How Many Baskets? How Many Balls?  

Samford's first baseball team, formed in 1878, poses for the camera.
Samford’s first baseball team, formed in 1878, poses for the camera.

A few weeks ago, Samford opened its new Sports Hall of Fame on the third floor of the Pete Hanna Center, celebrating the achievements of students from the very beginnings of the school’s athletic program in 1901. In honor and celebration of this grand opening, we combed through Garrett’s Sixty Years of Howard College to find the origins of baseball, football, and basketball at Howard. The first sport to break onto Howard’s campus was baseball, as Garret recorded in his work:

“When the soldiers returned from the Civil War, they brought baseball with them. The game grew rapidly in public favor and soon found a ready place in all the schools. The students of the University of Alabama were playing baseball as early as 1872. The first reference to a game by Howard boys is the following from the Marion Commonwealth of April 11, 1878:

‘A game of baseball was played last Saturday (April 6) between a nine of the Howard College club and a nine of the Southern University club, of Greensboro. The game was hotly contested and resulted in the favor of the Howard College club by a score of 42 to 35.’ When it is remembered that the Southern University at Greensboro was the progenitor of Birmingham-Southern, the Howard boys ought to appreciate this score.”

Football came next on screen, taking over the campus for almost a decade before an official team could form. Garrett continues:

“Football, as the game is now played, came into vogue in the nineties. In all probability, the first movement to introduce football into the colleges of Alabama is described in the following news item from the Age-Herald of January 11, 1891:

The famous game between Howard College and the University of Alabama in 1935 that ended in a tie.
The famous game between Howard College and the University of Alabama in 1935 that ended in a tie.

‘The meeting was called to order by Cadet Frank Peabodly, and it was decided to adopt the American intercollegiate football rules. . . The students of the different colleges are very anxious to make this association a success, as it will be both a pleasure and a benefit to them. The students fear, as this is a new move, that they will have opposition from some members of the different facilities: but as the leading colleges in the North favor such associations, they hope, by playing on holidays and Saturdays, to be allowed to proceed. The first game will probably be played within the next month, and the boys hope to be encouraged by a large crowd to witness their first attempt.’

At Howard College some of the boys may have been seen, at certain seasons of the year, kicking a football about the campus; but no football team was organized at Howard until the fall of 1902. The first football coach at Howard was Houston Gwin, an old Auburn man, and the first intercollegiate game was played with the Marion Military Institute on October 26, in which Howard was victorious by a score of 6 to 0.”

Nevertheless, organizing a game without established conferences can make the first few seasons a little rocky, leading college presidents to take matters into their own hands. In 1946, Spright Dowell of Mercer University wrote Major Davis, saying that,

“It occurs to me, therefore, that it might be exceedingly helpful if you, President Allen, of Stetson, and President Plyler, of Furman,  and I with, say one other member of our respective staffs in attendance also might meet at some convenient time and place and as early as practicable and see if we can reconcile our points of view and possibly organize a league of our own that we could control and keep on a strictly amateur, non-subsidy basis. . . Does this idea of a conference appeal to you and, if so, would you think it well to meet in Atlanta, Macon, or somewhere else, and how soon could you conveniently attend?”

Major Davis agreed, writing back that “In my opinion it would be helpful for us to hold a conference as suggested in your letter, and ascertain whether or not we could find a solution of this very pressing problem which you mention. I would be glad to attend, if you arrange it.” Who knew that all it took was a letter or two to start a conference?

Basketball, on the other hand,  didn’t make its debut at Howard College until 1900, sparking much debate and curiosity across campus.  While it’s hard to imagine a world without basketball in our lives so soon after the NCAA tournament finals, students had had no prior experience with the sport, leading to this humorous reception:

Howard College's basketball team in 1901, a year after the first game on campus. Note that they're now Inter-Collegiate Champions!
Howard College’s basketball team in 1901, a year after the first game on campus. Note that they’re now Inter-Collegiate Champions!

