Chapter 68

A Day In Los Angeles

When the Colonels awakened on Thursday morning, December 22, they were still north of Los Angeles, being hauled with the Southern Pacific "Lark," an overnight, all-Pullman consist which traveled between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Departing from San Francisco actually required ferrying over the bay to Oakland for boarding. 

On the way to Los Angeles in the morning of December 22

It was a popular train for taking Californians between the state's 2 major cities. You went to the station and boarded for an evening departure, perhaps heading to the lounge car and having a cocktail or two if a flask were brought along, and then turned in for the night. The next morning you awakened, went to the dining car for breakfast, and rolled into LA or San Francisco, depending upon which way you were traveling, and disembarked at 9:00 AM., rested, fed, and ready to spend the day doing whatever.

The Colonels had a "Lark" experience, except for having their own private "Cowdray," when they climbed down the steps to head to the Los Angeles Southern Pacific Terminal. ( The Los Angeles Union Station, constructed to service the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Santa Fe, wasn't built until 1939.)

The usual large number of press representatives was at the station.

Headline from "The Record"

Los Angeles "Evening Herald" published a picture of the team standing on the platform. Each of the squad was dressed in suits, ties and overcoats, as usual. An inset photo showed Uncle Charlie, Army, Bo and Red, all looking very dapper.

In addition to the press, alumni and fans, there was a special person on the platform awaiting the team's arrival.

Jack Dempsey, the "Manassa Mauler," heavyweight champion since 1919, and arguably the most famous and popular boxer of all time, came up to Uncle Charlie and introduced himself. He asked if he could spend the day with the Colonels, and he did. Dempsey seemed to be as in awe of the Centre team as each member of the squad was impressed with him.

Jack Dempsey who spent the day with the Colonels

"Can you believe it? Jack Dempsey!"

Dempsey playfully shadow-boxed with Red and said, "Come on big fellow. Let's see what you have."

Red was nonplussed and smiled.

"Mr. Dempsey, I really wouldn't want to hurt you," which received an appreciative laugh from all who stood around.

The alumni had arranged transportation to take the Colonels to Bovard Field, home stadium of the University of Southern California. Inside the stadium, Uncle Charlie and the team were met by the athletic director, coaching staff, and student manager who welcomed them to USC.

"Whatever you need and we can provide, just say the word." It was typical of the courtesies shown everywhere that Centre went.

After donning their gear, it was time for more photographs. The San Diego "Tribune," the afternoon partner of the morning San Diego "Union," had sent a photographer and reporter up by train to cover the team for both of the papers.

The evening paper published a picture showing 13 Colonels in uniform along with Coaches Moran and Thornhill.

After the workout, again on a somewhat wet field like that in San Francisco, the squad showered and then headed to the Famous Players-Lasky Studio, created in 1916 by the merger of the two companies, located on Vine Street from Selma Avenue to Sunset Boulevard. Their day was covered by the Los Angeles "Times" among other papers.

Los Angeles "Times" coverage

The "Praying Colonels" visit to Los Angeles was well covered by the LA press

The actors and actresses shut down production on the various big stages when the Colonels would walk in, fascinated and pleased that they were having an opportunity to meet the celebrated Kentuckians.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure of introducing the famous team from Centre College back in Kentucky, the team that beat Harvard this past October."

Applause would erupt from performers and stagehands as each of the buildings was toured.

There was a production in progress starring a 22 year old actress named Gloria Swanson. Despite her young age, Swanson had already appeared in over 20 films, working with, amongst others, the legendary director, Cecil B. DeMille. Swanson appeared in 5 movies made in 1922, all under the direction of Sam Wood.

When the Colonels entered the stage where Swanson was involved in a scene, Wood shouted "CUT!" and all action ceased. After introductions, Bo was asked to show the actress how a tackle was made. A quick dash to the prop department uncovered a football which was handed to Swanson who dutifully followed her director's instructions.

The resulting photograph was a classic, and was carried in newspapers all across the country.

Bo is bent over, smiling into the camera, with his hands behind Swanson's knees. Army and an actress named May McAvoy have their hands on Bo's shoulder. Swanson holds the football under her left arm, her expression one of minimal amusement at best. Sam Wood is next to Army, shown "directing" the shoot.

On the left margin are Uncle Charlie, John McGee, team manager, and an unknown man.

Bo "tackling" Gloria Swanson with Army's hand on Bo

Gloria Swanson received top billing above "Rodolph" Valentino in this Sam Wood production which opened soon after the team visited Hollywood. "Rodolph" Valentino soon became Rudolph Valentino, the major male sex star of the 1920's.

