Events After The Game And Bo's Dilemma
While the weather had made the play on the field more difficult, it had an even greater effect on Southern Californians regarding their mobility. Attendance at the game had certainly been curtailed by the roads, bridges and tracks which were buried or swept away. Those who had gotten into San Diego on that last train, or had driven down before the highways had been interrupted, now found themselves stranded. The hotels and restaurants filled with visitors, and one of the reasons for staging the Christmas Bowl inadvertently materialized, because a lot of money was being spent by those who couldn't get home.
Besides the money being incidentally spent by those stranded in San Diego due to the weather, it was later reported that having taken out insurance by the promoters of the game was indeed a prudent decision as they collected the majority of the $25,000 policy they had taken out against rain hurting the proceeds.
So, maybe it was a good idea to buy insurance against rain after all!
Centre's plan was to get ready for yet another party hosted by the "Kentucky Society" in the big ballroom of the Coronado. After taking part, the team was to pack and make one last journey back into San Diego to catch a Santa Fe northbound train at midnight, and head back to Los Angeles in order to journey to Dallas. It would seem to be that the Colonels were going to head in the wrong direction, but there was no San Diego to Dallas direct route as we have discussed, so it was necessary to go back to Los Angeles and then head southeast.
Word was received when the Colonels got back to the hotel that the passenger representative at the station had called and said there was no way any train was going to be leaving on schedule. There were repairs that had to be made. The rain had lightened, but the fog was thicker than ever. The team was "stuck" at the del Coronado.
The players really didn't care. They were in one of the nicest places they'd ever known. The food was great, there was a wonderful orchestra, and they knew that they had a week before the January 2 game in Dallas with Texas A&M.
Many of the guests staying at the hotel wandered in and out of the ballroom, wanting to greet the players, and have photographs made and get menus for the banquet and programs from the game autographed.
The Kentucky Society of San Diego banquet
The Society members and menu for the banquet after the game
When they asked for Bo, they received a surprising answer.
"You're looking for Bo? Bo McMillin?"
They'd then point to one of the large windows facing the Pacific. "If that fog would let up out there, you may be able to see him. He's on his way to Los Angeles."
When that answer was met with an incredulous look, and the comment that, "No ship would be out in that fog," they were told, "You should never underestimate the United States Navy."
The fact that no trains could get out of San Diego, and there was no assurance when they would start rolling again, was a serious matter to Bo. There were wedding parties in Fort Worth that he was supposed to attend. The plan, before the tracks were washed out, was for the team to arrive in his home town for a short layover on Thursday the 29th, during which time Bo would hop off and join his fiancee, Marie, while everyone else would continue on to Dallas. There was a big party scheduled for that night, and affairs the next 3 nights leading up to the wedding. How could he start off a marriage to his long-time love without even attending his own parties?
Bo remembered meeting Captain Randolph at the Naval Air Base, the individual who had played for Uncle Charlie at A&M.
"Unc, would you call him? See if he can get me on the base. Maybe the weather will clear and I can catch a flight in one of those planes if someone's going up to Los Angeles."
"Bo, I've told you for years that you've always had big ideas, and you've always been able to pull them off. But this is the dumbest thing you've ever… "
"Unc, I'm desperate."
"Look, I'll try to get through. Probably can't do it. But, if I can, I'm not going to be asking any such dang nonsense sort of question. If I get through, I'm handing you the telephone."
Uncle Charlie finally got connected to the base, and to his surprise, was put through by the switchboard operator to his former player.
"Captain, I've got someone here who wants to ask you a question."
Bo took the phone and explained the bind he was in.
Uncle Charlie looked puzzled when he heard Bo say, "Really? Really? I'll be right over."
It was only about 125 miles up the coast to Los Angeles. A fast destroyer, cruising at 30 knots, could easily make the trip in 4 hours, arriving in plenty of time to allow Bo to catch the scheduled 8:30 A.M. Southern Pacific departure out of Los Angeles. Or, if the weather cleared sufficiently, a plane would only take about an hour.
