A New Man in Town

I’d like to introduce myself

Though you’ve seen me ‘round

Well, I’m a new man in town

            -George Jones

Some of you may have notice a new ominous figure in Brooks Hall.  He made his entrance late last week, but quickly took cover beneath a blue table cloth.  He emerged victorious on Saturday morning with the help of Dean Chapman, the A Capella Choir and the Howard Scholars.   John Howard is the newest addition to the commemorative statues on Samford’s campus. We are all familiar with iconic Mr. Beeson who greets every visitor, but let’s review the rest of the Samford bronze and marble family.

Johnhoward

John Howard 1726-1790

The original namesake of Samford University, John Howard, devoted his life to prison reform. Commissioned by Dean Chapman, the statue reminds students of Samford’s Christian mission. The installation includes an electronic device detailing Howard’s life, prison reform work, and the original statue in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Curry

Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry 1825-1903

Jabez Curry was the third president of Howard College, serving from 1865-1868.  Originally part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, the statue was relocated to its current position in the University Center in 2009 after Helen Keller took his place in D.C. Now, he stands guard as students rush to class or grab a quick bite from the food court.

 

 

Frank Samford

 

 

Frank Park Samford 1893-1973

 Businessman, philanthropist, and builder of Liberty National Life Insurance Company, Frank Park Samford served on our Board of Trustees for 34 years and was instrumental in relocating the college from East Lake to Homewood in 1957. Because of his dedication and service to the campus, Howard College was renamed Samford University in 1965.  His bust greets visitors at the top of the stairs in the administration building.

Bobby Bowden

Bobby Bowden 1929-

At every Samford football game, fans now pass Bobby Bowden with his playbook in hand, as they enter the gates to the stadium. Bowden served as Samford’s football coach from 1959-1962 and led the Howard bulldogs to a winning 31-6 record. His success as a coach earned him a spot in the College Football Hall-of-Fame with the second most wins in Division 1.  Many of his loyal players still gather on campus each summer for a reunion with the Bowden Boys.

MarthaMyers2

Dr. Martha Myers 1945-2002

Samford Alumna Dr. Martha Myers ’67 was a medical missionary to Yemen for more than twenty years where she became a local symbol for kindness and compassion. She was killed by a Muslim extremist on December 30, 2002, the final operating day of the hospital.  The statue displays her passion for the Yemeni people with the words “She Loves God” written in English and Arabic.
Mr. Beeson

Ralph Waldo Beeson 1900-1990

As the greatest individual donor in Samford’s history, Ralph Waldo Beeson’s gifts to the university have provided for the establishment and endowment of Beeson Divinity School, the construction of Beeson Woods, construction and equipment of the School of Education, completion of an addition to the University Center, scholarships to Samford students pursuing ministry careers and much more.  An iconic Samford symbol, the statue has become the hallmark of countless selfies and memories made on campus.

Harwell Davis 2

 

Harwell Davis 1882-1977

The bust of Samford’s fifteenth president sits at the entrance to the library and offers luck to all who rub his nose. Davis led the college at a time of tumult after the Great Depression, plotting a course to avoid bankruptcy and the loss of accreditation.  It wasn’t luck that saved the school, it was Davis’s hard work and dedication.

 

Justice and Mercy

Justice Tempered by Mercy

The statue in the courtyard of Cumberland School of Law represents what students at Cumberland are defending. The inspiration for the statue came from Mrs. Lucille Beeson who encouraged the law school to “Seek wisdom and temper justice with compassion.”

healing arts

Angel of Mercy

 The Angel of Mercy represents the values of the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. The bronze statue was created by former Samford student Tim Britton and Italian sculptor Urbano Burratti.

 

 

 

The lives of the men and women commemorated by these statues remind all of us, faculty, staff, and students, that we stand in the shades of trees we did not plant.  From John Howard’s work to reform the prison system to Dr. Martha Myers’s life witness to the people of Yemen we have inspiration all around us to strive to work hard, conduct ourselves in fairness, give out of our abundances, and be merciful to those in need. The world will be better for it.

