Chapter 42

On To Harvard!

The "Harvard Special," which had to be cancelled due the inability of the students to be excused from classes, was to have departed from Danville's station at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, October 26. Now that the Pullmans were going to be connected to a regularly scheduled north-bound Southern Railroad passenger train on the "Queen and Crescent" route, the team and fans would pull out at 6:00 AM.

Despite the early hour, a large and enthusiastic crowd had already gathered on the platform and all around the building when the players arrived to board.

My brother, Howard, was at the station ready to board. I was really happy for him but wished I could get on the train with him.

Clipping from the Robertson scrapbook compiled by Red Robertson's mother, Mary Eyre Wintersmith Robertson with her comment inked

Crowd waiting for cars to be hooked up on the "Queen and Crescent" route at the Southern Railroad Station in Danville

Bo shaking hands ( flirting? ) with Lucy Covington, shorter lady. Lucy Maie Covington was the 17 year-old younger sister of Herb Covington. She was a senior in the preparatory             ( high ) school of K.C.W. and attended the game with her parents.

Howard Reynolds carried his well-used typewriter to one of the Pullmans which had been part of the consist which was to be coupled to the arriving train and pounded out a story. He had less than an hour to complete it, as he wanted to jump off in Lexington and hand it to the Western Union operator at the Southern station there.

Even if the sun had hardly gotten out of bed, the entire student body and it seemed like all of Danville flocked to the station to give the team a send-off only equaled by that which it received a year ago.

There is no getting away from this Kentucky spirit. There is no thought of failure on Saturday left behind in Danville, any more than there is in the minds of those who are making the trip. Such a spirit cannot help but cause admiration. To think that such a little college can possess it after those defeats administered last year by Harvard and Georgia Tech is truly inspiring.

The Centre team of 1919 had run over such opponents as Indiana, the conquerors of Syracuse, and West Virginia, an eleven that had beaten Princeton when Harvard had been held to a tie by those same Tigers.

After the two defeats of last year, these boys showed they had learned the lesson to "carry on." These boys, particularly McMillin, had hammered it to the younger set that no matter how hard you get handled in football, as long as your opponent does it in a legitimate manner, you take it without batting an eye, and that no man knows how good he really is until he has received a wallop and all that was needed was to show he could recover from such a wallop.

The efforts of Uncle Charlie, Bo and Captain Armstrong were concentrated on the gospel of "carrying on," that the real man and the real team was the one which could smile under a hard jolt and recover the faith, and that Centre indeed had the "stuff," and was able to move on.

The Centre cheerleaders were again leading the crowd in shouting their encouragement. The Southern Railroad had allowed the Colonels' fans to chalk messages on the sides of the Pullmans, unlike the year before.

Red Roberts waving to fans. 

Chalking best wishes on a Pullman. 

31-14- 1920

Howard Reynolds also wrote about an incident which happened just before he boarded the train.

An aged native of the foothills stepped to the door of the Pullman and handed Moran a package.

He whispered, "It is for the boys. It is cold and rainy up there. "

The package when opened proved to be a quart jar of moonshine. A sweet potato was plugged in the broad mouth of the jar to hold the contents in.

The team settled into their charted car named the "Gudrun," a 14-section Pullman which had been the last connected to the train, and waved from the windows as the big steamer slowly pulled out of the station. Someone mentioned that Red Roberts wasn't aboard. Uncle Charlie sent out a search party which looked through the train. No sight of Red was found. The Centre contingent was getting more than a little concerned.

"Did anybody see Red get on for certain?"

"Here's his suitcase. I know he must be here somewhere."

It wasn't until they stopped in Lexington that Red was located, along with Roscoe. Red and his helper had been in the engine, stoking coal. When the train stopped, Red hopped down, wearing the engineer's hat and had his picture taken which appeared in the Lexington papers.

Red Roberts in the engine with engineer's cap.

 Roscoe and Red 

Uncle Charlie greeted his star when he finally returned to the team's Pullman. "Redhead, you big lug. You put a scare in us. We thought we'd left you behind. You pull another stunt like that, and we'll put you in a Railway Express car and ship you back to Somerset, collect."

"Aw, Unc..."

The crowd greeting the Colonels in Lexington wasn't as large as the previous year because many of the Lexingtonians had expected the "Harvard Special" to arrive at 9:00 AM rather than 7:00. But those who had gotten word when the team would arrive made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers. At the layover, two additional Pullmans was hooked in front of the Colonels' to be occupied by fans from Lexington and Louisville. 

Chalked messages on the cars included:




As the train slowly pulled away from the Lexington station, shouts were heard from the waving fans on the platform.

"Get 'em this year guys!"

"We're behind you all the way!"

Then it was north-bound over the tracks to Cincinnati where the Southern Railroad's system joined the tracks of the "Big Four," a portion of the New York Central's extensive Midwestern rails. There was a one-hour layover in the Queen City, and the Colonels hiked to a nearby diner for lunch.

The Chief was quoted as saying that, "If those boys consume many more meals like they did this noon, we'll have to correct our weight average when we get to Boston."

From Cincinnati north, the Centre "5" went through the cars and entertained the team and passengers. Thomas Mercer and John Eads with their saxophones, J.B. Lusk, the drummer, and Arthur Tuttle, known as a "banjo artist," were greatly appreciated as they circulated throughout the Pullmans. J.W. Randall, the pianist, could also play the mandolin, and joined in.

