Baptists, Halabaloo and Bear Bryant, a commentary on school spirit on the anniversary of an historic football game

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With Football season well underway, and the Bulldogs preparing for their first conference game of the season, the Bull Pup would like to take a look at school spirit.  These days, we have Moses and the Red Sea boosting spirit at the games, but what was Howard spirit like in the early 1900s?  Some suggested the best way to show school spirit at the time were through emotional game chants which often sounded like a Pentecostal revival meeting:

Halabaloo Ka – Halabaloo Ke neckaneck – Wa he-wa hi Howard, Howard, Rah rah, Who rah, who-rah!  Ching, Ching, Chow, Chow, Boom, Boom, Bow-wow, Howard!

Skyrocket ZZZZZZZZZZZ-Boom-ah (Whistle) – Howard!

Cheers such as these led the Bulldogs to the non-win triumph over the defending Rose Bowl champion Alabama Crimson Tide 78 years ago on September 28, 1935 at Denny Field in Tuscaloosa.

The Howard team arrived in Tuscaloosa at 9 a.m. that Saturday, September 28 more as lambs to the slaughter than ferocious bulldogs.  The 4,000 Alabama alumni and students in attendance expected to see, as a Birmingham journalist wrote, “Howard tumble” in a “warm-up affair” for the mighty Crimson Tide.

A low-scoring defensive struggle, Alabama’s Jimmy Angelich made the only score in the first half.    The Bulldog offense had no sustained drives until late in the fourth quarter, when a “slugging penalty” by Alabama gave Howard the ball at the Crimson Tide’s 37-yard-line.  On fourth-and-five, Howard’s “plucky halfback” Ewing Harbin threw a perfect pass to Dave Snell who scored the touchdown to cut the score to 7-6.

A backup halfback, Penny Penrod, jogged on to the field for the extra point.  One writer described him as “cool and calm” as he sighted the cross bars.  “Then the ball was passed and he booted a perfect kick from placement to raise Howard to the (ultimate) heights in football—a tie with Alabama.”

For Howard Coach Billy Bancroft and his boys, the tie with Alabama was just as satisfying as a win.  For the Alabama players a tie brought no satisfaction.  A starting end on the squad, Paul “Bear” Bryant later quipped that a tie, “was like kissing your sister.”

The Bull Pup doubts that any 2013 fraternity brothers will be yelling “Ke neckaneck” this Saturday, but the same Samford spirit will be on display. Where did our school spirit originate? Samford Spirit, formerly Howard Spirit is more than just school pride.  According to Baptist leader W.P. Wilks:

Who creates the Howard Spirit?  Do pupils or teachers?  You have some part in shaping it, but you are rather its interpreters.

. . .

Before we were born there was a Howard Spirit – the Howard Spirit.  Study the early days of Baptists in Alabama, learn what manner of men and women were these who blazed the trails for our feet and laid the foundations upon which were later built Howard College and every other helpful institution of Alabama Baptists before you would speak with authority of the Howard Spirit.

So on this seventy-eighth anniversary of the Bulldog’s greatest non-win in school history,  get out there and show our Bulldogs some Samford spirit.  And maybe throw in a “halabaloo” or two.  Bow-Wow Bulldogs!

Adapted from The Bull Pup, 1923-1924, The Alabama Baptist, October 27, 1921, Birmingham Age Herald, September 29, 1935, Tuscaloosa News, September 29, 1935

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Horse Sense for College Men

L. O. Dawson

A professor of bible and church history at Howard College during the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. L. O. Dawson was known as a purveyor of deep wisdom and home-spun advice.  “Common horse sense,” he often quipped, “will get a boy through college safely, if applied in the right way.”  Lemuel Orah Dawson was born in 1865 in Chambers County, Alabama and attended Howard College (Marion), Southern Seminary (Kentucky), and the University of Berlin (Germany).

As a student at Howard, Dawson attended Siloam Baptist Church under the watchful eye of Rev. A. C. Davidson.  The pastor played a key role in Dawson’s spiritual formation.  “To me he was a man sent from God to touch my life at its most important period,” Dawson later wrote. “In everything he was my ideal. As a pastor and as a man, I have never seen any greater than he. He loved the boys with a genuine shepherd heart, and in return they lavished on him their extravagant affection and youthful enthusiasms. In all those years his influence has been felt in my life, and whatever good I have done, his hand was in it all.”  Davidson’s influence inspired Dawson’s passion for mentoring young men at Howard College in the 1920s and 1930s.