“‘When it was announced two or three weeks ago that we would play our first game of basket ball on the next Thursday afternoon, there was a visible stir in the camp. What is it like? How many baskets? How many balls? Was heard on every hand. Every man has his own basket, was the information volunteered by one who, no doubt, was better acquainted with picking cotton than with this new game.

The memorable afternoon came and with it a great rush for the ‘peanut gallery’ in the gymnasium. Even our ever-attentive matron neglected to give Peter his daily scolding in order to get off in time to see this wonderful game.

‘Boys, I believe we could sell preserved seats to these games,’ said a mercenary looking Freshman, as we crowded up the back stairway.

Finally the instructor called out the chosen men to take their places, and the game began. ‘I don’t see any baskets,’ said several spectators; and for a while it seemed that the players also failed to see the baskets. After much puffing and blowing and many fouls, one side succeeded in making a score.’”

Nevertheless, Howard College quickly caught on and continued to win game after game in its region, beating rival Birmingham-Southern several times over and becoming famous for their skill on the court.

Over one hundred years later, the Samford athletics program has churned out 7 NFL drafts, basketball teams that appeared twice in March Madness, and 22 drafted baseball players. The new Sports Hall of Fame will make an important connection for current student athletes and Bulldog fans to the humble foundations of their sports on this campus.

Adapted From:

Sixty Years of Howard College, 1842-1902 by Mitchell B. Garrett

-Letters between Spright Dowell and Harwell G. Davis, 1946

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 Haunting of Renfroe Hall

Renfroe Hall

There was spirit lurking in Renfroe Hall–a dark figured man in uniform–haunting the girls of Howard College on Halloween night.  Legend had it that a former student, angry about the introduction of co-education at Howard College in 1913, vowed to haunt every woman that lived on campus. Late one Halloween night in the 1950s, Margaret Sizemore, Dean of Women at Howard College, got a call to save her girls from a ghostly intruder, and, as she explains, she got more than she bargained for…

We had a student named Quinn Kelly from Miami and somebody down there had a special interest in her . . . . The church had sent her up to Howard.  She was just . . . always into something.  Cute as she could be.  Smart as she could be and I just loved her to death.  One Halloween night, I got a call at my home and someone said, “Dean Sizemore, there is a man in Renfroe Hall. We have seen him!” . . . They described his uniform.  Well, that went back to a story that Dean Burns told me.  He was [at Howard] when it became coed, I think in 1913, but he said before it went coed, that the cadets, as they were called, said, “We will not have women on our campus” and one cadet said, “If [a woman] ever lives in Renfroe Hall . . . I’ll come back from my grave and I’ll haunt them.”  Well, I had told that story to my French class and Quinn was in it and I gave her an idea.

Well, [after I got the call] I had gotten my husband up and of course had my children with me in the back seat and we went through that [dorm] and the girls were just panicking . . . even the house mother . . . .  So many had seen him.  We looked in closets, under the beds, we spent almost the rest of the night trying to find him.  Finally we left and said, “There’s no man in here.  Y’all are just having imaginative fits.” 

The next year at Halloween, the same thing happened. Oh, I forgot to tell you, before this happened the first time, a friend down at the Birmingham News called me and said, “We need a story about Halloween . . . Howard College is so old I just know you have a ghost out there.”  I said, “Well . . . every Halloween, we have this ghost of a former cadet who is so upset . . . he haunts the women now.”  I always told them that and they put it in the paper.  Well then . . . the second year the same thing happened . . . .  So my husband and I drove up to the back of Renfroe Hall.  There was a way you could come in from 78th Street, you could come right into the back and we saw this figure coming down the fire escape.  [The dorm] had a metal fire escape . . . and my husband jumped out of the car and ran [up] just as [the figure] got to bottom . . . .  He put his hands out and she ran right into him and said, “Oh Mr. Sizemore, I’m sorry! Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! This is Quinn Kelly!”