When the train pulled into Columbus, Ohio, over 500 people were at the station, the crowd swelled by fans who came out to see a local member of the team, Joe "Chick" Murphy.

Chick Murphy

A similar reception occurred at a stop in Middletown, Ohio, where the added attraction was native son, Ray Class, a drop-kicker. While the train was stopped, the Centre "5" quickly got organized on the station platform, and "romped to the delight of the crowd."

At 6:00 PM, the travelers pulled into Cleveland to connect their Pullmans to the 20th Century Limited for the express run east. Several of the reporters jumped off while the cars were being hooked up and sent stories back to their papers, with the dateline being,  Oct. 26 Cleveland, O.- aboard the Centre Special. 

The Centre "5" hopped off again and fired up some quick tunes while the travelers stretched their legs.

Centre "5" on baggage cart entertaining. 

The trip east took a little longer than the year before, with several regular stops that hadn't been made in 1920 on the "Harvard Special." 

Lucy Crawford at a break along the trip to Boston

It was after dinner on Wednesday evening when Uncle Charlie, Tiny and the Chief, firmed up the game plan that Army and Bo had promoted.

"We've discussed it with Captain Armstrong and Bo," the coaches explained. "We're going to run the ball. We're going to play for field position. It's defense that's going to win this game."

Tiny Thornhill had confidence that he had the horses in the line to play Harvard evenly. Much had been written over the last few years about the Centre offense. It was indeed a marvelous machine. But the defense was just as important a part of the team's great success.

The first 4 games of 1921 were actually contests in which defensive play was emphasized. Centre's coaches knew exactly what they were doing in the two 14-0 wins over Clemson and VPI. They had scheduled teams with enough of an attack to challenge their defense. Now, that part of the team's game was going to either win or lose the upcoming contest with the Crimson.

"We may not pass in the first half."

"We may punt on third down unless we have a short-yardage situation. And even if we have short yardage, we may still punt on third down if we're deep in our own territory."

"We won't show them anything but our basic offense in the first half. Nothing fancy at all. If we can get to the half by holding them scoreless, we'll have a great chance to win. As a matter of fact, we will win."

"We must swarm on defense. Go in low. Protect your position. If you see that a play is definitely going the other way, cut them off by running laterally. But make certain first that they're not running a reverse."

"Ends. Don't let them get outside of you. Turn them in. The rest of that side of the line, and linebackers, will bring them down."

"Make them pay for every yard."

"Eleven men in on every play."

"Play hard, but play clean. Remember that you are Centre, and you are representing Old Centre."

As Centre's team was rolling toward Boston, Bob Dunbar, Boston "Herald" sports columnist, revealed some "inside information" about the Harvard team that pointed out some of the differences in playing for the Crimson verses being on the Colonels' squad.

Harvard takes exceptional care of the physical being of its football men. The Crimson spares no expense. Take the shoulder pads the Harvard men wear. Each player must have one of these specially molded leather pads, made from special individual molds of each shoulder, and they fit perfectly to the contour of the player's body. That is why there are so few shoulder injuries at Cambridge. These pads are expensive, more so than the average paraphernalia, or the cost of even better than regular, but non-custom pads, for they cost $30.00 each, a lot of money for such a little article. But it saves the players and the team. The daily reports from other colleges are replete with the sad details of cracked collar bones and shoulder blades. This is a vital and characteristic bit of the "System" across the Charles.

( Centre, by contrast, was buying shoulder pads from A.G. Spalding. The college was billed $2.50 a pair for, "Moran style shoulder pads." )

In the same column, Dunbar wrote about a phone call he had received.

A young lady called to ask Centre's colors. When I told her yellow and white, I hope she did not misunderstand me. Bo McMillin's personal color is a blue streak.

( Centre's colors were actually gold and white. )

After dinner had been served, the Centre "5" got permission to perform in the lounge car and set up to play. Several of the Kentuckians danced the evening away, as the 20th Century Limited had crossed northeastern Ohio, cut through the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, and hugged the south shore of Lake Erie, heading east across New York.

The team turned in early. They would dance later, but now were conserving every bit of their energy for the game.

The 20th Century Limited had two sections which separated in Albany, New York, with one part of the train continuing east to Boston, and the other proceeding south into Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

Centre's team and fans headed due east from Albany to Boston on the route which continues to this day

The Pullmans filled with the team and fans continued along with the Boston-bound section of the Limited, and were hooked onto train # 25 of the Boston and Albany, a subsidiary of the New York Central.

The train steaming east out of Springfield, Ma. toward Boston

It was the last leg of a long trip from Danville.

On the way from Danville to Boston

The Kentuckian's arrived at Boston's Back Bay Station at 1:00 PM, some 31 hours after they had left Danville. There were over 1,000 enthusiastic supporters, including many native Bostonians, who wanted to welcome the Colonels back after their showing of the previous October. Howard Reynolds caught up with Bo as he was shaking hands with everyone who could get near him.

"Wonderful reception, Bo. What do I tell my readers about how you feel your chances are when I write my next story?"

"You can tell them that I, and the whole team, wouldn't be here if we didn't think we were going to win."