At Howard, Dawson gave every male student a poster to hang in their room as an aide memoire of virtuous living.  Entitled “Horse Sense for College Men,” Dawson’s guiding rules

Horse Sense for College Men

Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole man!  Ecclesiastes 12:13.   Fellows, there are some things you must settle so definitely that they will admit of no discussion.  Here they are:

  • Have regular hours for study—and use them for study.
  • Have regular hours for rest and play—and use them for rest and play.
  • Have regular hours for eating—and eat then, slowly and quietly.  Do not study, take no violent exercises for 30 minutes after eating.
  • Stay off the streets of the nearby town except when there is a definite purpose.  The “innocent by-stander” soon comes to be an “in-stander” without innocence.
  • Have no dealings with wicked women—and especially none with weak and foolish ones.  The road to hell leads by their door.
  • Cut out drugs, root and branch—especially alcohol and nicotine in any form.  And with these you do well to discard the harmless (?) drugs of the soda fount.  People are broken and wretched drug slaves today because they were silly fools yesterday.  Be free men.
  • Abhor the slightest appearance of hazing.  It is meant for fun.  It is executed in miserable cowardice.  Think of striking a fellow when you know that he dares not resent it!  Shame on the hazer!  Don’t be yellow.
  • Remember, gamblers will and do steal.  The gambling habit is easy to form and almost impossible to break.  It is a consuming fire.  Watch the first short steps leading that way.
  • Your fraternity will be well-nigh salvation or damnation to many of you. Make it what it ought to be, or get out of it.
  • Be too noble to lead others into evil.
  • Be too strong for others to lead you in that direction.
  • Be a member of only one athletic team, or other organization that travels away from the college.
  • Travel everywhere and every day with God. He is more companionable than most of you think.
  • Your roommate is by far the most important person you meet in college.  See that he is clean—inside and out. If he starts to hell, stop him if you can.  If he insists, get a divorce.  Do it quick.
  • “Tote fair” with the home folks, preferably mother, at least once a week.  Neglect of her convicts you of ingratitude, and an ingrate is unfit for the company of true men.

What a glorious privilege to be in college!  Thousands would give half of life for your chance.  Your chance!  Use it, my boy, use it!—L. O. Dawson

Adapted from Toward a History of Samford University, by James F. Sulzby, Jr.

“just how drunk can a badger get?”

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Throughout the 1830s, Marion, Alabama was a frontier town.  Located in Perry County in west central Alabama, the crude settlement was on the northern edge of the state’s fertile agricultural crescent.  During the decade before the founding of Howard College, the town was poor, sparsely settled, disease-ridden, and isolated from the east’s civilizing influences of religion, education, and law. The only social outlet for the masses was drinking and fighting. “It looked to me,” one early settler noted, “as if the devil had a clean bill of sale to all this country.”

No matter the hour, drunks staggered along the dusty streets, causing disorder and provoking violent encounters.  Feeding the violence was the availability of cheap corn liquor and other intoxicating spirits bought at one of the eleven establishments licensed to sell such rotgut.  Billy Price owned Marion’s most popular saloon, “Dum Vivimus, Vivimus,” which translated from Latin as “while we live, let us live it up.”  Here gathered the “originators of all mischief perpetuated in Marion,” a resident later wrote, especially a thrill-seeking gang of idle young men that locals referred to as “the boys.”  These high school- and college-age boys, with no education and little hope of escaping the drudgery of frontier life, embraced a literal interpretation of Price’s motto and endeavored to “live it up” and raise hell at every possible occasion.

Often, they loitered in the streets of Marion during the day and made mischief on unsuspecting locals.   By night, they drank and fought.   When a traveling circus stopped in Marion in 1835, the boys went to see the caravan of wild animals and then retired for an evening of reverie at Price’s saloon.   When one of the boys announced that he was “drunk as a badger,” the others asked, “just how drunk can a badger get?”  To settle the matter scientifically, Samuel A. Townes noted a few years later, the boys sought out the circus owner (“the varmint man”) and a thirsty badger to invite “down to the droggery to be made drunk.”   When the proprietor refused to cooperate, the “boys” stormed the circus, overturning wagons and opening cages in search of a badger.   Once they located the animal, and let loose bears, lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys and “various other rarities,” the victorious army returned to Price’s place and proceeded to make the badger drunk.  “The poor animal was completely intoxicated,” Townes wrote, “and, to the amazement of his drunken companions, only behaved like themselves or any other drunken beast.”

