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.

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

The Cascade Plunge

Cascade_Plunge_postcard

One of the last visible remains of the East Lake community as it existed during Howard College’s tenancy sold last week. The nineteen acres that house the ghostly remains of the Cascade Plunge – the splendor of the Cloud Room where East Lake residents danced the night away under wooden zodiac cut outs and the Olympic-size swimming pool where local teenagers spent sun soaked summer days – is now property of Habitat for Humanity. The Cascade Plunge was an entertainment park, a short fifteen minute walk from the Howard College campus in East Lake, that housed a ballroom and an 80 x 220 foot swimming pool fed by a natural spring.

Local advertisement for the Cascade Plunge Pool, 1946
1946 advertisement

Natural springs played a pivotal role in the development of the East Lake community and formed the heart of the city’s recreation. Coinciding with Howard’s relocation to the area, in November of 1887, the East Lake Land Company built a 34-acre lake, fed by springs in Roebuck. The company intended the lake to be the centerpiece of what was to be a resort town for the people of Birmingham. The community enjoyed East Lake Park for its “balloon ascensions, dances, . . . races, theatricals, and picnics.”Another local spring on the other side of East Lake fed the Cascade Plunge.

From 1925 to Howard’s departure from East Lake in 1956, the Cascade was a fixture for students as well as local residents. According to Alumni Chriss Doss ’57, the Cascade Plunge was “the premier of entertainment parks in Birmingham.” Writing in the 1880s, Mollie Vincent, a member of the Pierian women’s club of East Lake, detailed what would eventually become the site of the Cascade Plunge – the location “was approached by a meandering country road called the Georgia Road and Huntsville Trail. . . . The springs flowed from the ground under immense poplar and oak trees. This beautiful spot was a genuine oasis to the travelers . . . .”   As the community of East Lake grew, paved roads replaced the “meandering country road” and the Cascade Plunge had its own stop on the No. 27 Ensley No. 38 South East Lake street car line.

As a gathering place for the community, the Cascade Plunge hosted proms, conferences, swim meets, and beauty contests.  The Miss Cascade Plunge talent and bathing suit competition held every summer sent one lucky winner a year to Daytona Beach to participate in the Miss Dixie Queen of the South.  Swimmers from Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia came together at the Plunge to compete in the Southeastern Amateur Athletic Union meet.  Only one mile from the center of Howard’s campus, Alumni Jack Green ’50, described it as the “center of our summer activities for people that lived in that vicinity.” Rev. Green remembers the Cascade Plunge as a source of summer employment: “we had a concession stand there and big locker room and all of us guys that lived in Birmingham worked there one time or another because it was a huge entertainment center . . .”

Cascade_Plunge_pool
Swimmers enjoying the Cascade Plunge swimming pool. Water from the natural spring flowed through the tiered concrete structure at the end of the pool.
East Lake mural located at the East 59 Vintage and Cafe that pays homage to the heritage of East Lake. "Old Main" from Howard College appears in the first "E" while the Cloud Room is depicted in the second "A."
East Lake mural located at the East 59 Vintage and Cafe that pays homage to the heritage of East Lake. “Old Main” from Howard College appears in the first “E” while the Cloud Room is depicted in the second “A.”
Rendering of the Cloud Room from a local mural in the East Lake community.
Rendering of the Cloud Room from the mural above.
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The Cloud Room today.

After Howard’s removal from East Lake in 1957, the Cascade Plunge continued on, even adding an Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. But by the 1970’s, it was headed into decline and eventually closed in the 1990s.  While there will never be another Miss Cascade Plunge crowned or another high school prom under the zodiac signs of the Cloud Room, Habitat for Humanity is returning something important to the community – ownership. The non-profit plans to construct 60 residential units. The fate of the pool and the current facilities is unknown, although the Birmingham Business Journal reported Habitat may look to partner with other local non-profits for solutions. These sixty new homes should result in a renewed interest in the community, sixty new families that will seek to create a vision for the new East Lake community.

The Cascade Plunge today.
The Cascade Plunge today.
The remains of the Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. Notice the sign in the upper right corner and the windmill in the center of the photograph.
The remains of the Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. Notice the sign in the upper left corner and the windmill in the center of the photograph.

Adapted from:

Looking Back,” The Birmingham News, October 18, 1959.