References:

Flynt, Sean. 160 Years of Samford University. Arcadia Publishing. 2001.

“Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry.” Samford University. https://www.samford.edu/alabama-mens-hall-of-fame/inductees/Curry.html

Wimberley, Mary. “Curry Statue Has New Home on Samford Campus.” Samford University. 25 November 2009. https://www.samford.edu/news/2009/Curry-statue-has-new-home-on-Samford-campus

“Frank Park Samford, Sr.” Samford University. https://www.samford.edu/alabama-mens-hall-of-fame/inductees/Samford.html

Michael Scovetta. “Knowledge Base: Samford University.” http://www.scovetta.com/projects/knowledge/wiki/au/Samford_University.html

Wimberley, Mary. “Missionary Martha Myers Memorial Sculpture Dedicated at Samford.” 5/15/2007. http://www.samford.edu/news/2007/Missionary-Martha-Myers-Memorial-Sculpture-Dedicated-At-Samford

Flynt, Sean. “Samford to Dedicate Statue to John Howard Feb. 13.” Samford University. 1 February 2016. https://www.samford.edu/arts-and-sciences/news/Samford-to-Dedicate-Statue-to-John-Howard-Feb-13

http://www.awhf.org/myers.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/31/us/threats-and-responses-the-dead-victims-shared-affection-for-yemenis-families-say.html

 

 

 

 

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.
Photo Nov 09, 10 08 44 AM
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

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.

unnamed2

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

Mysterious Lovers Call

Old Main in 1925
Old Main on the East Lake campus in 1925

While many couples choose Samford’s Reid Chapel for their wedding, not many would think of Samford Hall. Almost every weekend there are weddings in Reid Chapel, but while Howard College was in East Lake, students did not usually wed on campus. But on Valentine’s Day in 1925, a mysterious couple appeared at the administration offices in Old Main on the East Lake campus requesting such a venue. The February 18, 1925 Crimson recounts the story:

Mysterious Lovers Call At Dean’s Office

Cupid Wins as Unknown Couple Weds in Main Building Valentine’s Day

 An event, the likes of which never occurred before in the Administration building during its thirty-eight years came to pass Saturday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock in the Dean’s office. Yes, the very office where hundreds of knowledge-seeking students have enrolled . . . and where innumerable students have discussed and solved their problems of college life; the office that has known naught but formal discourse and cold business, was flooded with romance without warning when a pair of “victims of the season” were joined in happy wedlock inside its walls.

The couple were not connected in any way with the college, however, and gave their names as Miss Mary Alice Hartley and Mr. Thomas Nathaniel Graves. The groom gave his address as 8229 Eighty-Second Street, East Lake. The parents and address of the bride are not known.

Witnesses of the scene stated that the couple came [to] campus…cooing like a pair of turtledoves in springtime. Upon reaching the main building, they immediately entered through the front entrance, made way to the office, and calmly stated that they wished to get married and inquired if they could get a minister to perform the required ceremony, witnesses confirmed.

It being 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon, Professor Burns, the Dean, was not in–Miss Moody and Miss Kendra, student secretaries, being the only ones present. However, after recovering from the unusual request and being convinced that the couple were not applicants for registration, Miss Moody complied and telephoned the Divinity Club for aid.

Responding to the call, several student-preachers made haste to the rescue and found it to be no joke. Accordingly, J.D. Wyatt, ministerial student at Howard–being the oldest of the preachers present–relieved the situation, (leaving out the phrase “to obey,” . . . so witnesses asserted.)

The bride wore a blue coat-suit, trimmed in fur to match.  She appeared to be about 18. The groom was considerably older, probably 30, and wore a business man’s attire.

After appropriate caresses and exercises, the mysterious lovers departed from the Dean’s office chewing their gum nonchalantly. We know neither from whence they cometh, nor whither they goeth.

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, February 18, 1925.

