Chapter 17

The Departure for Boston

Boyle County had a population of 14,998 in the 1920 census, of which 6,000 lived within the city limits of Danville. Over 4,000 people were at the Southern Railroad's little brick station to see the team off on Thursday morning. Classes were delayed at Centre and K.C.W. so that the faculties and students could be at the station. The public schools were likewise closed for the morning. Businesses had signs on the doors and in the windows that they'd open after the "Harvard Special" pulled out, because, "We are at the station, and you should be, too!"

Many were seen running through town to get down to the tracks. One older man said, "I thought I may have caused a heart attack, but I knew for certain I'd have one if I didn't get here on time."

The Centre cheerleaders, waving the large Gold and White pennant presented to the school by the citizens of Danville at the halftime of the 1917 Georgetown game, led the team on the walk from the campus to the station. A deafening roar erupted as the players came into view. Several of the Colonels were seen to have glistening eyes when they saw such a mass of cheering humanity. The crowd slowly separated and allowed the players to walk toward the train.

"Go, Bo!"

"Red, Red! Win for Old Centre!"

The cheerleaders climbed up on top of one of the Pullmans and led the crowd in:

Centre, Centre, Fight! Fight! Fight!
Centre- Fight with all your might!

Then it was: 

Fight, Gold and White!
Fight, Gold and White!
Fight, Gold and White!
Fight, Gold and White!
Fight, Fight, Fight,
Fight, Fight, Fight,

Everybody wanted to just touch the players, to reach out and pat them on the back, to grab and shake their hands. There were constant shouts of encouragement.

"Good luck!" "Go get 'em, guys!"

Two little twin, blond girls came up and handed a gold and white floral arrangement to Bo, and as he bent down to thank and hug them, one was heard to say, "Captain Bo, my mom and dad said they are so proud of you and your team."

The players made their way to the last Pullman which would be their private home for some 30 hours. The travel squad was made up of 27 players. The 16-section sleeper was set up for 32 passengers, with coaches Moran and Myers and their wives, and team manager/trainer, Thad McDonnell, rounding out the number to full capacity.

One of the well-wishers at the station was Lucien Becker from Winchester, Kentucky. He had pulled up, covered with dirt, in front of  the Gilcher Hotel at midnight, "after driving over the dustiest roads in all Kentucky." He was Centre, class of 1892, and, "I just had to be here boys. I'd have gotten here if I'd had to crawl."

The Colonels were dressed in their "Sunday's best" upon departure. However, Bo had certain superstitions. He decided after the West Virginia game, when he had worn a soft blue shirt, tie and khakis on the return trip from Charleston and things had gone so well, that this attire was the team's "good luck" outfit, and so while on the train, everyone followed Bo's lead and dressed like him. Ever conscious of their image, they would change into proper white shirts, ties and suits before disembarking in Boston.

The train began to fill with the fans who were boarding in Danville. The travelers would hook up with those who had come over from Louisville to Lexington and the additional Pullman hooked on in Lexington would swell the entourage to the 400-person capacity of the train.

Then it was "all aboard." The bell on the front of the big steam engine was ringing, the whistle announced the departure, and the "Harvard Special" slowly churned out of the station at exactly 8:00 in the morningright on schedule, heading north toward Lexington.

Press coverage as the “Harvard Special” headed to Boston. The "300 boosters" departing from Danville didn't include those on the players' Pullman, those from Louisville who were waiting in Lexington, and the number added when the Pullman from Lexington was coupled on, bringing the total to 400.

Included in the departing passengers were 50 Centre students. When the  team members were added, it meant that one third of the student body was heading to the East.

Howard Reynolds had booked a berth on one of the Pullmans, but was going to ride in the team's car until the seats were converted to beds for the evening. Paul Dexheimer, who had coached Bo, Red Weaver, and Red Roberts at Somerset High, made the trip, as did Red Roberts' mother and sister. George Chinn, Sr. from Harrodsburg was going to watch his son, George, Jr., play. Bruce Dudley, sports editor of the Louisville "Herald," was on the train. Hump Tanner's and Clayton "Paps" Ford's fathers were along. Of course, the two Danville papers had their representatives aboard.

As the train neared the High Bridge Station outside of Danville, the passengers noticed a crowd which had gathered just before the span which crosses the Kentucky River. Some children were holding a large, white banner painted with gold letters which said, "GO GOLD AND WHITE." Another said, "BEAT HARVARD!" Everyone along the tracks waved and blew kisses as the "Special" steamed by, whistle blowing.

                                        High Bridge between Danville and Lexington built in 1879 by the Southern Railroad

Further along, the train slowed as it moved through Nicholasville. At the town's station, scores of people were lined along both sides of the track, cheering and smiling as they exchanged waves with those peering out of the Pullmans.