Vincent, Mollie E., “Fifty years ago out East Lake way,” 1947 from the Birmingham Public Library,             http://bplonline.cdmhost.com/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p4017coll2/id/409/rec/12

“Habitat for Humanity plans to build 60 residential units in East Lake.” Birmingham Business Journal, October 26, 2015.

“Nashville Men’s Team Takes Lead as Magic City Women Set Pace.” The Anniston Star, August 25, 1934.

Oral history interview with Chriss Doss conducted by Chase Trautwein and Michelle Little, 2015.

Oral history interview with Jack Green conducted by Michelle Little, 2015

Bham Wiki: Bham Wiki’s “Cascade Plunge” entry

Throw Back Thursday: Miss September

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Miss September, Barbara Whatley, helps cheer the Bulldogs for their first football game in September.

Congratulations on making it through the first full month of classes for fall 2015. We welcomed 810 freshmen, celebrated a big win over Central Arkansas at our first football game, and campus shuttle services dropped us of at our door. We enjoyed lunch in our newly renovated caf, but the Brock School of Business students were the envy of the campus as they started classes in their new home, the $25 million “next generation building” Cooney Hall.

Here is a look back at the Entre Nous summary of September 1961 when the campus experienced its first sorority rush week and “the eighth wonder of the world” – the IBM machine.

The freshmen were cordially commanded to come to school five days early for the second annual freshman orientation. The purpose of this is to assure that all the rats are absolutely confused, so that they were numb by the time registration got here. Tests… pep rallys… talent shows… tests.. “cabbages and kings”… tests… games… sore feet… tests… tests… and the climax of the week… more tests.

The first official sorority rush week in Howard’s history saw girls rushing to ice water teas and parties. The eighth wonder of the world, the IBM machine, showed his stuff for the first time at Howard during registration. This machine is almost human… so human it can’t spell either, Final count… 2,o37.

Even the cars have to register at Howard and Pinky (sometimes known as the Sherlock Holmes of the Pinkerton Agency) in his block charger covered the campus with $5 tickets.

September brought new faces… green frosh… 18 new faculty members… a boa constrictor… and Duke, a new college mascot. He proved his fighting spirit by chasing the majorettes, the waterboy, and sometimes, the players.

The first football game proved the students to be more than fairweather friends as they sat under torrents of rain to cheer the team to victory.

The $950,000 Chapel and Religious Building was completed, and work begun on the addition to the Physical Education plant. At this time students began to take more interest in the national elections. 

Adapted from:

Entre Nous, 1961.

Kennedy, Kara. “Harry B. Brock Jr.’s Vision of a State-of-the-Art Business Eduction Building Dedicated at Samford.” Samford News Release, Sept. 4, 2015.

 

The Caf: Coat and Tie Optional

Howard College Dining Hall, 1914

The University’s food service is an ever-changing institution. In light of the most recent transformations in the Caf, the Bull Pup is looking back over the past century at the many different places Samford students have gathered after a long day of classes to break bread and make plans for the weekend. Constantly adjusting to student needs, trends, and space and funding availability, campus dining evolved from student run co-operatives to the modern centralized cafeteria.

The Dining Hall Council

Howard College students on the East Lake campus in the early 1900s were accustomed to more formal, restaurant-style dining.  By 1919 the college dining hall was student run on a co-operative basis.  Each dormitory and fraternity had a representative, with the exception of Sigma Nu, which maintained its own dining room.  The school dietician, Mrs. M. L. Harris oversaw the kitchen and aided in purchasing.  During World War I, students planted gardens and raised hens in efforts to become more self-sustaining.

East Lake Eateries

Charlie's Place
Charlie’s Place, East Lake

The East Lake campus, situated on a limited quadrangle in the eastern portion of Birmingham, was hemmed in by commercial property and residential developments. It lacked acreage necessary to construct larger buildings able to accommodate a cafeteria to serve the entire student body. Fortunately, America’s dining landscape expanded in 1930s and 1940s to include diners and small affordable eateries. Howard College students frequented local establishments like the Co-op, Charlie’s Place, or the Hash House. The Co-op was a quick stop for sandwiches, cold drinks, cakes and ice cream, while Charlie’s Place catered to, “male boarders and those desiring plate lunches.” When word got out on campus that the new proprietor of the Hash House was an excellent cook, male students hustled for a spot at the dining table for breakfast and dinner at the low price of fifty cents a meal. Lowell Vann ’57 recalled the fellowship at the Hash House:

Lowell Vann: Twenty-eight of us ate at the Hash House and felt very fortunate.  Breakfast and dinner.  Dinner was two tables, had 14 to a table, I think it was.  Twenty-eight people was all she would take and she had six or eight people, maybe ten, living . . . in the rooms upstairs, so they got in and that only left about eight more places for people to get in, but we had good fellowship around that table, lot of good jokes . . . .  Everyone would go into the parlor and [hear] “time for first table!” And [they] would go and eat and [then], “Get up and get out of here!”  And here comes second table.  Everything was passed around and if there was 14 of you, there were 14 pork chops or whatever, but it was good fun . . .

East Lake Cafeteria

East Lake Cafeteria on Second Avenue, 1946

  “The dining hall will mean a great deal not only to the students but to those who prepare the meals as well, for on completion the kitchen will be ranked as possibly the best equipped and most sanitary in the entire city of Birmingham. For the students it will be the ideal place to take visitors and friends.” – Samford Crimson 1946

By 1946, Howard had the economic stability to upgrade and expand the kitchen facilities and dining room. Even in its new location on Second Avenue in the former Home Economics classroom, the cafeteria was just large enough to cater to male students and faculty. The Crimson boasted the new equipment purchased from the War Surplus Equipment Agency in Mobile, “ would quicken the heart of any housekeeper.” The new building even allowed for a screened back porch, “to keep flies to a minimum.” In the spring of 1949, a “new rockola” brought music to the cafeteria for added atmosphere.

While most can appreciate music and efforts to keep flies at bay, some additions to campus dining proved more threatening. In 1949, the Co-op obtained a new vending machine. One student lamented, “Machine is replacing man. Proof of this now can be seen at the Co-op where a new coke and coffee vending machine has been installed. This contrivance is strictly modern… And the machine has brains. It can make change for a dime, change for a quarter, mix a coke and pour a cup of coffee…all at the same time.” 

“The Caf” on the Homewood Campus

With Samford’s move to Homewood in 1957, the cafeteria became a more centralized gathering place for students.  To accommodate a growing student body, changes came more quickly.  In 1961, students could buy a meal ticket for one dollar.  But by 1969 to counter financial losses, meal plans were required.  Students were limited to a “meat, vegetable, salad or dessert, bread, butter and beverage” for lunch.  At dinner, they were allowed both a salad and dessert.  An anonymous gift to the university brought air conditioning to the cafeteria in 1963. But cooler air did not allow cooler heads to prevail in 1972 when conditions drove the student body to protest.

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In March of 1972, students planned a boycott in protest of poor conditions ranging from flies and dirty utensils to hardened meringues on day old pies.  Student leaders canceled the boycott once they worked with the administration to remedy their concerns and accepted that some issues were beyond control for a cafeteria that was designed to accommodate 600-800 students but was then serving 1500.  Student body growth and university food service capacities have not always been in sync.

The university initially envisioned the dining hall as an idyllic establishment that would bring students together – they probably did not imagine it would cause them to gather in protest.  Although students still like to complain about the caf, the 1919 Howard College Dining Hall Council could never have imagined the Class of 2019’s dining options in our newly renovated caf.  Regardless of how each generation of students and administration revamp food service on campus, community and friendship grow out of the places we gather to eat together.

Exhibition Station in our recently renovated Caf
Exhibition Station in our recently renovated Caf

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, October 29, 1946.

The Howard Crimson, January 7, 1947.

The Howard Crimson, March 4, 1949.

The Howard Crimson, October 28, 1949.

The Howard Crimson, March 21, 1958.

The Howard Crimson, October 3, 1958.

The Howard Crimson, December 15, 1961.

The Howard Crimson, August 16, 1963.

The Howard Crimson, September 19, 1969.

The Howard Crimson, March 24, 1972.

Bull Pup Student Handbook 1947-1948, 1950-1951, 1951-1952, 1991-1992.

Oral history interview with Lowell Vann conducted by Chase Trautwein, 2015.

Oral history interview with Bill Lankford conducted by Chase Trautwein, 2015.

Oral history interview with Sarah Arthur conducted by Chase Trautwein, 2015.

