"We've Got To Have A New Stadium-NOW!"
Centre had long since outgrown its football stadium. Winnie Churchill, the Harvard back who had come to Danville during Christmas vacation in 1920, actually went to Cheek Field and torn off a piece of the stands to take back to Cambridge.
The incident revealed much. You just aren't able to go to many stadiums and rip off a piece to keep as a memento! However, such was the case at Centre. The old wooden stadium had been shorn up, patched, altered, expanded when a huge crowd was expected, shrunk when a segment became too unstable, and was basically just barely holding on until some other structure could be raised and allow it to be put out of its misery.
Uncle Charlie was determined to be the executioner of the old, and oversee the birth of the new.
"We've got to have a new stadium- now!"
When Uncle Charlie got into gear, things began to happen.
The plans for the stadium, and the plan to finance it, went through an evolutionary process. Uncle Charlie had a friend who did a rendering and then drew up the plans for construction at no cost. It was decided to build the stadium so that the field ran north and south rather than its present east-west configuration. One reason, perhaps the main one, was that with games being played in the afternoon, the present set-up meant that the teams were battling the sun half the time, because as it set, it was directly in the players eyes when they were running their offense in that direction.
Originally, the stands were going to be constructed only between the 25 yard lines, with the ability to stretch them further toward the goal line as financing permitted.
However, the revised plan called for the stadium to go the full 100 yards of the playing field.
The west stands were to be the "home" seats and the press box was to sit at the top of that portion of the structure. That side was to be a few rows higher than the east side.
A track would circle the playing field, and a baseball diamond would be just west of the football stadium. A fence would circle the entire "athletic complex," and two columned gates were to be constructed at the entrance on the north side.
If Uncle Charlie could pull it off, it was going to be quite a facility, and Centre and the citizens of Danville and Kentucky would be extremely proud of what had been accomplished.
Stadium with track, enclosing fence, and gates. The baseball field is shown exactly where it was when I played baseball for Centre in 1960-61.
All of us were really interested in what the new stadium would look like. I remember that people were saying that it would eventually be a small Harvard Stadium. Uncle Charlie wanted to build the two sides and then later enclose the south end, making it a horseshoe, and eventually put columns around the top like Harvard's. The way he had it planned, it would seat 12,000, and when the end zone part was built, it would have a capacity of well over 15,000. That would accommodate any crowd, even Kentucky at Homecoming.
The proceeds from the football program had already jump-started the financing by contributing $25,000. The original scheme by Uncle Charlie was to raise the required funding by selling "pieces" of the stadium. A person could buy an inch or several inches, a foot, a yard, a section, and so forth. However, there was a new proposal defined by the slogan, "Say it with Cement!"
It was calculated that 18,000 barrels of cement would be needed to complete the stadium. A barrel cost $3.15, so approximately $57,000 would need to be raised above the $25,000 which had already been allocated. $82,000 would cover razing the old stadium, relocating the field, creating the track, fencing in the whole complex and paying the contractor for the new stadium's construction. ( $1,300,000 in today's dollar valuation. )
Newspapers were contacted and they agreed to publicize and support the stadium building fund. Typical was the article by sports editor Robert E. Dundon in the Louisville "Herald" when the campaign kicked off in March of 1923.
Centre College tomorrow starts a drive which should have the backing of every sport loving Kentuckian. It is to obtain for this plucky little college in Boyle County, which, like David proceeding against Goliath, carried the hopes and prayers of Kentucky over the modern Goliath of the gridiron, Harvard, in the never-to-be-forgotten fall of 1921, a modern, complete athletic stadium, a picture of which appears in today's issue of the "Herald. "
Boyle Country, home of the Colonels, has started the financial ball rolling. We shall pass the good word along for Charlie Moran's plan, and trust that there shall be no slippage in this campaign to give Old Centre a home field worthy of its success abroad and there.
The stadium drive was going to be concentrated on 3 main forces.
First, Uncle Charlie was venerated across the state and had also made a lot of friends throughout the country. He would be the engine that propelled the whole endeavor.
Secondly, Centre, though small, had prominent alumni sprinkled across the state and nation, and they would be called on to lead the effort in their communities.
Lastly, the Colonels' players, past and present, had achieved such recognition, and were held in such high esteem, that they were naturals to participate in the fundraising, not only in Danville, but throughout the state.
On March 3, letters had gone out to alumni all over the state and nation designating certain individuals to be chairmen who would spearhead the campaign in their area. McBrayer Moore was made the overall chairman. Louisville was to be a major focus, and the goal was to raise $15,000 in the city, slightly over one quarter of the $57,000 additional total needed. Uncle Charlie and McBrayer Moore kicked off the Louisville effort by personally attending the organizing breakfast and "fired up the troops" with speeches.