At 8:55, the engine braked as the "Special" pulled into Lexington. The "Leader" and "Herald" had both publicized the arrival time, and the platform in front of the station was lined many deep with proud residents who had come out to greet the team. The University of Kentucky and Centre may have been rivals, but now everyone was a Kentuckian and brimming with pride that their own people were on the way to meet the "Giant of the East."

The entire Kentucky football team and their coaches had come to the station to cheer the Colonels. Bruce Dudley of Louisville's "Herald" filed stories along the way as the train headed east. Every station had a Western Union office, and he would type out his impressions and hand them to an operator to wire back to his Louisville paper.

Lexington Southern Station where "Harvard Special" was met by a large crowd including the UK football team

Of the Lexington experience, he wrote: Tears came to the eyes of the Centre men at Lexington, where the University of Kentucky team, Centre's oldest and severest rival, met the train and gave dozens of rousing cheers for the Centre warriors.

"This is one time we are with you Centre fellows, heart and soul, yelled a big Kentucky halfback. "Go get 'em Centre, and tear 'em to shreds."

Uncle Charlie turned to me and said that the Wildcats' action was one of the most generous things he'd ever experienced in all of his coaching career.

At 9:08, the switch-engine had completed its work, hooking on the Pullman filled with passengers from Lexington. The whistle blew and the train chugged out of the station, heading north toward Cincinnati, sent on its way by the cheering crowd.

During the layover in Cincinnati, while the Southern engine was disengaged and the New York Central's was connected, one of the passengers jumped off the train and picked up a copy of the Cincinnati "Times Star" because he noticed a headline which read:


On Saturday, Centre College will carry the banner of Southern football onto Soldiers Field. That banner may not stay there. Retreat, honorable retreat, may become necessary. But Harvard will know there has been a football game.

Last year, Centre was the champion of America according to the rather unsatisfactory method of determining the championship, comparative scores. Centre badly defeated West Virginia, West Virginia decisively defeated Princeton, and Princeton played Harvard to a tie. Unfortunately, Centre had no games with the East that could give her a title not "once removed." But her successes of last year have given her an honored place on Harvard's schedule this fall. We shall soon know if Danville, Kentucky is the football capital of America, as was claimed by Centre's partisans last year. Here's hoping that it is.

The train left Cincinnati on the "Big Four" ( Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad ) tracks, part of the New York Central system, and headed northeast across the length of Ohio toward Cleveland. At every stop in Ohio, Centre alumni and friends met the "Special" and came aboard to greet old friends before being hurried off so the journey could commence once again.

A Danville "Advocate" reporter, W.V. Richardson, sent a story back to his paper when he jumped off the train in Cleveland and handed his typed report to the Western Union operator at the terminal.

As the "Old Centre Special" pulled out of Dayton, Ohio, on the New York Central line's double track, a fast passenger train raced for half an hour with our train, first one pulling slightly ahead, then the other. The crowded train had discovered on their last stop that our train carried the Centre College gladiators, and a great demonstration was given. Word had gone forth that the Centre football squad would pass through Ohio and crowds had gathered at each of the stations to give cheers. People in Danville little realize how popular the team is away from home, and how well posted the people are about the Old Centre "Wonder Team."

Two Boston newspapers, the "Herald" and the "American" had sent sports writers to Cleveland where they joined Centre's train for the rest of the trip east. The writers brought the cheering news that Harvard was taking the upcoming game "very seriously."

Heading east out of Cleveland, the "Special" continued on the New York Central's tracks which had originated in Chicago and continued toward Boston, entering Pennsylvania where it stopped at Erie, and "Advocate" reporter Richardson once again hopped off at the station and turned over another dispatch to be sent back to his paper.

The "Harvard Special" met the New York Central's line, which originated in Chicago, at Cleveland for the trip east to Boston

The "Herald" and "American" reporters said every seat had been sold for the game and another 4,000 seats had been constructed which sold out quickly.

Along the way, every Ohio newspaper which I could find was full of news about the "Special" and about the Harvard-Centre game.

With the large passenger load, meals were served quickly. The dining cars had ample seating so that the team and family members could all be accommodated together. The team's Pullman had been placed as the last car at the layover in Lexington, and as the members walked through the other cars to the diner, they were treated like the celebrities they had become.

It was, "Hey champs, let's show those Harvard boys the way Kentuckians play the game."

"Bo, Bo, will you sign this newspaper?"

It was midnight before most of the travelers got into their berths. The "Special" ran through the central portion  of New York and the Colonels slept through most of the Empire State as the train passed through Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. After a stop in Albany, the team was up for breakfast as they crossed the Hudson River, and by doing so, entered the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.