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From the Archives

UCA’s First Post-Season Football Game – 1937

Fans of UCA Bear football have seen many post season games, with the first playoff game occurring after the 1976 regular season under head coach Ken Stephens.  There were only four teams in the playoff picture for 1976.  Coach Stephens’ team went on to defeat Elon College in UCA’s first ever National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Playoff game, 10 – 7. The win over Elon put UCA in the finals game with Texas A&I.  The Bears lost to powerhouse Texas A & I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) in the Champion Bowl in Kingsville, Texas by a score of 26-0.  Even though the Bears lost in the nationally televised title game, they proved that they belonged in the upper echelon of NAIA football schools.

The very first post-season football game that Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas – UCA) participated in was on Christmas Day in 1937.  The Bears were undefeated and untied during the 1936 and 1937 regular seasons, and had won 16 games in a row.  Due to their gridiron success, the Bears were considered a worthy opponent for the Fresno State College Bulldogs in the Charity Bowl played in Los Angeles, California.

Head coach, Warren Woodson, selected 27 players to make the trip, which also included his assistant coach, Herbert Ball, President and Mrs. Heber McAlister, and Mrs. Woodson.  Also making the trip were two newspaper reporters, one from the Arkansas Democrat – Allen Tilden, and one from the Arkansas Gazette – Ben Epstein.

A sizeable crowd of about 500 well-wishers, mostly students and members of the Bear Backers Club, were on hand to see the team off at the Missouri Pacific Station in Conway. Another sendoff took place later that evening when the train from Conway, with the Bear football team on board, rolled into the Missouri Pacific Station in Little Rock.  That sendoff event included several dignitaries, including Lt. Governor Bob Bailey, Attorney General Jack Holt, Secretary of State C.G. Hall, State Auditor J. Oscar Humphrey, Little Rock Mayor R.E. Overman, North Little Rock Mayor Ross Lawhon, D. Hodson Lewis, manager of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, D.L. Ford, member of the State Corporation Commission and W.E. Phipps, Commissioner of Education.

While headed to their destination in Los Angeles, the Missouri Pacific passenger train stopped in Fort Worth, Texas, so the Bears could practice at the stadium of Texas Christian University.  The Bears went through a morning practice and then boarded the train for their next stop in El Paso, Texas.

The Bears reached Los Angeles on December 23rd, and were the guests of well-known radio personality, Bob Burns.  According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “The Arkansas team was invited to a radio broadcast tonight, featuring Bob Burns, the former Van Buren, Ark., resident, and Crooner Bing Crosby.  Burns is a sponsor of the game, to be played for the benefit of a children’s milk fund.  Burns also has invited his fellow Arkansans to a big ‘shin-dig’ tonight’”

One of Hollywood’s screen stars was also in the studio with the Bear football team, Madge Evans.  Ms. Evans was also a guest on Burns’ show.

The Charity Bowl had two major sponsors, Bob Burns and Dorothy Lamour.  Burns was the host for the Bears and Lamour was the host for Fresno State College.

Bob Burns was born in Arkansas and spent most of his youth in Van Buren, Arkansas.  He was musically inclined and eventually became a famous radio personality.  He invented and played an instrument that he called the bazooka.  Burns’ instrument was so well known that during World War II the U.S. recoilless rocket anti-tank weapon was nicknamed, bazooka.

The game between Fresno State College and Arkansas State Teachers College was closely followed by Hollywood stars as well as elected officials.  On the night before the game, President McAlister received a Western Union telegram from his friend, U.S. Senator Hattie Caraway of Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the telegram read, “Best wishes for victory.  Tell boys to fight for Arkansas.”

After the Bears finished with their final workout, they engaged in some sight-seeing.  The group toured Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the Malibu Mountains.  They also visited Santa Monica for a view of the Pacific Ocean.

The game turned out to be one of the best ever played on the west coast, according to the sportswriters.  The headline in the Arkansas Gazette read, “TEACHERS LOSE IN HAIR-RAISER ON COAST, 27-26.”

