Chapter 34

1921- A Huge Year for Centre

Uncle Charlie returned to his farm and home in Horse Cave, Kentucky, after the return from Fort Worth. He was a great hunter, had a dairy herd which he and his wife, Pearl ( McGee ), used to augment their income by producing milk, and he farmed a bit which included growing tobacco. Uncle Charlie led a busy life, trying to juggle his responsibilities at home, his seven months of National League umpiring, and his job as head coach of what was now a nationally recognized, college football program.

Uncle Charlie in his National League umpire uniform

Uncle Charlie showing tobacco grown on his farm

Dairy cattle at Uncle Charlie's farm

It wasn't long before Unc had to take the L&N back up to Danville to work on the 1921 schedule with Dr. Rainey and the Chief, who'd come down from Chicago.

Obviously, the scheduling had to be built around the October 29 game with Harvard. There was a lot of discussion about the early contests to be played prior to the trip to the East.

In 1920, Centre had scheduled teams before the Harvard game in order to make certain that they arrived undefeated so as to assure maximal interest, and therefore, maximal attendance, at the October 23 game in Cambridge.

"We probably hurt ourselves," said Uncle Charlie. "We were undefeated, but we weren't game-tough. This year we need to put some teams on the schedule that will give us more of a challenge before taking on Harvard."

The Chief and Dr. Rainey agreed, and they got to work on finding some teams who would come to Danville, or who were located close enough to Danville so that even if the Colonels went on the road, they wouldn't get worn out by extended travel.

Before Uncle Charlie returned to Horse Cave, he met with Bo and Army to size up Centre's prospects for the upcoming season.

The trio met for coffee in the Gilcher Hotel restaurant where Uncle Charlie had a favorite, corner table. Bo began the conversation.

The Gilcher Hotel on Main Street was opened in 1917 after the original hotel on the same site burned down in 1914.

"Unc, you and the two of us know that last year, we got beat in the line. Our guys gave it their all, but we got worn down in the second half. We just got beaten physically."

Uncle Charlie had to agree.

Bo told his coach about a recent letter he'd received.

"Eddie Mahan ( the great Harvard back who came to Danville with Howard Reynolds in 1919) wrote me about a fellow named Bill Shadoan. He said he was a tough-as-nails lineman who played Army ball with Eddie, and he had recently gotten out of the service and returned home. Eddie said he thought this Shadoan wanted to go to college."

Eddie Mahan, 2nd from right, in Europe where he played with a service team and met Bill Shadoan

Uncle Charlie looked interested.

"Guess where his home town is. Somerset." 

Uncle Charlie looked more interested.

"I'm going to run down there and talk to him," Bo said.

Uncle Charlie looked even more interested.

"Get him to come here, Bo. If Eddie Mahan says he's good, that's enough for me." 

Bo, Army and Uncle Charlie continued analyzing the prospects for 1921.

Bo continued. "We worry about losing a couple of the guys. Red Weaver is sounding like he can't come back. He's got real financial pressures, plus he doesn't know if his knees can take another year of pounding. He's had an offer to coach a high school team in West Virginia next year and it looks like he's going to take it. "

Army jumped in. "Here's the good news. There's a cracker-jack of a center in my home town back in Fort Smith named Ed Kubale. I know him, and if anyone can replace Red, "Kube" can, and I think I can get him here."

Uncle Charlie had perfect confidence in Army as he did of Bo. "Get him, Army."

Bo told Uncle Charlie about Sully Montgomery.

"Sully says he's 'taken a wife.' That's how he calls it. And he doesn't know if he can get her to come to Danville, or afford to have her come, even if she's willing. Also, if you can believe it, Sully has been training to become a boxer. Someone in Fort Worth thought with his size and toughness, he could maybe be the heavyweight champion someday." 

Sully Montgomery had a journeyman career as a boxer going 33-27. 

Bo took over. "Red Roberts says he's going to be in his best shape ever. The way Tom Bartlett and Hump have developed at fullback, we can put Red in the line where his size will make a lot of difference, especially if Sully doesn't return."

Army continued, "Bill James is coming back. Baldy Cregor is committed. We've got Terry Snowday back at end. Tom Bartlett can also play at end if needed. We've heard about some really promising fellows who are coming in as freshman, guys who've got size and are tough."

"We're set in the backfield. Everybody is coming back. I'll be back. Army will, of course. Chick Murphy is committed. We can always put Red in if needed for short yardage. We're going to be good," Bo said.

"Actually," Army continued, "we've got the players to be great."

Army was a very modest guy. When he said Centre was going to be great, you could go to the bank on it. Centre was going to be loaded in 1921. Things were indeed looking not just good, but great, in Danville, Kentucky.