When flush times came to Marion in the 1830s, the town was a peculiar mingling of frontier intemperance and emerging cotton idealism.   As planters learned how to successfully grow cotton on a mass scale in the black sticky soil in southern Perry County, land sales skyrocketed and Marion grew wealthy and more civilized.  Tensions, however, remained high, as those poor folks with a frontier outlook, resented the boosterism and moralism of the entrepreneur classes who looked to tame the wilderness and fashion an enlightened society similar to the settled areas to the east—a place where citizens followed the rule of law and embraced the civilizing influences of education and religion.  Many church leaders and laymen alike hoped to instill an enlightened form of southern puritanism upon the revelers of frontier hedonism.

Throughout the previous decade, Marion’s most visible religious community was Siloam Baptist Church, which struggled for relevancy against the tide of debauchery.  By the 1830s, however, revival fires swept the Alabama wilderness and brought vast cultural changes.   Characterized by emotional preaching, modified Calvinistic notions of free-will and salvation, and a call to pious living, the revivalist spirit led to an unprecedented growth in church memberships, more money in the offering plates, and increased status for preacher and churchgoers.  In 1832, the Marion Presbyterian Church organized and built a small frame house of worship.  The next year, the Siloam congregation moved from its rustic meeting house to a new $600 frame building.  As wealth and status increased, the church built a larger $7,000 building in 1837 that Samuel Townes described as one of the “most elegant and tastefully houses of worship in the state.”  In contrast, the Methodists struggled to maintain even a small presence in Marion, reporting just thirty-two members in 1841.  Perhaps this was an indication that most of the town’s Protestant Christians favored some form of Calvinistic thought of the Baptists and Presbyterians over the anti-Calvinistic Armenian beliefs of the Methodists.

In particular, the revivalist spirit compelled many missions- and education-minded Baptists in small towns like Marion to focus their attention towards evangelism in the Alabama wilderness and along the frontiers abroad.  Several years later, the Baptists in Marion recognized that education was a way to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations. . . .”  This group of evangelical reformers also acknowledged that they had a bountiful mission field in Marion, where salvation, virtue, and education would be the essential trilogy to bring a measure of social control over the host of drunkards and unruly boys.   It was into this environment, that Marion’s Baptists founded Howard College as a way to bring moral education and temperance instruction to the wild young men of the Alabama frontier.

Adapted from:  the Marion Standard, 1909; W. Stuart Harris, “Rowdyism, Public Drunkenness, and Bloody Encounters in Early Perry County,” Alabama Review (January 1980):  15-24; Samuel A. Townes, History of Marion, Sketches of Life, etc, in Perry County, Alabama.

A METHOD FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERY MAN

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In the fall of 1896, Albert Durant Smith became president at Howard College and issued a proclamation in the Alabama Baptist newspaper.  In those early years on the East Lake campus, Smith wanted to assure patrons of the school that Howard would continue to provide the disciplined education it became known for under one of his predecessors, J. T.  Murfee.  Smith promised the Baptists, “there will be a system and a method for everything and every man, and everything and every man must fit into its or his place, like each piece of a complete machine.”  His industrial approach to running the college impacted all aspects of campus life.  So what was it like to attend Howard in 1896?  Smith laid out each day’s schedule:

6:00 – 7:00 AM                 study hours

8:00 – 8:15 AM                 breakfast and recreation

8:15 – 8:30 AM                 chapel assembly and prayer

8:30 – 12:30 PM                recitations

12:30 – 2:00 PM                dinner and rest

2:00 – 4:00 PM                 recitations

4:00 – 5:00 PM                 drill

5:00 – 7:00 PM                 supper and rest

7:00 – 9:30 PM                 students required to remain in their rooms at work

9:30 – 10:00 PM                preparations to retire

10:00 PM                          bell taps and all lights must be put out

Smith was careful to ensure discipline and safety even during recreation.  “During the hours of release,” he wrote, “students will not be allowed to leave the quiet little town of East Lake; in fact, they will be allowed to visit the city only once a week – from 8 to 12 AM on Saturday.”  He likely wanted to ease the worries of parents concerned their sons would fall into danger in the big city of Birmingham, then widely known as the “murder capital of the world”.  In quiet East Lake, Howard College, still suffering from the after effects of the economic panic of 1893, struggled to remain open to students in 1896.  President Smith, however, worked tirelessly to keep Howard running and kept costs under control in the mess hall by butchering his own meat, milking cows, and planting a vegetable garden.

Samford students have a bit more freedom to make their own schedule in 2013.  We don’t require cadet drills, the library stays open until midnight, and students can leave Homewood whenever they chose. And while you may see Dr. Westmoreland fill in as an extra trumpet player in the marching band at football games, he does not often have to milk cows.

Adapted from Life and Services of Albert Durant Smith, LL.D., by Elam Franklin Dempsey.

Freshman Procession