Uncle Charlie far left with Bo next to Gloria Swanson. Tiny Thornhill is directly behind Swanson with Army right of Tiny and Hump Tanner holding the actresses' hand.

Bo looking somewhat embarrassed by Swanson's embrace with actress May McAvoy holding his leg

Left to right- Army, Thornhill, Tanner. Uncle Charlie is standing right, front, with Bill Shadoan over his shoulder

After the studio tour, the buses took the Colonels on a tour of Los Angeles, already a sprawling city of 575,000. The alumni and friends of Centre hosted a dinner in the evening at the recently opened ( January 1, 1921 ) Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, designed by the renown Myron Hunt, also the architect of the Rose Bowl which was under construction at the time in Pasadena.

The team was accompanied all day by Eddie Alcott of the San Diego "Union" who wired a story back to his paper which would appear in the next morning's edition. He described the workout at Bovard Field.

By far the greatest part of the workout was given to passing, fake passes and line plays from passing formations, and it was the passing exhibition of the team that furnished both the spectacular and puzzling part of their showing. Apparently the Centre backs pass from any angle, at will and without any premeditation- on the spur of the moment. They pass with a nonchalance that sometimes amounts to obvious carelessness, and yesterday, amazing passes alternated with fumbles. It was this particular carelessness-call it virtuosity- that puzzled the crowd that watched.

Bo McMillin is, of course, the star performer in this department. Sometimes, Bo runs a step with the ball before throwing it- sometimes he calmly turns his back on that stonewall line and walks back toward his goal. Most often though, he zig-zags back, eluding imaginary tacklers, looking in one direction and shooting the ball in another. The receiving units also executed a criss- cross behind the opposing line so that in most cases, there were at least 3 men on either wing, ready to receive the throw.

McMillin 's ability to shake off opposition and take his own sweet time to throw is said by his teammates to have been a feature of his phenomenal career this year. While in practice, some of his passing feats looked impossible for actual playing conditions, any Colonel will tell you that Bo has "pulled" them time and time again.

Orcutt had a bylined second story in that same issue of the paper in which he gave his impression of Uncle Charlie and the coach's approach to his team.

While the Centre College Colonels were doing their stuff yesterday on the marshy wastes of Bovard Field, a sturdy middle-aged man in a flapping raincoat paddled nonchalantly through the puddles and whipped them on with a line of talk which kept them moving all the time.

He didn't raise his voice, particularly- this man in the floppy raincoat- but everybody heard him. The man was Uncle Charlie Moran, head coach of Centre College. The voice that he used was the same that he employs every spring and summer in the major league ball parks, calling balls and strikes.

Sarcasm, entreaty, disgust- every inflection of Uncle Charlie's voice reached its mark very emphatically, and the boys of the Gold and White had no difficulty in getting his meaning.

Coach Moran has a "line" all his own, and a big part of the show on Bovard Field was listening to it.

"Yahl!" sang Uncle Charlie, turning the single syllable to the nth power of I- told- you-so disgust.

Someone didn't move fast enough.

"Come out of that- don't start growing in the mud- you cranberry!"

Or, again-

"Well, you're a nice boy. I'll give you one more chance."

A man just sent into the lineup failed to catch a signal.

"All right, Flip. Fine stuff. I ought to snatch you right back out of there. "

"Well! Well! If you're going no place, stand aside and let the rest of 'em move on."

"Terrible Terry" Snowday kicked it high, but it went out of bounds.

"Well, isn't that just fine?" Moran beamed. "Can't kick beyond your own 10- yard line. Honest, I know a little tyke in kindergarten who can beat that."

Three times in succession, forward passes were incomplete because of the "thrower" not leading the runner far enough. The last time the runner twisted to make the catch and fell with a splash into one of the many lagoons.

"Oh-ouch! Say, I'm sorry. I forgot to tell you boys the field was muddy. On a muddy field, always lead the runner. Throw it up above his knees. Also, on a dry field- or any kind of field. I've only told you 50 times. Sorry I forgot to tell you again. "

"Well, well, what are you standing around for? Can't swim?"

Somehow, it didn't make anybody sore. The men dug into the muddy grass all the harder. The unfortunate "mermaid" who had taken the spill grinned through his mask of mud and jumped to his place in the lineup.

Occasionally, when the boys pulled a circus play that seemed impossible, they got a dram of praise.

"Well!" Uncle Charlie would exclaim in an umpire's whisper that would shake the goalposts.