Chapter 33

More Recognition- Spring of 1921

On April 9, 1921, the Syracuse University Athletic Association held its annual Block "S" dinner at the Archbold Gymnasium. Following the usual custom, "S" insignias and medal awards were made to the athletes of the various major sports.

Syracuse University "Awards Dinner" program 

The "Orange" had a successful season in 1920, going 6-2-1. Their two losses were to Holy Cross, 3-0, which had lost to Harvard by a field goal, 3-0, and to a 7-2 Maryland team, 10-7. Their tie was to an undefeated but twice tied Pitt team.  A total of 9 points could have produced an undefeated season. So Syracuse was playing good football.

The banquet featured guest speakers representing each of the five sports whose athletes were to receive letters and other awards.

The speakers were, Alvin Nugent McMillin, Centre '22, for football

Captain John W. Timmons, Annapolis, 1901, for rowing, or crew

Jack Moakley, Cornell coach since 1899, for track

G. Edwin Brown, Syracuse, 1920, for baseball

William C. Schmeisser, Johns Hopkins, 1900, for lacrosse

The toastmaster, Hurlburt W. Smith, first introduced, "The famous All-American, Bo McMillin of the Wonder Team, the Centre College Colonels, who will now represent the sport of college football in our honors program tonight. I present to you, from Danville, Kentucky, the Centre team captain, and Kentucky Colonel- Mr. Alvin Nugent "Bo" McMillin."

Bo strode to the podium.

"I want to thank you for inviting me up here to take part in this wonderful…”

Program featuring Bo McMillin as presenter of football award. Bo actually began his football career in the fall of 1912, not 1913, as the program above indicates. 

How far from North Side High. And, it all had begun with the Chief painting word pictures in the minds of the members of his football team about a wonderful little college in the Bluegrass of Kentucky.

Prior to Bo going to Syracuse, the 1921 Centre College Carnival had been held. Of course, none other than Bo could have been the King of the event, and his selection was greeted with universal approval when he was introduced by Dr. Ganfield.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to present the King of the 1921 Carnival, Mr. Alvin Nugent McMillin from Fort Worth, Texas, perhaps better known as Bo."

                                                                      Bo on the throne at the 1921 Centre Carnival

Bo- "King of the Carnival" 

The 1921 graduating class and professors. The historic 1919 win over West Virginia was still painted on the front of Old Main. The 1920 loss to Harvard, 31-14, was partially erased on the other side of the entrance.  

In the spring of 1921, a novelist named Ralph D. Paine arrived on the Centre campus. Paine ( 1871-1925 ) was an author who already had published many books, mainly with maritime themes, but he had also written "Campus Days" with a college setting, and had published several articles on sports.

Paine was intrigued with Centre and Bo and how the little college, previously so obscure, had vaulted to the top of the college football world. He thought there was a story to tell, so came down to Danville, checked into the Gilcher, and spent several weeks absorbing the atmosphere of the college and Danville, and interviewing members of the team and local Danvillians.

Paine also caught up with Uncle Charlie in the summer while he was umpiring in Boston and interviewed him there.

The book that resulted was named "First Down, Kentucky." It was a very thinly disguised "biography" of Bowman McMurray, "a quarterback on the Centre College football team," and followed the exploits of Bowman and his teammates, culminating in the trip to Boston and the loss to Harvard.

"The Popular Magazine," published every other week, serialized the book in 5 segments, beginning with the August 20, 1921 issue, and ran the last installment on October 20, just in time for its readers to finish before the real-life, October 29 rematch with Harvard. After the serialization, the actual hardcover book would hit the bookstores, again coincident with the Centre-Harvard rematch.

Serialization of "First Down, Kentucky!" in "The Popular Magazine"

The book proved to be so popular that it went through several reprints, and it was another vehicle for introducing Centre College and the Colonels to an ever adoring public.

Hard copy of "First Down, Kentucky!"

Nearly everyone in Danville and the surrounding area went to Spoonamore's Drug store and the Shop Perfect and put their names on a list in order to make certain that they received the next 5 issues of "The Popular Magazine."

Just as everyone looked forward to reading the fictionalized story about Centre in “First Down, Kentucky,” they anticipated the real-life events which were to occur as the 1921 football season unfolded, a year which would propel Centre College to even greater prominence in the football hierarchy which it would occupy during the first half of what became the “Roaring 20’s.”