the place to eat in Birmingham – the airport – proved very fruitful.

“Major Davis was a fan of Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower came to Birmingham before he was President. . . .  He was campaigning, but he made a stop down on the square in… Linn Park, which was then called Woodrow Wilson Park… [The Major] came by my office one day and he often did that just to sit and talk… he said, “I’m going down to Woodrow Wilson Park and hear Eisenhower – he’s running for President.  He’s going to be our next President, mark my words.”

I had appointment with Gene Kelser, who was [the Major’s] secretary, to go to lunch.  So I declined and he went by himself… Gene came by and I said, “Let’s go the airport for lunch.” That was the place to eat.  There was a Mrs. Willis… she had a beautiful tearoom, one wing there, and it was a very elegant place. Brides had parties there. You could go up in planes for 5 dollars with real aces…

So we went there for lunch and we were eating and just as we finished, the doors flew open and in came Eisenhower. Well, he didn’t know me from Adam. I said “You’re supposed to be at Woodrow Wilson Park,” and he said, “Well, I stepped out a little early to get out of the crowd, because my flight’s out here waiting for me.”  He sat down there and chatted with Gene Kelser and me and all his people of course, Secret Service, I guess.  But we had this nice chat with him and got back to school and told Major Davis, who had not even seen him. Oh, he was so upset with us!”

This past Saturday, several candidates continued the tradition of campaigning through Birmingham.  Hillary Clinton grabbed a cappuccino at Urban Standard while Marco Rubio came to our campus for a presidential forum.  Unlike 1952, students, faculty, and administration had the opportunity to attend the event in the Wright Center without the stress of running downtown during lunch, hunting for a parking spot, and navigating paths through crowds of people.  Samford’s abiding interest in shaping its students into global citizens had made the once small college into a stop on the campaign trail.  Although, I think we are all missing out on the $5 plane rides with real aces.

Sources:

Samford University, 160 Years: For God, For Learning, Forever  by Sean Flynt

Entre Nous, 1974

Margaret Sizemore Douglas interview by Susan Ray.

The Anniston Star. September 4, 1952.