Oh dear, I forgot what we did to punish Quinn Kelly, but she really had the campus upset over that and she just thought that was a wonderful, wonderful joke.  She’d found this old costume, this . . . Confederate uniform of some sort . . . with a sword . . . .  I turned her over to Major [Davis].

Quinn Kelley

Quinn Kelley, Howard College Class of 1957, probably contemplating her next prank.

 

Adapted from:

Oral History Interview of Margaret Sizemore by Susan Ray

http://digital.archives.alabama.gov/cdm/ref/collection/photo/id/19665

The Other Patton

Patton

(Howard College Entre Nous, 1947)

In 1942, Harold “Bill” Patton’s student days at Howard College were interrupted by a draft notice. After completing basic training (and his final examinations at Howard), he arrived in the California desert where he served as a water engineer for General George S. Patton’s Third Army. Bill remained stateside in California while General Patton’s regiment invaded North Africa, Sicily, France, and Belgium. Bill Patton was deployed to Europe in 1944 following D-Day, where he rejoined the Third Army. It was here that Patton was captured and seriously injured by German Troops. He survived capture, and received a Purple Heart for his service. He returned to Howard in 1946 to finish a degree in education. Today, Bill gathers each week with a group of veterans at the VA Hospital in Birmingham, to share stories. On a recent afternoon in August, Bill recalled his memories of Howard College and his experience in the war:

College:

Bill: I had to work my way through college [for] 30 cents an hour. I painted Main, [cleaned] the floors [in the] science building, dormitories. During the winter, I had to fire the boiler that kept the campus warm. A big black man did it in the daytime. He and I, in cold weather, would shovel 12 tons of coal to keep the whole campus warm. And I started at 129 pounds and I got this big by shoveling coal, which later on saved my life when three hand grenades went off when I got captured. Not one piece of 52 shrapnel, not one piece, went all the way through my body. They are all still in there except they took one out.

Pearl Harbor:

Bill: I was at Howard College on Sunday afternoon, [a] beautiful Sunday. [I] caught the trolley down to the Alabama Theater, saw the movie, came out. The streets were jammed. The 3rd extra edition newspaper was out…Pearl Harbor was attacked that morning.  That night, my brother quit college and joined the Marines. Everybody was in shock. Well, you quit college. You go fight. I was young enough,…just turned 17, that I spent most of my time studying so I didn’t let it boonboggle my brain much but everybody was in awe…I stayed [at Howard] for 2 years until I got drafted when I turned 18. I lacked 7 days taking my final exams. They gave me a 7 day furlough to go back to Howard and take…exams and then I got up with my outfit in Ft. McPherson, Georgia.

War:

Bill: I was in the army. I got drafted, I didn’t volunteer.  [I served in] the European theater with General George Patton. In fact, after I finished basic training in Mississippi…my first job was to secure all of General Patton’s waterworks in California [and] the desert area. 336,000 square miles. But then General Patton left maneuvers, he went through North Africa and Italy and France and Belgium and I got back with him before I got captured. He would come up to the front and he…[stood] up in his Jeep and his dog and be right there in the front lines. He was awesome…In fact, I named my first son George Patton.

Capture:

Bill: General Patton had his army on our side of the Rhine River. The other two armies were back in Belgium and France. He heard the Russians were gonna be in Berlin in 5 days…[He] woke us up at midnight [to have us] build him a pontoon bridge across the Rhine River…[It was] a quarter-mile across. We had our 40 boats lined up on our side of the Rhine River. Suddenly, 5 machine guns with tracer bullets set grass afire around all the boats and everybody ran behind a big castle but me and my buddy, we stayed with our boat. Suddenly, my sergeant said, “You’re job now is to go over and wipe out 5 machine guns.” He said, “Take a squad of infantrymen.” I was the first boat across…Halfway across the Rhine River, those 5 machine guns zeroed in on my boat. Killed most of [the people in my boat]. The rest of them were crying.  I stood up in the back of the boat with my oar, hit ’em in the head as far as I could reach. They stopped crying and started paddling. But by the time we got across, all of ’em were killed but 3 of us. My buddy landed the boat and said, “Patton help me!” and [then] they killed him. I found myself in the water and lost all my equipment. Finally, I crawled out on the little sandy beachhead and immediately a hand grenade came down the embankment. They looked like a soup bowl with a little handle. [It] landed a foot from my left shoulder. I had time to pull my helmet over my head, it went off, two more came in. I was laying there with 52 pieces of shrapnel in me…The next morning…4 Germans with their guns kicked me, rolled me over, and I came to. [I had been] captured…

Survival:

Bill: …When they captured me, we walked 20 kilometers through little German towns. Nothing but old men and women and their kids. They’d hit you with sticks and spit on you…That night, a big German officer interrogated everybody but me. I asked him,…”What are you doing with my buddies?” He said, “You just listen.” He put 9 in a pigpen and shot ’em and left two of us hurt real bad…One of the other guys was hurt real bad. But that’s when I made a mistake. I had a letter in my pocket and that’s when he found out my name was Patton. So…they put me in a field hospital with five German doctors [who were] cutting arms and legs off [of prisoners] with no anesthesia. [They] stripped me down naked, put me up on the operating table. Next thing I knew, it was the next day, I was bouncing along naked in a one-horse wagon. An old German man [was] taking me to a big hospital where they operated all morning. [He] fixed my broke back where I could play college ball back at Howard. [They] put me on the 5th floor with 2 other POWs. They were skin and bones. They had been there a long time. Their first meal came: potato peelings and water. I didn’t eat for 6 days. But finally, the medics came. In the meantime, the next day after I got captured, General Patton had my engineers build him a bridge in broad daylight. 76 were killed. They got every name in a book. He came across the Rhine River, stopped, urinated in the Rhine River (got a picture of him). He came across, got in his halftracks, came through a little town…

…[He] put a pistol under my pillow. I figured I was liberated. I say I was prisoner of war 2 days but it took 3 more for the medics to get there. Every day the doctors and nurses came and moved the pistol, [then I would] put it back under my pillow. Finally, medics came, flew us into Paris…[they] put me on the operating table. They said, “Patton you’re blowed up worse than anybody we’ve ever had that lived.” [I] layed there for 2 weeks and recuperated. While I was in the hospital, General Patton and General Eisenhower both came to my bed and gave me my purple heart. In fact, I kept the Purple Heart until I came down to the VA one day and lost it. It’s somewhere here in the VA.

Coming Home:

Bill: The streets were jammed, flags were waving from every window. They said, “The war’s over!” May the 8th. They turned our cattle cart around. Put 250 POWs on liberty ships. [It took us] 22 days to get back home. Ran into some icebergs…In those interim 22 days, some of the POWs gained 40 pounds. They had garbage cans full of milkshakes all over the ship. Got to New York City, they stopped traffic, took us right to Grand Central Station, put us on a train to Atlanta, Georgia. Got to Atlanta, hitchhiked back to Chattanooga and had my first party in Chattanooga after I got home. They gave me a 60 day furlough to recuperate and the next morning I got up, hitch-hiked down to Ider and a friend of the family fixed me a lunch, also got me a ride…a log truck to our farm. Got there. Nobody was there. Papa [was] way over in the field so I started towards him and he started towards me…Papa fell down on his knees. But we got together. I hitch hiked and got back and started Howard College in January session of 1946…finished March the 17th, 1948.