Thou Shalt Not Excessively Paint Thy Cheeks

Remember Fresh, it’s up to you….get that Howard spirit thoroughly grounded in your system, and everything will be “Hotsy-Totsy” now. – Howard Crimson, September 23, 1925 

Two weeks ago, around 700 incoming freshmen from all over the country were welcomed to campus and the Birmingham area through their 2014 Connections groups. Connections places freshman students with upperclassmen to usher them into their college experience. The Samford Class of 2018 tried Birmingham restaurants, took a class picture, learned how to get involved on campus, and danced all night at a neon party. Connections weekend ended with the Your School, Your City concert featuring American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.  The weekend is a fun way to make students feel comfortable in their new home and ready to take on their classes.

 

Samford Class of 2018

 

In 1925, freshman girls on the East Lake campus of Howard College listened intently to a new set of commandments while sipping punch on Friday afternoon in the Pi Kappa Phi house.  That year, incoming freshman get-togethers did not involve wearing neon, but rather, the freshman green.  Instead of telling the class of 1929 all that they could do, upperclassmen focused on explaining to the students what not to do as seen below in this September 23, 1925 Crimson article:

Freshmen quaked in their boots and mentally resolved to obey the letter of the law, “The Freshman’s Ten Commandments” as they heard them for the first time Friday afternoon at the Pi Kappa Phi house when the Y.M.C.A. and the Women’s Council of Howard College entertained in honor of the new girls with an afternoon party. Miss Margaret Cox, president of the Women’s Council, read them to the assembled girls, stressing those of the most importance.

THE FRESHMAN’S TEN COMMANDMENTS

  1. Thou shalt wear the Freshman Green.
  2. Thou shalt have no dates taking precedence of attendance on chapel, nor any engagement conflicting with student government meetings, nor any flirtations, nor any primping, nor any sleeping, nor any talking, nor any laughing that prevents attention – for Howard College is jealous of attention and will have attention.
  3. Thou shalt know the Alma Mater.
  4. Thou shalt show respect unto the faculty. Thou shalt also show respect unto the sophomore, juniors and seniors.
  5. Thou shalt not cut classes.
  6. Thou shalt not roll thy hose, nor excessively paint thy cheeks, nor thy lips, nor unduly powder thy face for she that spends much time on these frivolities has little time left for studies.
  7. Thou shalt not chew gum.
  8. Thou shalt not lounge on the campus nor make the campus a thing unbeautiful by improper attitudes or undignified behavior. Thou shalt never enter a fraternity house unless chaperoned by a member of the faculty.
  9. Thou shouldest attend every game of football, and every game of baseball, and every game of basketball, and every performance of the Glee Club, and every performance of the band, and every debate, and every college activity through loyalty to Howard.
  10. Thou shalt not assume that these rules are in vain; for the upper classmen will not hold her guiltless that assumeth that these rules are in vain.

 

Freshman Entre Nous 1925

 

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, September 1925.

http://www.Samford.edu, Samford University Class of 2018.

The Howard University Entre Nous, 1925.

The Rush for Chow

chow lines

We all faced some unusual circumstances this past week, but Samford rallied and in the words of new history professor Carlos Aleman, we made new believers in southern hospitality. The Snowpocalypse of 2014 left faculty, staff and commuter students stranded on campus.  Students slept on cots in the gym and chow lines were long.  This is reminiscent of another time in Samford’s history when students endured a much longer displacement on the East Lake campus during World War II.

In no way are we comparing a snow storm to the devastation of World War II, but Howard College alumni Page Kelley expressed some similar sentiments about the unusual circumstances in the below reprint of a 1945 Crimson editorial he wrote explaining how the war changed Howard.

Howard is by nature a peace-loving institution.  In fact, she is a pacifist.  War is contradictory to all she stands for.  She hates war so intently that she early pledged her support to our nation’s efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for beginning the war.  She actively entered the war with the coming of the first Navy V-12 unit in February of 1943.

If Rip Van Winkle had been a Howard College student, he wouldn’t have needed twenty years of sleep to make him feel like a complete stranger on his own campus.  Just a five-year doze from 1940 to 1945 would have been sufficient.  Howard is at war, and the war has cast its influence over all phases of campus life.