Local Danville businesses made pledges. The motion picture theaters had designated "stadium" movies in which a percentage of the ticket sales were donated to the drive. A local lumber firm, Bland and Stagg, pledged a new scoreboard which "would be a thing of beauty and would be thoroughly in keeping with the symmetrical proportions of the structure." Joe Stagg also announced that he was sending out 200 letters to his friends in the lumber business soliciting donations.
Uncle Charlie spent every available moment traveling and speaking until he had to return to his umpiring job. He'd address the Lexington Rotarians at a breakfast and hop on a train and meet with the Ashland Kiwanis Club in the evening. He went to Owensboro with natives, Hump, Tom Bartlett and Terry Snowday. Herb Covington and Hennie Lemon from Mayfield, accompanied their coach to an engagement in that far western part of Kentucky.
Ben Cregor went to Springfield, Kentucky, his home town, with Uncle Charlie. Of course, Red and Uncle Charlie went to Somerset, and then Red toured eastern Kentucky by himself, and "brought home the bacon," which was over $1,500.
Louisville quickly raised $4,000 and Uncle Charlie and McBrayer Moore decided to send a group of students from Louisville, football players and non-players, led by Paul Bickel, who was from a prominent family, to canvas businesses and professional organizations. Uncle Charlie then made a second trip to the city and returned feeling confident that the $15,000 goal would be met.
The "Messenger" started a movement to get non-alumni to pledge.
Get behind the campaign. Support it and "Say it with Cement." Build it for loyalty, for spirit, for grandeur, for strength of Old Centre. Become a member of the class and be called a "Stadium Builder."
The fraternities had fund raisers and the girls from K.C.W. and the Kentucky School for the Deaf did the same. Local businesses followed Joe Stagg's lead and sent out letters to their suppliers asking for a donation. For example, if a hardware store purchased from Belknap, the big wholesaler in Louisville, one could be certain that when the salesman for the company came into town, he was going to head back to Louisville with a request for a donation to hand to his superiors. All of these efforts helped the city of Danville in reaching its goal of $8,000.
Alumni in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Lexington- cities all across the country, began sending in money.
Henry L. Farrell, the sports editor of the United Press wire service syndicate, sent out a story to several hundred newspapers throughout the country which subscribed to the company's service.
Little Centre College in Kentucky is spectacular in everything it does. That is one reason why Centre is no longer little, but has a spectacular football team that has appeal all over the country.
Centre is going after a new stadium, and the college leaders are getting at it in the same spectacular way. A campaign slogan of "Say it with Cement" was adopted, and friends are asked to "kick in" with a barrel or two.
Uncle Charlie Moran, the football coach who mends the shoes of his boys and sews their uniforms, is going about the stadium project with the same vim and vigor as he coaches. About 18,000 barrels of cement at $3.15 each are going to be needed. The "Praying Colonels" want their friends in the East to, "Say it with Cement!"
Damon Runyon, the famous newspaperman and short story writer, sent a check.
Rube Goldberg, a nationally syndicated cartoonist, creator of "Boob" McNutt and "Steve, Himself," contributed 10 barrels and sent a note which said, "I've been saying it with cement for years through my characters. That's what their brains are made of!"
Ring Lardner, sports columnist and master of the short story, had become a great fan of the Colonels and sent $31.50, good for 10 barrels. He also sent a warm note which described how he was thrilled at the little school's courageous and clean play on football fields all over the country, and his hope that the drive was a big success.
G.B. Woodcock, formerly of Danville but presently living in Newtonville, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, sent a check for $400.00. His accompanying letter stated he "had no trouble raising the money, as the people in and around Boston think more of Centre College than any team that has ever played in the Stadium, and the Colonels are admired all over New England for their play and clean sportsmanship."
General of the Armies ( a rank reached by no other living officer in the history of the United States ) John J. Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Force during the Great War, sent a letter to the fundraising committee endorsing the idea of Centre building a new structure for football. He wrote, "The prowess of Centre's famous football team demands the erection of a stadium appropriate to their achievements."
Army and Thad McDonnell were working the timber business in Pennsylvania after Army finished his coaching duties with Bo at Centenary. The two Centre alumni sent $12.60 with a note that they wished it could be more, but the business was slow due to a huge amount of snow.
Army-"I'll be in Canada for the next 3-4 weeks buying for my company. Can I express a case of Johnnie Walker?"
(Canada had not imposed the insanity of prohibition.)
Bo came through Danville on the way to New York "in the interest of a Louisiana royalty concern in which he is connected." He brought a check for $100.00.
And, so it went. Money continued to pour into Danville from all points in the country. Finally, a check arrived which, though small, made the papers due to its uniqueness.
Please find my check for $3.15 for a barrel of cement.
I am not a wealthy man, and at the present an inmate in the state reformatory.
I was born one of twelve children in a log cabin and never had a chance to attend college, but I am true Kentuckian and love to see football games, and am certainly proud of the great record Centre has made. I pray that Centre will raise the amount needed for a new stadium.