Chapter 18

The Arrival in Boston

As the train sped through Massachusetts, there was one last stop in Springfield for the engine's boilers to receive water at the station there.

There was a report sent back from the station there to the "Advocate" back in Danville from its reporter who hopped off with his hastily typed story.

Reporters from various Boston newspapers met the train at stops along the trip east to file stories for their readers

The "Special" pulled into Boston's South Station a little after 30 hours after it had steamed out of Danville, early Friday afternoon on the 22nd of October.  

Five hundred people, including Centre alumni from throughout the Northeast, met the train and gave rousing cheers as the players and fans disembarked.

 Buses were waiting which carried the entourage to Centre's headquarters, the Arlington Hotel.

As the players entered the lobby of their hotel, they noticed posters placed near the desk advertising the "Harvard-Center" game. The "Center" spelling was also used on the official programs and tickets for the game.

"Center College"

"Center College"

"Center College"

After checking in at the Arlington, the Colonels gathered up their gear and led by their captain, Bo, re-boarded the buses for the trip to Harvard Stadium. Only Bo, who had been in Boston the week before to scout the Harvard-Williams game, had ever seen the big horseshoe. Despite his efforts to describe it, and despite photographs which had been shown back in Danville, no one, including Uncle Charlie and the Chief, was prepared for the beauty and magnificence of Harvard Stadium.

Head football Coach Robert Fisher and Harvard team manager W.P. Belknap, Jr., waited outside the stadium as the team filed off the buses. Fisher and Belknap welcomed Uncle Charlie and Chief Myers, and then impressed the Centre players by shaking hands with each of the Colonels, warmly welcoming them. They called Bo and the two Reds by name, and asked each of the other team members to introduce himself.

Head Coach Bob Fisher, 2nd from right

( Robert Fisher was a 1910 and 1911, Walter Camp All-American at Harvard, in a guard position. He became the head coach in 1919 after serving as an assistant under Percy Houghton, his coach during his playing days. Fisher's 1919 team was 9-0-1, the last win being a 7-6 win over Oregon in the January 1, 1920, Rose Bowl. Going into the Centre game, Harvard was 4-0, giving Fisher a record at the time of 13-0-1, the tie being with Princeton, 10-10, in the seventh game of the 1919 campaign. )

The two Harvard men led their guests to the visiting team's locker room which was in a separate building at the north end of the Stadium. Along the way, Moran and Myers were assured that no one other than those approved by Centre would be allowed to watch their practice, that Harvard students were guarding the gates, and that the Colonels could be certain that they were going to be able to work out in total privacy.

The way that Centre was welcomed and treated made quite an impression on the Kentuckians, and the courtesies shown that afternoon were the first of many that their gracious hosts bestowed.

After suiting up and getting some last minute instructions, the Colonels walked out of the locker room toward the Stadium and came around the end of the horseshoe to the opening separating the new end zone seats from the concrete structure.

As they entered, they were, to a man, awestruck.

Harvard Stadium

Harvard Stadium was constructed on land south of the Charles River, in Boston's Allston neighborhood, across the river from Cambridge. The acreage, called Soldiers Field, had been vacant, and the school was able to purchase it thanks to bequests made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his family, and Henry Lee Higginson.

Construction of the large, concrete stadium took place during 1902-03, and the first football game was played there on November 14, 1903, an 11-0 loss to Dartmouth.

The building of the Stadium literally changed the way the game is played to this day. Due to the increasing number and severity of injuries ( which resulted in President "Teddy" Roosevelt getting involved), the rules committee, chaired by Walter Camp, was set to recommend that the playing field be widened 40 yards to give players more room to maneuver. However, Harvard Stadium would have had to undergo a major reconstruction if such a widening took place, and the committee adopted the legalization of the forward pass instead in order to more open up the game.

The Stadium was bathed in sunshine as the team trotted out on the perfectly manicured turf. The wooden, north end zone bleachers had just been completed, and the boxes along the sideline were finished, bringing the capacity to 45,000 seats. The open area above the colonnade would allow another two to three thousand spectators to watch the game.

Uncle Charlie and the Chief gave the players time to walk around the field, allowing the magnitude of the facility to sink in. They didn't want the Colonels to act stunned or overwhelmed on tomorrow's game day. It was acclimation time.

The Stadium combined the features of a Roman circus and a Greek amphitheater. The colonnade was added in 1910, circling the entire upper level of the horseshoe, creating the feeling of being thrown back into the classical styles of Rome and Athens.

Several of the team climbed up into the stands and sat silently, trying to absorb the scene and permanently burn it into their consciousness. Centre was used to playing sometimes before crowds of as few as 1,500 in years past. A great crowd was several thousand. Over 45,000 was hardly fathomable.