Howard is proud that she can point to some of these changes and say, “This is Howard at war.”

It is the Navy.  It is the sight of blue ranks of men marching briskly around Berry Field, or standing stiffly at attention as the clear sound of a bugle floats over the campus.  It is a classroom filled with sailors.  It is flag-raising at sunrise.  It is a group of men entering Smith Hall and climbing stairs where “only ladies had trod.”  It is a wreath placed on Tar Baby’s grave at Christmas.  It is a disappointed sailor leaving the post office.  It is the rush for chow.  This is Howard at war.

It is the entire student body assembled in the auditorium on D-Day for prayer.  It is paying tribute to Howard’s heroes and listening to Rod Calhoun’s adventures.  It is being addressed by the C. O. at Thanksgiving.  This is Howard at war.  It is a co-ed seated at her desk before his picture, holding in her hand a telegram which begins – “We regret to inform you…”  She, too, is a part of Howard at war.

Howard IS at war.  And she is proud that she can say, “I have fought the good fight.”  The war may have changed Howard.  It is certain that Howard has helped to change the war. –Page Kelley

Page H. Kelley graduated from Howard in 1945 and went on to become a renown Old Testament scholar and author of several Hebrew textbooks.

Campus 1.13

Homecoming 1955

With Homecoming upon us this week, we are taking a look back at what Homecoming was like almost 60 years ago.  Howard College Homecoming, October 22, 1955 as covered in the Crimson and the Entre Nous:

Howard Bulldogs vs. University of Mexico Pumas at Legion Field

at the airport - best

Approximately 300 cheering Howard students greeted the University of Mexico football team at the airport when they arrived the Thursday night before the game.

at the plane - best

The game took place at Legion Field and was the first time a Mexican team had played in Alabama.  Howard lost the game 41-13, but the 5000 Howard fans remained in good spirits encouraging their team to the end.

homecoming court

Miss Homecoming was crowned during half-time.  Candidates had to be single and a full-time student with at least 30 semester hours completed at Howard.

car sketch

Howard held a car parade downtown at 10:00 am before the game.  A $5.00 prize was awarded for the best decoration.  Above is an inspirational sketch for a similar contest in 1954 drawn by our very own Lowell Vann during his time as a student on the East Lake campus.

Fallen Plaster

barracks
The barracks on the East Lake campus.

We rap at the door and Poverty ushers us in. The plastering lies fallen, the massive pillars are crumbling, the gate is hingeless, the fences down, the barns leaky. All about are scattered signs of decay and distress, and in no place do you find the touch of improvement.”  –Howard College Alumni Oration, by W. L. Sanford June 8, 1892 

W. L. Sanford, an 1884 graduate of Howard College, was not describing the East Lake campus in his Alumni Oration in 1892, but his vision may have been prophetic.  On a sunny afternoon in May 2013, nine more recent Howard College alumni gathered to recall the transition from East Lake to Homewood.  Joseph Wheeler McDade, Jr. ‘61, Lowell Vann ‘57, Stephen Allgood ‘61, Dr. Myralyn Frizzelle Allgood ‘61, Virginia Head Gross LaVallet ‘61, Dr. J. Roderick Davis ‘58, Sara Pate Bryan ‘62, Dr. Tom Cleveland ‘60, and Lucy Jane Dunn Daniel ‘61 reminisced over coffee and lemon squares in Brooks Hall’s SIM Forum.

Lowell Vann recalled the familiar saying around the East Lake campus, “If the termites quit holding hands the campus would’ve fallen apart!”  In spite of, or perhaps in some way because of, those decaying buildings that served as the physical plant for Howard College all those years, the school maintained a tremendous heart.  Tom Cleveland first visited Howard College as part of a youth revival team dispatched from Georgetown College where he attended freshmen year.  He decided to sit in on some classes while on campus.  After witnessing plaster fall from the ceiling during Dr. Dobbins’ lecture, Cleveland concluded in awe that, “this must be a pretty good place if people would come somewhere like this.”  He transferred to Howard for his sophomore year.

