Chapter 107

Construction Begins- May 1923

By mid-April, satisfied that the campaign was on solid footing, Uncle Charlie headed back to Horse Cave for a short stay and then once again donned his black uniform and returned to his National League umpiring job. Everything was on in place for the actual construction to begin.

The "Messenger" reported on the first day's activity, as the dissembling of the old structure and then excavation and grading began.

Twenty local, colored football enthusiasts have volunteered their services for two days each as work on the stadium gets underway. This is very laudable.

The beginning of construction with volunteers. The old stadium had been nearly totally torn down. 

The best timbers from the former stadium were stacked for use in building the bleachers of the baseball facility. Also, planks were saved for possible use in building temporary end zone bleachers if the need arose.

On April 23, Hickman Carter, business manager of the college, announced that 7 contractors had been sent specs for the construction, and bids would be opened on May 5. Meanwhile, a notice went out that if cash was paid, literally on the barrelhead when cement arrived, a 10% discount would be given, "so get those pledges in, as cement is on the way."

When the bids were opened, the Blanchford Construction Company of Dayton. Ohio was the low bidder. Work was to begin May 21, and the contractor stated that the project would be finished 1½ months before the October 6 opening game with Carson-Newman.

Twenty five tons of steel were shipped in by the Southern Railroad. Ten carloads, 2300 barrels of cement were on hand. Excavations for footings were completed, and it was projected that 75 men would soon be employed, many being Centre students who would join the Blanchford Construction regulars as soon as classes were completed.

There was a lot of excitement about the new stadium being built. Everyday we'd walk over to see what had been done. We felt like we were watching history being made. The old stadium had been there so long, constantly being repaired, and now we were going to have the best facility in the whole state of Kentucky.

I really couldn't wait to see it completed, but my problem was that I had to go back to Elizabethtown for the summer. I got reports from fraternity brothers who stayed behind to work on the project. They would even draw pictures to show how things were progressing.

Students moving part of the old stadium to be stored for future use as temporary seats for 1923 Homecoming game with the University of Kentucky

Just before I'd gone back to E-town for the summer, I'd stopped by "Cousin Ella's" home in Danville and she'd gotten into her little purse and given me two $20.00 gold pieces to contribute to the fund for the stadium.

The minister at our church in Elizabethtown, First Presbyterian, preached a sermon around the "Praying Colonels" and what a great influence they were, and he said that if anyone wanted to help the fund raising drive, "Please see Red or Howard Robertson and they'll be glad to receive any amount you may wish to donate."

My father, William Howard Robertson, was an officer in a bank downtown. His father had been one of the founders of the First National Bank of Elizabethtown, and Dad talked to all of the businesses on the square and helped us raise money.

 The First National Bank of Elizabethtown was formed in 1883. The three principal organizers were James S. Grimes of Stanford, Kentucky, and Elizabethtown’s Colonel James W. Hays and Samuel Richard Robertson ( 1845-1886 ), Red Robertson's grandfather, who died from typhoid three years after the bank’s founding.

Interior of bank, with Red Robertson's father, William Howard Robertson, on left. This photo was taken in 1904.

First National Banknote signed by W.H. Robertson 

Eventually, we had over $400.00 which Dad used to buy a cashier's check to send to Centre. For years, I enjoyed seeing my father's name on bills that circulated around Elizabethtown because in those days, National Banks issued their own currency, and Dad hand-signed every one of them.

Red Robertson's father's hand-signed signature was on the banknotes which were issued by the First National Bank of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. This particular banknote is in the possession of the author's son, Robert Wintersmith Robertson III

Meanwhile, while the new stadium's progress was on the mind of everyone at Centre, Chief Myers was back in Chicago working on the upcoming Chautauqua season. On May 16, he decided to write to the members of the team, and his letter needs to be offered in its entirety to show the type of person the Chief was, and his approach to the players. Also, it is interesting to note the expressions of the time, some of which haven't been passed on through the generations.

