Chapter 90

Heading Out from Cincinnati, Under the Seat

There was a porter who was going to stay with the Pullman all of the way to Boston, and he was then going to be in the car on the way back to Danville, too. There just wasn't any way I could keep avoiding him, because he was constantly going around checking to see if anyone needed something.

So Red gave him a couple of dollars and everything was ok with the porter. However, it was the conductor we worried about. Whenever there was a stop and people came onto the car to greet someone on the team, the conductor would come back to make sure they got off, and for awhile, he'd even check tickets, and of course, I didn't have one, so back in the duffle bag I'd go and some of the players would sit with their legs covering me while I was under a seat.

Red set up a system where whoever was sitting closest to the door of the car would holler out, "Beat Harvard!" if they thought the conductor was coming through, and I'd jump in the bag. I got where I could disappear really fast. The trouble was that Hump thought it was really funny to see me jump into the bag and roll over under a seat, so he'd call out "Beat Harvard!" even when there was no conductor coming, but Red told him to stop after everyone had some good laughs at my expense.

The team went to the dining car not long after we left Cincinnati and several guys brought me back a little food, and when it all added up, I had a pretty decent dinner. I was feeling great, riding along to the Harvard game, feeling awfully lucky to be traveling with the greatest group of guys I'd ever known, or ever would know, as a matter of fact.

But then it got late, and the porter came through to convert the seats into beds. He'd take the two seats which faced each other and flatten them into a bed, and pull down the bed tucked in the wall above that made a top bunk, and there was a curtain which he'd pull out that would close off the sleeping area, and that's where the guys would bed down. The seniors and juniors had first call on the lower bunks.

The problem was that I was odd man out. There was nowhere for me to sleep. So Red did the only thing I guess he could do. He said, "Let's go son, back in the bag."

And he packed me to the baggage car and told the conductor that he wanted to store his footballs, but we decided it was too cold so he packed me back to the team's Pullman and I slept on the floor, kind of under a seat, with the duffle bag around me so I could pull it up if needed.   

Bill Cunningham was a sportswriter for the Boston "Post."

( There was another Cunningham, Ed, who wrote for the Boston "Herald.")

As the team was speeding toward Boston, Cunningham wrote an article about the previous year's Centre victory over Harvard, and about Uncle Charlie. It was a very timely remembrance based on what was to transpire regarding the Centre coach's new play soon to be unveiled.

Saturday night, October 29 of last year, this writer was one of a small group of visitors seated in rickety, cane bottomed chairs in the back room of a newspaper office of a town down in Arkansas. It was a miserable night, with a driving rain chattering on a low corrugated roof of the place, and the unpaved street outside a swirling river. The one telegraph instrument that the office boasted was singing off the Eastern football scores, and we eagerly watched the operator's typewriter list them through the gray-blue haze of cigar smoke.

Yale 45                    Brown  7
Pitt  28                    Penn  0
Penn State 28       Georgia Tech  7
Cornell 59              Dartmouth  7
Princeton 34         Virginia  0

The wire tolled them off with exasperating nonchalance and deliberation.

Then a break.

Centre  6    Harvard  0

"I'll be damned, are you sure that's straight?"

"Absolutely,the operator said with his ear still against the tobacco tin he was using as a resonator after the fashion of all dyed-in-the-wool newspaper telegraphers.

"Well, Uncle Charlie has kicked through. I wish I were there to shake his hand."

The speaker was "Choctaw" Kelley, Charlie Moran's quarterback at Texas A&M and later Uncle Charlie's colleague at Carlisle.

Kelley went on to tell stories about how he had taken over from "Pop" Warner at the famous Carlisle Indian school in 1915 when Warner moved on to the University of Pittsburgh.

"Meanwhile, Uncle Charlie had left Texas A&M and I asked him to come up to Carlisle and help me coach the Indians, because I knew there was no better trainer or motivator in the country."

"We carried on 'Pop' Warner's way of coaching, and you know 'Pop' had a lot of trick plays. One time he painted exact replicas of footballs on the front of his player's jerseys in a game against Harvard, so it seemed like every player was carrying the ball!"

"I wouldn't be surprised if Uncle Charlie pulled something like that in beating Harvard."

Uncle Charlie hadn't introduced any such trickery in the 1921 win over Harvard, sticking to a very conservative game plan. But as Bostonians were reading Bill Cunningham's story in the morning's "Post," the Colonels were staring intently at a chalk board in the rear of the Pullman, going over repeatedly just how and when they were going to run the "lock-step" in Harvard Stadium.

I hadn't had any breakfast but Red and Hump took care of that by bringing me something from the dining car. 

I got to sit through the skull session that they were having about this new formation. It seemed really complicated, but Uncle Charlie kept saying that it was that very fact which should make it be effective.   

For some of the day, I sat by Howard Reynolds from the Boston newspaper which had done so much to get Harvard to play Centre. I heard him say that he had gotten a wire when he got off somewhere to send in a story that every seat to the game had been sold and that people were offering $50.00 or more to get a ticket.

I remember thinking, "Uh-oh."

What if I got all of the way to Boston and couldn't get in to see the game? I not only didn't have a ticket for the train, but I didn't have one for the game either.

Wouldn't that be something, to get all the way to Boston and have to stand outside wondering what was going on when people cheered?

So I asked if there were any tickets, not one?

"Not one ticket," Reynolds said. "Why do you ask?"

I told him my problem. I didn't have $50.00 to spare, even if I could locate some scalper to sell me a ticket.

Reynolds thought for a moment and then he said, "I can take an assistant in with me. I have a pass in order to cover the game from the press box for my paper. I can get another press pass when I get to my office at the paper and put your name on it, and you can sit in the press box and be my assistant. How would you like that, Red Roberts' son?"

How would I like it? Not only was I riding with the team, but I'd have one of the best seats in the whole Harvard Stadium, sitting up in the press box as Howard Reynolds' assistant!

Things were looking good!