Others found the East Lake campus equally dog-eared.  In 1946, Birmingham commissioned Doak S. Campbell, President of Florida State College for Women, to survey and study problems associated with the city’s higher education.  Campbell and his staff examined and collected data on each building and dormitory, faculty qualifications, teaching loads, salaries, student body composition, and library services.  In March 1946, Campbell’s survey reported these findings:

It must be said that in spite of the low salaries paid, the lack of retirement funds, and the lack of modern buildings and equipment a very high morale was found among the faculty at Howard.  A loyalty and enthusiasm was manifested which seemed most striking and unusual.  Every faculty member and administrative officer seems to feel a personal responsibility for the success of the work done at the College.  Great interest was shown by the faculty in the welfare of the students and there seemed to be a most desirable relationship existing between the faculty and the students.

East Lake students living in the barracks and attending classes in Old Main could never imagine the luxuries of our modern Homewood campus with newly appointed West Campus apartments, Hodges Chapel, Corts Arena, and the Wright Center.  Yet there is something invaluable here that was evident even among those dilapidated buildings of East Lake.  Samford has a heart and soul, a close knit community of caring faculty and staff that will always stand out above all else.

in front of old main 1950 EN (2)
Howard College students in front of Old Main, 1950.

Adapted from Joe McDade Group Oral History Interviews May 20, 2013, Campbell, Doak S., Higher Education in Birmingham, Alabama, March 1946, and Fiftieth Annual Catalogue and Register of Howard College 1891-1892.

All Shook Up – The Modern Dance

Navy boys 1945 EN (2)

The spots have not dropped from the leopard.  From Babylon, 300 years before Christ, until this good year 1919, we find these same obscene, vulgar, sensual dances paralyzing society and sending to hell virtuous women and promising men. – the Alabama Baptist, May 19, 1921

During World War II, Howard College became one of a hundred or more schools to house the U.S. Navy’s V-12 program.  This wartime initiative was exactly what Howard needed as it struggled to emerge from the Great Depression.  The college limped through the 1930s with significant pre-existing debt and limited denomination support.  Without the increased enrollment and federal funds provided by the program, Howard could not have recovered financially.  Beginning in July 1943 the Navy took the campus by storm, displacing students from their dorms and altering Howard’s culture.  In previous years, the Alabama Baptist boasted of Howard’s strict rules, “No drinking, gambling, girls smoking, or dancing is allowed.”

While it is true that the Howard boys attended soirees at the Judson complete with piano, harp, and vocal performances during the early years on the Marion campus, Howard administration effectively banned dancing on the East Lake campus in the 1920s.  Throughout the state church leaders often warned against the sins of modern dance, leaving most Baptist college coeds bereft of dance instruction.   One graduate, Frances Williamson ’47, recalled how the V-12 boys taught the girls how to dance and play bridge.  According to one Crimson writer, the Navy knew how to throw a party:

FRIDAY NIGHT HOP

Last Friday night, January 19, 1945, to be exact, a dance was held in the gymnasium, following Howard’s decisive victory over a strong Acipco team.  Such an occasion as this may not ordinarily have called for any comment on my part but from what I observed at the shindig, I believe commendations are due to everyone who had any part in sponsoring it.  And the orchestra, with Maestro Hank Beebe at the baton was one of the biggest surprises of the evening . . . not that we didn’t expect great things from this talented group of swingsters, but they more than lived up to anything we had hoped for.  In the form of refreshments, we had the firm of Messrs. Gregg and Nuremberger, Inc., cooking up a concoction known as “Punchy Punch,” which they gladly served to anyone thirsty or foolish enough to try it.  All joking aside, thought, I really hope that this dance may be the beginning of great things to come; that it may establish a precedent here at Howard.  Although it was sponsored by the Navy, everyone was welcome – girls, civilians, girls, sailors, and more girls. Such a dance as this provides fine wholesome entertainment for everyone; good music, pleasant companionship, plenty of exercise (especially for the jitterbug) and an all around atmosphere of friendliness.  My suggestion would be to make such a dance a bi-weekly affair here.  Coming at the end of the week, it would not only provide a good place to relax and have some fun after five days of work and study, but would also greatly enhance Howard’s standing in the social register of colleges.  When we first arrived here, we were told of the friendliness of the institution which we were entering – we have found this to be very true.  I believe, however, that by instituting a bi-weekly dance Howard might be able to change its well deserved name from “The Friendly College” to the even better title of “the Friendlier College.”