160 Year of Samford University, by Sean Flynt

Howard College Entre Nous 1925, 1946, 1949

Doak S. Campbell Report, Higher Education in Birmingham, Alabama, March 1946

Diners and Greasy Spoons in the 1930s and 1940s, New York Eater, June 14, 2012

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

March Madness: Dead Cats and Burning Bulldogs

“Dead cats and burning bulldogs preluded the half-finished game with [Birmingham-] Southern. Tension that has mounted and grown game by game during the past several years came to a head Tuesday night. ‘Unfortunate incidents’ come to all our lives, each with a lesson.”

That is how the Howard Crimson described the fracas that broke out during the basketball game between Howard College and Birmingham-Southern in February 1957. The two schools maintained a fierce rivalry most often marked by students traveling to the opponent’s campus for a good-natured tree rolling or some other practical joke.

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Rudy Davidson: Leading up to that game, it went on every year, Howard folks would go over to Southern’s campus and throw a prank and Southern people would come to Howard and throw a prank.

For the 1957 season, however, the students from Birmingham-Southern decided to up the ante in a stunt involving the Sherman Oak, a beloved tree located in the center of the campus. The oak was so famous among students that he was parodied with a weekly front-page opinion column written from his point of view in the Crimson.  On February 15, 1957 Sherman Oak shared his terrifying tale:

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Sherman Oak: The other night, Sunday, February 10, to be exact, when you so rudely attacked our campus, I don’t appreciate at all the damage that was done to me. The very idea, throwing kerosene on me and trying to burn me down. I was so humiliated and scared that I could hardly cry out.

Fortunately, a quick-thinking and resourceful student, who you may remember from our previous post about a certain ghoulish Halloween escapade in Renfroe Hall, was nearby.

Sherman Oak: If the noble Quinn Kelley had not fought your crew off single-handed and very bravely put sand on my flames, I would probably be little more than a burned out stump now.

In addition to the attempted arson of the Sherman Oak, the Birmingham News reported a few Howard girls being woken up in the middle of the night because they heard men chanting “Down with Howard, Up with Southern!” When they looked outside, there were three crosses on fire in front of the burning tree–an ominous warning and a symbol of Aryan superiority during the Civil Rights era.

By gameday, tensions had reached their boiling point. With less than four minutes left in the first half of the game, Howard was beating Southern 33-24.  Chriss Doss later recalled the chaos that unfolded when a Southern player named Glen Clem took a cheap shot at Howard player Rudy Davidson (pictured above).

Chriss Doss: Everything was already heated up and they [Howard] had this fellow named [Louis] Doss, who worked full time running a steam shovel in a strip mine . . . but he was also going to school and playing basketball . . . he was one of our leading players, but he was sitting on the bench. The coach had taken him out and put somebody else in . . . a tall, spindly fella, [who] didn’t look like he could stand too much. He needed to be fed more, but . . . was playing forward. Southern had the basketball and they were going toward their goal when a Howard player intercepted the ball and the player named Rudy . . . was way down toward Howard’s goal and this fellow drew back and threw the ball to Rudy and Rudy caught it, bounced it a time or two and went up to shoot, to make the goal and this Southern student hit him, I mean plowed into him, and of course it was an interesting issue for debate. Did he intend to do it or was it an accident? Anyway, it knocked Rudy into the bleachers . . . and Doss is up [off the bench] because Doss is this terribly muscular fella and he has, during the season, been the caretaker for Rudy, and he saw this fella hit Rudy and he was down there in a split second and drew back and hit the Southern player and. . . laid him up in the bleachers with his fist and blood started squirting. The place went wild. We didn’t have any security . . . this is the only time I ever saw Major Harwell Davis just disheveled . . . They finally got things quieted down and he goes out to the center of the court and says, “Those of you who live on campus, go to your dormitories and stay there. Those of you who do not live on campus, as soon as possible, make your way off of the campus and don’t come back!”

According to the Birmingham News’s account, the fight got so out of hand that the coaches decided it was best not to play the second half of the game. Southern player Glen Clem, who some claim instigated the fight, was severely cut “clear through his lip.”  His teammate, Hilton Jones, had more serious injuries.  He suffered a broken nose, bruises on his back, abrasions on his chest, and had to remain hospitalized due to a brain concussion.