Dear old fauna and flora:

It's time for you varmints to come out of your holes and rise and flutter, and this is my coy sweet way of telling you. Tempus is fugiting pretty fast, and before it is too late, I would like to have a few winged words with thee, or thou, as it were, and whisper some feeble remarks into your shell-like ear.

The main thing now is to see that you pass all of your work. You're on the home­ stretch now, and every day counts. Knowing of old your general "indisposition to commerce, and unfamiliarity with most forms of mental activity, I come tearing out of the under bush at this point to remind you to get your work in shape right now, in spite of the hot weather or cool, heck or high water, heavy dates or other impediments, if you want to pass time with the Colonels this fall. Don't take anything for granted. Don't try to slip through thinking that the faculty won't notice the difference between male bovine con and honest work. If you think so, you are wrong.

Keen eyesight? Why our faculty could pick fly specks out of pepper. Hang that pool cue on the weeping willow tree. Ram facts into your system with both hands, and get your work in shape, past, present, and future, until the professors cease to view you with alarm but begin to point with pardonable pride. Otherwise, the football world will know you no more, and you shall be cast into the outer darkness by the slack of your raiment, and there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Occasionally some freckled-minded genius tells me that since he has done so much for Centre in attending the college and playing on the world's most famous football team, somebody ought to do something big for him, endow him for life, I suppose. He intimates that if it hadn't been for him, the grass-grown walks that now lead to the buildings would carry one only into a howling wilderness where the hoot-owls gather like crows at a grey mule's funeral; but now that he has graced the institution with his presence, the goose hangs high, the students come pouring in like water over the cascades, and the professors stand up to their salaries like Hereford bulls eating prairie hay.

We know, of course, in our heart of hearts, that Centre owes none of us anything. We owe everything to Centre. What greater privilege could we have than to go to Centre and be a Praying Colonel? If you and I lived to be a thousand, we could never repay that debt. Think of the influence of Dr. "Sammy" Cheek, the knightly soul who has just left us. Think how he has touched every boy's life with upward impulse, given courage and character; and kept his eyes on the mountaintop. Repay Dr. Cheek and Centre for that? It would never be possible.

When you come back, bring a good man with you. Some big boy whose socks, perhaps, exist only in the realm of fancy. I mean a rawhide, pig iron lad who growls as he walks, and who could on slight provocation explode with loud report on the football field. Tack a buckskin patch on the gable end of his overalls, throw a half-hitch around his neck, lead him in and tie him to a stump in back of the gymnasium, and pray that he can pass the entrance requirements.

Brother, we have a mighty big job cut out for us. That schedule of ours puts us out in front. But things look fine, and we'll come through. Just do your college work right, and come back with brotherly love in your heart, and do your best, and we will win. That means glory old fellow, and the things that money can't buy. But fall down in your work now, and you will, in a manner of speaking, have your name carved on a little marble slab out amongst the jimson weeds and pickle bottles where once twixt the gloaming and the shank of the evening, the rank thistle nodded in the wind and the wild fox dug his hole unafraid.

Animal Kingdom, I'll be glad to see you all this fall, and will welcome you with even more spontaneous delight than Miss Woods in welcoming a tuition fee or any of us in greeting a live five or a spruce deuce up-jumping on the very first gallop.

Yours in old Centre, ROBERT L. "CHIEF" MYERS.

On June 10, Dr. R. Ames Montgomery was installed as the 15th president of Centre College. United States Senator Richard P. Ernest, Republican from Kentucky who had attended the 1921 Harvard game, introduced representatives from 15 colleges and universities who were in attendance.

Dr. R. Ames Montgomery

The annual Centre College Carnival was held and the King was Springfield, Kentucky's Ben Cregor, "Old Baldy."

Ben "Baldy" Cregor

During Carnival, Centre students published the first edition of a magazine called the "Centre Colonel." It was a 5-color, slick publication which was to provide a vehicle for the students to present their offerings of fiction, poetry and humor. Illustrations and the cover art were produced by the students, and it met with enthusiastic approval, "for its sophistication and professional appearance."

Student-produced "Centre Colonel" publication first issued in spring, 1923