 The REAL General Patton and Willie

Adapted from:

Oral History Interview with Howard Patton. Birmingham Veterans Administration, August 2014

Howard College Entre Nous, 1947.

http://wargodpatton.blogspot.com/2011/02/general-patton-and-his-dog-willie.html

East Lake to Paris via Quebec

Harold Hunt's Senior Year paris

With Spring Break behind us, we are all looking forward to summer plans.  What will your summer hold?  Many students find themselves in the same situation as Harold Hunt, 1954 Alumni and Retired Samford Theatre Department Chair.  Just shy of the language credits needed to graduate Howard College in 1954, he and a handful of students set sail for Paris to immerse themselves in the French language, travel Europe by train, and for Hunt himself — to enjoy the last semester of college before being drafted to Korea.  Read below an excerpt from an oral history interview with Hunt as he recounts what was most likely the first semester abroad for Howard College students.

I transferred [to Howard College] . . . so I didn’t start French until my senior year and I had a year to go . . . the option was to stay in East Lake for the summer (you could take a full year in the summer), but several of us, . . . there were seven, maybe eight of us, that decided that it would be a lot nicer to go to Paris rather than East Lake. So we convinced Dean Percy Burns that we would learn more French if we were in Paris and convinced our parents. [Dean Margaret] Sizemore taught French and spent every summer in Paris. So seven of us got on a ship, completely unchaperoned, in Quebec, Canada and sailed to Paris, France. And the girls stayed in a facility [for] American university women, I think it is a national organization and they had a, like a Samford center type of thing in Paris. So the girls stayed there and the guys stayed in a small hotel nearby. We went to class and of course it was all in French. I wasn’t the best French student in the world to begin with, [but] somehow we got where we could kind of get around and we went to class and ran all over Paris.

We planned to travel [around Europe]. I knew that the moment I set foot back on American soil I was going to get drafted so I waited as long as I could. So we mapped out this plan [for the] seven of us.   At that point you could buy first class, second class, or third class tickets (you can imagine what 3rd class was like). But seven of us, with all this luggage, [got] on a train, and I can remember pushing suitcases through windows to get them all [on]. So we traveled and just did this circuit. And gradually, one by one, they would come home and I was left in England by myself for maybe a week or 10 days.  I traveled up into Scotland and did a lot of things. All that sounds like it was a very wealthy kind of thing but it was very cheap to travel.

Actually, there was a civic club, Kiwanis Club or something in Woodlawn that [gave] us a loan. [It was] a student loan and I think mine was just several hundred dollars that we would agree to pay back; and then my family [contributed].  My father said he had never been to Europe but he had wired money to every major city in Europe.  He said, “I know that as soon as you get drafted you’ll be sent back to Europe” and sure enough I was. That was, as far as I know, the first student travel study.

Adapted from Oral History Interview with Harold Hunt, January 4, 2013.

Liquor, Scantily Clothed Females, and the Word “Damn”

Girls in a car 1924 EN
Howard College girls in car, 1924 Entre Nous

Additional Thoughts on College Morals from L.O. Dawson

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

As a student at Howard, Dawson attended Siloam Baptist Church under the watchful eye of Rev. A. C. Davidson.  The pastor played a key role in Dawson’s spiritual formation.  “To me he was a man sent from God to touch my life at its most important period,” Dawson later wrote. “In everything he was my ideal. As a pastor and as a man, I have never seen any greater than he. He loved the boys with a genuine shepherd heart, and in return they lavished on him their extravagant affection and youthful enthusiasms. In all those years his influence has been felt in my life, and whatever good I have done, his hand was in it all.”  Davidson’s influence inspired Dawson’s passion for mentoring young men at Howard College in the 1920s and 1930s.  (Please see our September 20, 2013 post on Dawson’s Horse Sense for College Men.)