Bo did go to Somerset and met with Shadoan. They had dinner at a local restaurant and by the time the evening was over, the ex-Marine was in the fold. Bo knew he'd landed his prize when he leaned over the table and said, "We can beat Harvard next year if you come to Centre. How would you like to be a part of that?"

Shadoan was 27 years old at the time. He was battle-hardened, stood an even 6 feet tall, was big-boned, and weighed 192, with hardly an ounce of fat on his body.

"I'd like that a lot. Count me in."

The schedule was announced just as January ended.

Oct.   1          Centre-Clemson                            Danville
Oct.   8         Centre-VPI                                     Danville
Oct. 15          Centre-St. Xavier ( Oh. )             Cincinnati
Oct. 22         Centre-Transylvania                    Lexington
Oct. 29         Centre-Harvard                            Cambridge
Nov.  5         Centre-Kentucky                           Danville
Nov. 12         Centre-Auburn                             Birmingham
Nov. 19         Centre-Washington & Lee          Louisville
Nov. 24        Centre-Georgetown                      Georgetown ( later cancelled )

Georgetown signed on reluctantly, and as the season approached, the Tigers decided that they really weren't capable of competing with the Colonels. The annual Thanksgiving game was called off, and the Chief starting looking around for another foe. The replacement wasn't announced until after the season was well underway.

Of interest in looking at the 1921 schedule is the game scheduled after the October 29, Harvard game. Centre had vowed after the debacle in Atlanta with Georgia Tech that the game in 1921, the week after returning from Cambridge, would be with an easier opponent. The school didn't want a repetition of 1920.

So, what school did Centre think would fit the bill for a breather the week after returning from Cambridge? None other than old rival, Kentucky! Centre felt that the Wildcats were now-a breather! How the tables had turned!

In May, another vital cog in the Centre plans was the agreement by the administration to offer a full-time coaching position to Claude "Tiny" Thornhill, the same Thornhill who had come down from Pittsburgh in 1920 to assist Uncle Charlie and the Chief the week before the Harvard game. Thornhill had been a star performer on Pitt's undefeated 8-0-0 team in 1916, and had been one of the top linemen in the country, having earned his letter 4 straight years.

Claude "Tiny" Thornhill, left, with Uncle Charlie Moran

Every Centre player spent the summer after the school year ended preparing for the fall campaign. Captain Army held a team meeting just before the summer vacation began and stressed just how important the upcoming season was going to be.

"We need to arrive back in the best shape we've ever been in. Of course, we're pointing for Harvard. But we've got some good teams to go against from day one. Clemson and Virginia Poly aren't Morris Harvey and Howard. They're not Transy. They're good programs, and we have to go to Cambridge with a spotless record."

Clemson had lost to Georgia Tech in 1920 by the close score of 7-0, so Army was certainly correct when he said the South Carolinians weren't Morris Harvey.

Red Roberts stood up and made a vow.

"Boys, look at me. I have a job on the Southern Railroad, stoking coal all summer. I'm going to be ready!"

One by one, each Colonel made a vow. "I'm going to be ready!"

The Chief got many of the players summer jobs with his booming chautauqua business. Myers and Trimble booked the talent for more than 300 chautauquas all over the country during the summer of 1921, and there was plenty of work for "my boys."

Everywhere they traveled, when the Colonels weren't helping the locals with the publicity and setting up of the tents and stages necessary for the events, they were out jogging, always carrying their togs along so that they could get in their daily exercise.

During the summer, Centre found that indeed, Red Weaver wasn't going to be able to return due to "financial pressures." Sully Montgomery's marriage and budding boxing career kept him in Fort Worth. Clayton "Pap" Ford from Danville had another year of eligibility, but he decided not to come back. Stanley Robb, the young man who took the canoe ride down from Pittsburgh, sent word that he couldn't return.

While there was great anticipation in Danville, in Kentucky, and increasingly all over the country, particularly in the South, about how Centre would fare in 1921, there was a somewhat similar interest about TCU's prospects for the upcoming season.

The "Daily Skiff' summarized who the returning players were and how they had fared against the Colonels in the January 1, 1921, "Fort Worth Classic" game.

The "Skiff' reported that the Centre game was still the talk of the campus. Mention was made that the only time Centre's 63 points had been exceeded against the Homed Frogs in all of its 24 years of playing football, over 172 games, was when the University of Texas racked up 72 points in 1915.

Jackson,  who scored  the touchdown  against Centre....

Alexander,  who showed  up well in the Centre game....

Leviticus Levy, who demonstrated his prowess in the Centre....

"Walter" Camp, substitute fullback, is another Humpty Tanner....

Loren "Hootch" Houtchens, one of the three who survived the full four quarters of the New Year's game with Centre....

It was notable that the article felt it was significant that "Hootch" Houtchens was one of the three who "survived the full four quarters of the New Year's game with Centre...."