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.