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Unfortunately, this was just the first round of fighting as tensions remained high, Chriss Doss explained.

Chriss Doss: They vacated the building, but there’s a lot of [people] milling around on campus and there were, I don’t know, three or four students down toward the north end of the campus . . . saw somebody do something and then all of a sudden a blaze shot up on old Sherman. Howard students came running from every direction, taking off their jackets or getting anything they could to beat it out.

With the fire extinguished, the perpetrators were apprehended and their fates rested in the hands of Howard students who became judge, jury, and…barber. Rudy Davidson recalled the vigilante justice handed out by the students of Howard.

Rudy Davidson: Well some of our fellows captured them and when they caught them, some of our folks talked the night watchman into opening up Old Main, to hold a trial. So it woke everybody up on campus and the auditorium soon filled up and I don’t know if they provided a defense attorney for the perpetrators or not, but we had our pre-law students to judge them and they held court. Of course they found them guilty and they asked what was going to be the sentence.

The Howard students decided that the punishment would be an H shaved into the heads of the offenders, who begged the court for mercy, as this would cost them dearly, in more ways than one.

Rudy Davidson: The Southern boys made a plea, “Please don’t shave an H in our head. We’re ministerial students . . . We have church and we can’t do that. We’ll lose our pay.”

After experiencing two attempts of burning the Sherman Oak, a cross burning, a basketball brawl, and then a third burning attempt, the Howard students were in no mood for leniency, however.

Rudy Davidson: They made their plea and I don’t remember all of it but anyhow the Baptist ministerial student says, “Well we preach the Word and we don’t worry about reimbursement. Shave the heads.” So we shaved the heads, shaved an H in their heads and turned them loose.

It is unknown what became of the men who had to travel home and, assumedly, to church the following Sunday with a “H” reminiscent of a scarlet letter, shaved into the back of their heads.

Howard and Southern’s basketball coaches deliberated on whether or not to have their teams play each other again at all. Howard’s Coach Virgil Ledbetter, explained that he was willing to continue playing Birmingham-Southern in the coming years as long as his opponent was willing.  Coach Bill Burch, the head coach of Southern’s squad was unsure, as he explained to reporters after the game.

Coach Burch: I hate to make a statement in the frame of mind I’m in right now.  I will say I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I know I try to control my bench. If my boys can’t play basketball, I don’t want them out.

In the end, the two schools did not play again until 1961, after heated tempers cooled down, bruises healed, and hair regrew.

  • Glen Clem went on to a successful career coaching basketball at Walker College in Jasper from 1959 to 1996.
  • Hilton Jones recovered from his injuries and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College later in 1957.
  • Rudy Davidson graduated from Howard College in 1958 and worked for the State Department of Education and taught school finance and organization at UAB for 24 years.
  • Chriss Doss graduated from Howard College in 1957 and went on to study theology, library science, and law. He worked as the law librarian at Samford before working in state and local politics. He returned to his alma mater to work as director of the Samford University Center for the Study of Law and the Church until his retirement in 2005. Today he operates a law office in Hoover.
  • Sherman Oak was eventually struck by lightning and cut down in 1998. The oak is survived by several trees at the present campus of Samford University.

Adapted from:

The Birmingham News, February 13, 1957.

The Howard Crimson, February 15, 1957.

Oral History Interview with Chriss Doss conducted by Michelle Little, 2014.

Oral History Interview with Rudy Davidson conducted by Michelle Little, 2012.

The Daniel House: Celebrating Over 30 Years

Samford students outside the Daniel House in 1997 and Samford students in London, Fall 2013. Photographs courtesy of Marlene Rikard and Blakely Lloyd.
Samford students outside the Daniel House in 1997 and Samford students in London, Fall 2013. Photographs courtesy of Marlene Rikard and Blakely Lloyd.

The Daniel House “changed the culture of this university for both students and faculty.” –Dr. Marlene Rikard

Just over thirty years ago, Samford University purchased a Victorian home in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.  This pivotal real estate transaction, made possible by the Daniel Foundation, provided exponential travel and cultural learning opportunities for generations of students.  Located in the heart of London, the house serves as a window to the world.  Students can walk out the door and explore the gardens at Kensington Palace, attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey or meander through remains of the Parthenon at the British Museum.  During a weekend in London they can take a train to Paris, or a short flight to Morocco, Dublin, or Milan. It’s location allows for an enormous amount of options that serve, in the words of Dr. Stephen Todd, as “a living laboratory – a museum that they get to live in and explore for days and weeks on end, seeing the actual places and architecture, tasting the food, and meeting the people as they walk the ancient paths.”