In a November 1925 column printed in the Birmingham News as well as the Howard Crimson, Dawson tries to dispel the popular misconception that sending your children to college will inevitably lead to corruption of their morals:

We have nowadays much literature on the subject of the college morals.  And the pictures drawn of campus life are dark enough to make any parent hesitate long before sending a son or daughter into such environments.  To begin with, college students are the most interesting people in the world, and anything written about them is sure of readers.  There is sauce enough in the subject to flavor a whole lot of books.   And to add a little pep to spice, and ginger to pep, it is easy to fall into the unusual, the rougher side of the campus story.  The outcome is fearful.  There is little hope for any decent moral  boy or girl once they are in college classes.  So runs the best sellers.

The trouble is the college folks make their own reputations.  The stories you hear old graduates tell are always of their escapades and “scrapes.”  When the freshman goes home after his first year of campus experience he always wants to tell of the tough things that happened to him and to which he happened.  The book writers could not sell a book telling about how good Tommy is at school, but there is an enormous sale for one telling about how bad he is.  College humor, which is often about the freshest and best we have, too frequently centers on the immoral, lackadaisical side of the boys and the girls.  The collections of college humor are mostly made up on points about liquor, scantily clothed females and the word “damn.”  Pick up a college magazine from one of the common newsstands, so often common dirt stands.  What impressions does it make on you as to the solidarity, purpose and general worthwhileness of the college student?

The picture is that of irreverent, dissipated, reveling, sap-headed spendthrifts, idlers and gamblers and jazzers.  The college folks are responsible for this.  They want to be funny, and this is the idea of most of their humorists have of humor.  It would indeed be humorous to deem such humor humorous, but the tragedy is that these college writers present a picture of college life and the people that has well-nigh brought them into the contempt of good people everywhere.  They make their own reputation, and it is untrue to fact.

I have lived in close contact with college boys and girls all my life.  I think I know them better than they know themselves.  Quite sure we may be that there are no perfect folks among them.  I have never seen one with wings so much as sprouting.  I did tell one of them once upon a time that she was an angel, but that was a figure of speech and answered its purpose at the time.  They have faults.  Some of them go to the dogs.  Some were dogs before they came to college and merely went their way, appointed beforehand.

But the great majority of them are wholesome, purposeful, intelligent, sober, industrious and thoroughly worthwhile.  These do not lend themselves to colorful tales.  They are not rare enough to be news.  Books describing their ordinary lives would not sell.  It is hard to make jokes of them or about them.  They do not carry hip pocket flasks.  The description of their lives would not help repeal the prohibition amendment.  The word “damn” somehow does not fit into their scenery, so what is the writer to do but let them alone and use his paint pot on the more spectacular sort?

In the time of Julius Caesar his wife became famous just because she was virtuous.  Now virtuous women are so numerous as to be commonplace.  The good boy and girl are the rule as they are the rule so as they are ruled out of publicity and we form our opinions of college life upon what we hear of the other sort.  It is distressing to parents and hurtful to everybody concerned.

Nevertheless we must educate.  Education is so valuable that we must take the risks of ruin to secure its blessings for our children.  Now there are dangers in college.  I would not minimize one of them.  We must know of their presence to avoid their hurt, but I want to say this for the comfort of all who love our young people and especially to those whose children are in college.  I believe that out of a given number of young people fewer of them go wrong at college than would have gone wrong had the same group remained at home.  Out of a community with say 1,000 young people on its streets or in its homes, more of them will go wrong than would have done so had they had the inspiration of college friends and environments.  You may send your boy to college and from that he may go to hell, but it is not unlikely he would have gone to the same place had he remained at home.

–L. O. Dawson, in the Birmingham News

Adapted from Howard Crimson, November 11, 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

Felix Wood and Burghard Steiner

Photograph courtesy of The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (isjl.org)
Photograph courtesy of The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (isjl.org)

No need to send notes or promises; it will take money to save the college. –The Alabama Baptist May 7, 1896

We all know the sacrificial gifts of Ralph W. Beeson, William W. Wilkerson, Jesse B. Lovelace, and Julia Barron; but have you heard of Felix Wood or Burghard Steiner?  In times of great need, one bet his mortgage, the other his reputation, on the success of Howard College.  During this holiday season, the Bull Pup thought it fitting to tell the stories of Wood and Steiner and their selfless efforts to save Howard College.