Bruce Dudley accompanied the team to the workout. He captured some of the emotion when he wrote:

George Chinn, the youngest player on the Centre team, is barely 18. He had not been  out of the state of Kentucky until this epochal offensive was launched. Today we trod the sacred soil at Harvard. Chinn walked within the huge horseshoe which surrounds nineĀ­ tenths of the field. Removing his headgear, he gazed heavenward and raising his hand as if taking an oath, declared, "This time tomorrow we'll show them what Centre men are made of We will win, or else... "

George Chinn

Dudley continued:

Such is the spirit with which Centre hopes to batten down the last obstacle in its path to football pre-eminence. "Or else... " Every Colonel vows he will do his utmost to bring honor and glory to Centre and Kentucky, "Or else... "

The sentence has never been finished. They are only living for tomorrow and victory. They care naught what happens to them unless the triumph is gained. The triumph will open to Centre and Kentucky a new world. The Centre spirit is the spirit that turned back the foe at Chateau-Thierry. The battle cry is, "They shall not pass."

Dudley spoke to Uncle Charlie and Bo.

Bo McMillin quietly said that the team shall fight until consciousness is lost. "We will show them nerve like they've never seen before. "

"We are ready," said Uncle Charlie. "If we lose, we can have no alibi. No courageous team ever needs an alibi. The old guard may die, but never surrenders. My boys have that kind of stuff in them. It is for Centre, and it is for the entire state of Kentucky."

After some minutes had passed, Uncle Charlie called for the team to gather around him. "Bo, set up the offense. Second eleven, get into defensive position like Harvard does. Let's spend 30 minutes on offense and then reverse the roles. Be sharp! No mistakes!"

The team looked crisp, running their plays with precise timing. Halfway through the offensive drills, Bo signaled to Lefty Whitnell with a wink and the Fulton, Kentucky speedster took over the position at left half. After Bo called the signals, Lefty streaked out as he had done so many times during practice back in Danville, gave a little head fake, and turned it on straight down the field. Bo heaved the ball as far as he could, and just like they had done against Kentucky in 1919, Lefty hauled in the ball, never breaking stride, and ran like a rabbit toward the end zone.

When he got back to the huddle, Bo winked again. "We can score on that play tomorrow. Just wait and see."

When the practice session was over, the Stadium was opened to reporters and photographers. The Colonels were lined up in their starting formation and numerous shots were taken. President Ganfield, Bo and Uncle Charlie were photographed, Bo with his helmet on, looking very serious and determined. Ganfield expressed confidence but made no predictions. He simply repeated that Centre "should make it an interesting game."

Photo taken at Harvard Stadium on Friday afternoon, October 22. Dr. Ganfield, Bo, Uncle Charlie

Sports reporters from the newspapers then converged on Coach Moran. It was stated that there had never been as many news organizations covering a Harvard game as there were on the tuft that day. All of the numerous Boston papers were there. New York had reporters from the "Times," the "Daily News, "and "Herald," around Uncle Charlie.

The Providence "Journal" was represented, and reporters from New Haven, Hartford, and many other Northeastern cities were covering the game for their readers, as were the various wire services which would send their coverage to newspapers all across the country.

Of course, the Danville papers had their men on the field, as did the papers from Louisville and Lexington.

The importance of the Centre-Harvard game was emphasized by the fact that standing in the group circling Uncle Charlie were the two most famous sportswriters of their day, Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon, plus there was an even more distinguished gentleman on the field.

Grantland Rice

Damon Runyon

Walter Camp, selector of THE All-American team each year, the same man who had bestowed the ultimate college football recognition to Bo and Red Weaver, by placing them on his first team, and to Red Roberts, a third team selection, listened intently to the Centre coach as he began to speak.

Walter Camp

"The boys are in good fighting form. We now figure we are like an eastern college because we have gotten so much attention from you here in this part of the country."

"Football is a man's game. We play it hard and clean. I am a stickler for clean sport and insist on it. We feel that in meeting Harvard we will be tackling a worthy foe, but that it will know that it has been in a struggle before the game is over. Centre has confidence in its men. They will battle to the end, and when the game is over, no matter who wins, it will be said that Centre played a clean game, and we are from a college that Harvard will have no regrets about putting on its schedule."

"I am not in the habit of making predictions or claiming anything. Experience has taught me that lesson. All I can say is that it is going to be a football game worthy of the name in every word."

It was significant that Uncle Charlie stressed that Centre would play hard but cleanly. "I am a stickler for clean sport and insist on it."