Originally called Samford’s London Study Centre, the Daniel House opened in 1984. Over the years, Samford professors made it into a home – some with hammers and nails and others with home cooked meals shared in the community kitchen. This 130-year-old Victorian home has been a beloved landmark for the Samford family and the site of fun student memories as well as academic achievements. The first professors to live in the Daniel House braved cold nights with no heat and took on construction projects to make the house livable for students. To commemorate this special anniversary, a few professors who shaped the Daniel House that students know and love shared their personal memories.

Samford's London Study Centre when it was purchased in 1984
Samford’s London Study Centre when it was purchased in 1984

Samford’s longtime theatre director, Harold Hunt, was in the first group of professors to live in the Daniel House.

Harold Hunt: [My wife] Barbara and I were chosen to go and start the program for that first semester . . . Tom [Corts] and [his wife] Marla, and Ben Brown and [his wife] Francis, and [Ben] Harrison and his wife, those three couples [also] went.

He went on to explain that it was not easy to convince students to come to this new place.

Harold Hunt: We like to have never gotten a group of students to go. It was like shaking the trees . . . . They didn’t want to leave Samford. Even for several years, [they would say] “I don’t want to leave my fraternity [or] I don’t want to leave this.” 

When they got there, he explained, there was still more work to be done.

Harold Hunt: We had to walk across a plank to get into the building. It was – I’ll give you my word – chaos . . . . There were people working [but] nothing had been finished . . . this was Monday morning before the students were coming Wednesday . . . . [Once the students arrived] they were constantly having to move from one room to another [because] it [was] still being worked on.

All and all, though, Hunt’s group ended up having a wonderful time.

Harold Hunt: It was a wild semester, but I wouldn’t take anything back . . . and the students felt the same way . . . . It was an interesting group of people, but we loved them all, we really did, and it was just a good experience for us.

L:  The First Group of Samford Students to Study Abroad in London                                                      R:  Dr. and Mrs. Hunt at the Daniel House.

Marlene Rikard, a former History professor, focused on the cultural benefits Samford students receive through their time at the Daniel House.

Marlene Rikard: It’s the most cosmopolitan city in the world. I mean the entire empire has gone to London. It was a way that you could take sheltered students…and introduce them to that wider world and from there they might go on out to other places, other opportunities. And so it was something that Tom Corts did that changed the culture of this university for both students and faculty. Tom was the one who was the inspiration behind it. The Daniel Foundation provided the money, and they wanted to be anonymous. And that’s why it was just called the London Study Center for so long . . . It has become a remarkable program for the university.

As the years progressed, more and more students began to come, and a new batch of professors came with them.  As Karen Joines of the Religion Department explained, the house itself was always a work in progress.

Karen Joines: I did a lot of work. I painted the balusters for the handrail, sanded down the handrail; I hid a lot of the electrical cords with caulk and painted over it. The fire chief [gave me permission to] redo the door [to the] reading room so it would be more attractive . . . . I did some carpentry on that and the door at the very top of the stairs . . . . On occasion, I ran into Dr. Corts with a saw in hand.  

Samford’s faculty made the Victorian house in London into a home away from home where students can enjoy a unique experience of living and learning alongside their peers and professors – under the same roof, at the same breakfast table.  International travel can seem daunting and always out of reach, but the Daniel House makes this an attainable goal for many by providing an accessible platform for students to explore other cultures.  After thirty years, Samford students know they will never be ‘tired of London.’

Original artwork by Kaleigh Warwick, Class of 2014 and Daniel House study abroad participant.
Original artwork by Kaleigh Warwick, Class of 2014 and Daniel House study abroad participant. Prints are available for sale here at this link to the Samford University Alumni Association website.

Adapted from:

Department of Classics International Travel Pamphlet, Dr. Stephen Todd.

Samford University Entre Nous 1985.

The Daniel House in London, Student Handbook, Samford University.

Oral History Interview with Harold Hunt.

Oral History Interview with Karen Joines.

Oral History Interview with Marlene Rikard.