When the Howard College trustees decided to move from Marion to Birmingham in 1887, no one imagined the difficulties of relocating a college.  Once the excitement of removal that swept over the Alabama Baptist State Convention dissipated, the reality remained that buildings on the new campus were non-existent.  When promised funds for building adequate facilities did not come, the school opened the fall 1887 session in little more than two unpainted frame buildings found in a forest of second growth pine. In the midst of laying the foundation for what would become Old Main, funds ran so low that the trustees were forced to consider ending the endeavor and selling the property to pay for materials and labor.  Finding it difficult to rally the Baptists in the wake of the move and a severe economic downturn, prospects were bleak. But a Birmingham native intervened.

Felix Wood, a benefactor and member of Ruhama Baptist Church, took a keen interest in the school.  Perhaps Wood adopted concern for Howard in October 1886 when he married Eliza Lee, a relative of board of trustee member and fundraiser J. J. D. Renfroe.  Wood succeeded in his many business endeavors, especially his drug store at Fifty-fifth and Second Avenue South in Birmingham.  When Wood learned of the school’s financial dilemma, he mortgaged all his property to pay off Howard’s debt.  In his book on the history of Birmingham, George M. Cruikshank credits Wood with singlehandedly saving the school and concludes that this selfless act was what “really made it possible for Birmingham to have Howard College.”  After construction resumed on the East Lake campus, Wood served as a trustee and supervised the building of Old Main and a few dormitories.

Unfortunately, Wood’s generous act did not keep Howard out of debt.  In 1890, Old Main was still under construction and attempts to secure funding from Baptists proved futile.  The college turned to the Union Trust Company of Philadelphia for a $40,000 mortgage, offering the East Lake property as collateral.  Despite a generous extension, Howard was unable to make payments and defaulted on the loan in 1896 — much to the embarrassment of the Baptist Convention and Howard College, The Union Trust Company of Philadelphia ran a mortgage sale ad in the Birmingham News.  When the trustees appointed Professor A. D. Smith as President that same year, Smith focused on ending the financial crisis.  In turn, Smith contacted Burghard Steiner for help.  A friend from Howard’s Marion days, Steiner and his brother were immigrants from Bohemia – both of whom found success in the banking business in the small Alabama town of Hamburg.  They later relocated to Birmingham and established the Steiner Bank.  Smith urged Steiner, who was an agent of the Union Trust Company of Philadelphia, to persuade the company to halt the foreclosure with the promise of a significant loan payment within a year.  Steiner contacted Union Trust and personally guaranteed the mortgage payment.  The company agreed and Smith fulfilled his promise to Steiner and paid off the loan in its entirety in 1899.

Thanks to the actions of these men, Howard College survived during those pivotal first years in Birmingham.  The Birmingham Age Herald captured the growing pains that the college experienced in an article on September 24, 1890, “The Howard is a great college. . . It is in baby clothes now, but soon the stately building will have risen, and it will be dressed as becomes a strong and vigorous man.”  In spite of inadequate facilities, Howard’s enrollment continued to increase during those years, but men such as Felix Wood and Burghard Steiner ensured the school’s continued success.

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Adapted from:

A History of Birmingham and its Environs: A narrative Account of their Historical Progress, Their People, and Their Principal Interests by George M. Cruikshank, Lewis Publishing Co; 1920

A Memorial History of the Baptists of Alabama by B. F. Riley, The Judson Press; 1923

Birmingham Age Herald, September 24, 1890

“In the Shadows of Foreclosure: Three Financial Crises that Threatened the Existence of Howard College” by Chriss H. Doss, published in the The Alabama Baptist Historian Vol. 28, no. 1, Jan. 1992

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.