Destroyer at speed
The story which was passed down over the years to this point is plausible. Bo apparently did head to the Naval Base in an attempt to see if he could hitch a ride on a plane or get on a ship which was headed to Los Angeles just as Captain Randolph had said he'd try to help arrange.
It is accepted that the departure from San Diego after the Christmas Bowl game was delayed due to the effects on train travel secondary to the storm damage to the tracks from the record deluge, and this was a major concern for Bo.
Also, it is accepted that the whole trip's events from that point on until the arrival in Dallas, especially the later stop-over for a day in El Paso, were late by a day due to that delay.
However, as much as it would add to Bo's legend to have had the Navy pull some strings and help him get to Los Angeles the evening after the Christmas Bowl, it seems it is possible that it simply may not have happened.
A story originating in Abilene was published on Friday morning, December 30, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Uncle Charlie interviewed during the layover in Abilene the morning of December 30
It was clearly reported in a separate, boxed story in the same issue of the paper that Bo was with the team and was to get off the train in Fort Worth to join his family for the wedding activities.
According to the above dispatch....."Bo" McMillin is expected to stop off here.....
Therefore, Bo must have been on the train with the rest of the team and didn't arrive a day earlier on the 29th in Fort Worth as originally scheduled, which he had hoped would allow him to attend the first scheduled party that night.
HOWEVER, it is entirely possible there is another explanation about what happened.
Bo could have thought that the delay in the departure from the del Coronado was going to be greater than the 16 1/2 hours that it eventually turned out to be.
He MAY have actually gotten to Los Angeles courtesy of the Navy but then discovered that the delay for the rest of the team from San Diego wasn't going to be so major as he had feared, and that the Colonels' newly scheduled next leg of the trip, the leg from Los Angeles to Fort Worth and then Dallas, was going to allow him to arrive in time after all for all of the parties he wanted to attend except the one scheduled for the 29th.
So, Bo could actually have gotten to Los Angeles early thanks to the Navy but waited and joined the rest of Centre's people for the continuation of the trip when they arrived later from San Diego.
I'd like for that to be true and possibly it is! That Bo McMillin was one of the few people in the country so admired and famous that he could have gotten the United States Navy to ferry him up the west coast in order to catch a train!
I vaguely remember my father telling me something resembling the story about Bo and the Navy which has entered the lore, but unlike so many stories that I remember which Dad repeated more than once as he got older, I can't be certain if he spoke about the events of the evening following the Christmas Bowl or not.
Also, I can find nothing to substantiate the story about Bo and the Navy in any of the contemporary reports. Hopefully, someone else has more information. If so, I have a contact page available.
One positive aspect about an online book is that new information can always be edited in if appropriate.
The party at the del Coronado lasted until 2:30 in the morning. The players slept in late. By early afternoon, the weather had finally cleared and the Bay was completely smooth as the big ferry transported the Colonels once again back to the San Diego wharf.
It was 4:30 in the afternoon, 16 ½ hours past the scheduled departure, before the train pulled out of the San Diego station toward Los Angeles, the faithful "Cowdrey" trailing along on the end of the train which had extra cars to accommodate the fans who had been stranded.
The conductor told the Colonels that the engineers weren't certain how long it would take to get to LA as the track had only been temporarily repaired in some sections.
Despite the weather, it had been an exciting time in San Diego. The hospitality had been almost overwhelming.
Time after time, the players had marveled at how nice everyone had been over the years when they went on the road. It was the same everywhere they had traveled. They were met with smiles and treated royally, whether in Boston or Birmingham, Charlottesville or Charleston, Lexington or Louisville, Fort Worth, Denver, San Francisco or Los Angeles, everywhere!- and now in San Diego.
One of the last things that Hump said as he boarded the train and thanked the members of the "Kentucky Society" who had been so supportive, was, "Thanks for all you've done. And now I know why they chose your town for that Navy base. You folks certainly don't lack for water!"