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

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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.