So, fellow bulldogs, all that remains is to lace up your dancing shoes and keep this Samford tradition alive.  Save a dance for us!

Adapted from Howard Crimson, January 26, 1945, Howard College Magazine, Volume 1:4 Jan, 1859, conversation with Frances Williamson, Birmingham, AL, October 2012, and The Major, Harwell G. Davis: Alabama Statesman and Baptist Leader by Susan Ingram Hunt Ray

dance 1945 EN (2)

Sigurd Bryan

Bryan and Kessler
On May 1, the Department of History honored Dr. Sigurd Bryan with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Dr. Bryan graduated from Howard College with a B.A. in History in 1946 and served as a much beloved professor in the Department of Religion.   In recognition of his recent award, the staff of the Office of University Historian decided to feature Bryan in our inaugural post.

Born in Barbour County in 1924, Dr. Sigurd Franklin Bryan spent his early years moving from town-to-town in rural areas of Alabama and Florida, living wherever his father found work in the furniture business.  During Bryan’s teenage years, the family settled in Dothan, Alabama and joined the Headland Avenue Baptist Church.  It was there he made a public confession of faith and felt God’s calling to the ministry.  After graduating high school, Bryan moved to Birmingham to attend Howard College (now Samford University) in August 1942.  He moved into Renfroe Hall on the old East Lake campus and settled into the first semester as a freshmen, but that routine was interrupted in winter of 1942 when the U.S. Navy chose the Howard campus as one of the sites for its V-12. Suddenly, the semesters became trimesters (to expedite the time to graduation for the Navy men), and Bryan and other residents were expected to find living arrangements off campus. Thanks to the efforts of Major Harwell Davis, Howard’s president, the V-12 program would be the only major disruption that WWII caused for Bryan. In order to keep his ministerial students out of the draft, Davis sent letters to the local draft boards and insisted that the United States would be better served by letting Howard continue their ministerial training.   Due at least in part to Davis’s solicitation, Bryan remained at Howard through the war and studied under the watchful eye of William Pratt Dale in the Department of History.  He graduated Howard in 1946 with a double-major in History and English and a minor in Religion.

Bryan continued his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he earned a bachelors and a doctorate in theology. His plans to lead a church were interrupted in 1956 when Major Davis asked Bryan to return to Howard College as a professor in the Department of Religion.  He agreed to a one-year contract and planned to become a pastor at the end of his tenure of service.  Forty-six years later, in 2002, Bryan retired following an illustrious career.  Over the course of Bryan’s tenure, the duties of Samford faculty changed dramatically.  In his early days, Bryan’s course load was five classes per semester, including the required Old and New Testament survey.  When students were given a choice of taking either the Old or New Testament course, his teaching load was reduced from five to four—each a three-semester-hour course.  With the implementation of the “Core Curriculum” in 1997, the course load dropped to three classes—each a four-semester-hour course.  For Sigurd Bryan, the old Bible courses he taught for over forty years were replaced with a class entitled “Biblical Perspectives.”  He later recalled that the course description was so vague that he continued to teach the class as a chronological Bible survey.

In his forty-six years as a professor, Bryan became an integral part of the Samford story. Beloved by his students, he served as faculty sponsor of the Baptist Student Choir, headed the Samford Sunday ministerial program, and was a recipient of the John H. Buchanan award for excellence in classroom teaching. His commitment to academic excellence and his ability to minister to students’ needs left a lasting impression on the thousands of undergrads who took his courses.  Dr. Bryan left a significant mark on Samford’s commitment to Christian education.