It was something the Centre mentor stressed every day in his discussions with "his boys." Uncle Charlie often emphasized that the way one conducts oneself on the field is the way that life will later be conducted once college days are long past. It was characteristic of Centre's teams during this era that no matter how the game ended on the scoreboard, every rival felt that they had played a foe that was above reproach regarding sportsmanship.

Moran fielded a few questions as his team ran three laps and then headed to the dressing room to shower and dress to re-board the bus. The Harvard team manager told the Colonels that they could leave their equipment in the dressing room and would find that their uniforms had been washed and dried and put back in their lockers when they returned for the game the next day.

"Can you believe that? They're going to wash our uniforms!"

It was a long way from Danville, they all had to agree. The water was hot, the soap and towels bountiful, and the uniforms were going to be washed, even though they had just run through drills with no contact.

Instead of heading back to the Arlington, the bus drivers steered over the Anderson Memorial Bridge, often referred to as the Larz Anderson bridge because its construction was funded by a donation from Larz in honor of his father, Nicholas Longworth Anderson.

The Chief had been anxious for the team to see Harvard's campus during the daylight hours, and the buses parked at a kiosk on Harvard Square where the players bought ice cream and then walked through the "Johnson Gate" into Harvard Yard.

Across the Yard was the massive Widener Library, completed just five years previously. One Colonel walked all the way around the huge building and announced that all of the buildings on Centre's campus would fit within the massive edifice, and there'd be plenty of room to spare.

Harvard's Widener Library

Widener Library from the back

The Colonels climbed the steps up toward the Widener's porch and sat down, finishing their cones and watching the students come and go.

Then it was to the hotel to get ready to come back to the campus, and the Harvard Union, which was holding a dance in honor of the team and all of the Kentuckians who had come to the East for the big contest the next day.

The Harvard Union

The dance featured an orchestra made up of Harvard men and young ladies from Radcliffe. The invitation stated that the visitors would be taught the "Touchdown Dance," and they were also invited to a pre-game buffet and another dance to be held Saturday night after the game.

Plans for the event at the Harvard Union on the night before the game

The Colonels were treated like kings at the party. Red Roberts was the star Colonel in the "Touchdown Dance," in which after several dance steps, the music would suddenly stop and the participants would thrust their arms in the air like an official would during a football game after a score, and shout-

"Touchdown!" "Touchdown!" "Touchdown!"

The players made it an early evening.

"It was a long trip up here, and we have a football game tomorrow."

They left the Union in good spirits. No one could have been treated more nicely than the Gold and White.

It was estimated there were more than 700 fans of the Colonels in the city, many wearing badges and some carrying Centre pennants. A group of Centre rooters had gone to the Stadium to watch the workout. A supporter stood at the gate and identified "nonĀ­-strangers" who were allowed to sit up in the stands. Most found the seats they would occupy the next day.

Those who didn't make their way to the practice session took in the sights of Boston and the surrounding area. More than 45 climbed the Bunker Hill Monument, and well over 100 hit the long trail to Lexington to see where the "Minute Men" fired, "The shot which was heard around the world."

The Boston "Globe" reported: It was a gay gathering of tourists that invaded the Boston theaters last night. More than a month ago a theatre not far from the Boston Common reserved scores of seats for the "sons and daughters" of the Bluegrass Country, and if anyone thinks that blazing red makes color, they should note what Kentucky's gold and white can make for scenic effect when combined with enthusiasm and a chance for a good time.

Every Kentuckian who had the price, and dozens of past and present Centre students, accompanied their team. For them, there can only be one result of the game-victory. The visitors needed no badge to show who they were, and they were welcomed everywhere they ventured.

The arrival of the Centre team had every newspaper in Boston printing big, boldly headlined stories. The "American," "Globe," "Herald," "Post," and "Transcript" all ran front page coverage about, "The Wonder Team from Kentucky." Interest was enhanced by emphasizing the disparities between the two colleges. Always, it was the numbers which made good reading.

Little Centre College with only 200 students while Harvard has more than 6,000... Centre, with only six buildings on its campus, while there are hundreds at the Cambridge school...

Centre has only 14 professors. Harvard has more deans, 18, than Centre has faculty members, and its 222 professors are a greater number than the little Danville college has in its entire student body.

The differences in numbers of students, buildings and faculty weren't pointed out to ridicule Centre. On the contrary, they were stressed with a sense of wonderment. It was basically, "How can such a small, unknown college from Kentucky accomplish so much?"

All of the publicity pushed the prices for the game to levels unheard of since Harvard began playing football. First it was reported that some people were selling their tickets for twice what they paid. Then four, eight, twelve times- if anyone could be found who would even consider selling one.

Betting was brisk. Harvard supporters wanted 10 to 6 odds, while Centre wanted 4 to 10.