Ben Epstein, the writer for the Arkansas Gazette, did a splendid job of describing the game, and his efforts are included here in quotes in the next two paragraphs; “Hollywood’s cinema executives finally learned the meaning of ‘terrific’ as the Fresno State College Bulldogs nosed out the heretofore unbeaten and untied Arkansas State Teachers College Bears of Conway, 27 to 26, in an intersectional jamboree that literally stupefied 5,000 spectators in Gilmore stadium here today.  It was eeny, meeny, miney, moe, and we don’t mean maybe as the mad struggle see-sawed in unbelievable fashion.

Sensational isn’t the word for it as the score oscillated like a crew of amateur divers on a springing board.  The veteran coach, Pop Warner, who sat on the Fresno bench, bobbed up and down like a scared freshman. Bob Burns lost the curl in his hair, George Raft, Bobby Breen and a gang of other movie moguls acted like a lot of lunatics as the Bears from Arkansas and the Bulldogs from upper California collided in an unexpected offensive maelstrom.”

The legendary football coach Pop Warner was not Fresno State’s head coach; the head coach for the Bulldogs was James Bradshaw.  Coach Warner was a friend of Bradshaw’s, who had adopted Warner’s coaching philosophy.  At the time, Pop Warner was the head coach of the Temple University Owls.

The game was tied on three different occasions, 7-7, 14-14, and 20-20.  The 20-20 score came in the fourth quarter when both teams scored touchdowns, but both failed to convert the extra points. The difference in the game came after Fresno State scored their second touchdown of the fourth quarter and made the extra point.  Fresno State’s touchdown was followed by a kickoff return by Bear halfback Howard Montgomery.  Fresno State kicked off and Montgomery picked up the ball at the Bear five-yard line and then ran 95 yards for a touchdown.  The Bears were unable to convert the extra point, leaving the score Fresno State 27 and Bears 26.

A disputed touchdown by the Bears could have given them the victory.  Bear end Billy Estes, son of legendary Bear coach Guy “Big Dan” Estes, was one of Woodson’s best players.  Estes appeared to have successfully caught a pass for the touchdown, but the referee called it incomplete.  President McAlister disagreed with the referee’s call.

Note: President McAlister was also head of the Arkansas National Guard, and held the rank of colonel, and was routinely called Colonel McAlister.

According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “Colonel McAlister, however, lamented the ruling of a pass from Burnett to Estes that would have resulted in a touchdown and a victory for the Bears had it been ruled completed.  Little Rock sport writers, who accompanied the Teachers to the coast, wrote that the pass looked like the real McCoy to them and Colonel McAlister said it looked ‘completed’ to him.’”

Additional information about the disputed call came from Bob Erbacher, a former resident of Conway.  According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “Colonel McAlister said Bob Erbacher, former Conway man, told him before the team’s departure for Arkansas last Sunday night that he had a talk with the referee and that the official confided to Erbacher the pass could have been ruled completed.”

The Bears returned to Conway in the early morning hours of December 29.  Their game with Fresno State College was such a roaring success that there was much talk about the Bears playing Fresno State College in 1938 and 1939, or possibly playing the University of New Mexico in 1938.

The Bears were treated kindly by their California hosts, According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “The Fresno Chamber of Commerce presented the visitors with a large box of their famous raisins while they were at Los Angeles.  Colonel McAlister said he denied, however, any implication of ‘sour grapes’ in the gift.’”

Interestingly, Fresno State University referred to the Charity Bowl as the Little All-American Bowl on their sports website.  Additionally, they also refereed referred to Arkansas State Teachers College as Arkansas State University (ASU).  This author will contact Fresno State University and provide them with the correct information.

Sources for this article included: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas, The Scroll, The Log Cabin Democrat, Arkansas Gazette, UCAsports.com Record Book compiled by Steve East, and Fresno State University sports website.

 

PHOTOGRAPH OF 1937 Bear Football Team. Courtesy of 1938 Scroll.

 

1937 Bear Football Team

 

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF 1938 SCROLL

Thanksgiving at UCA – 1909

Dear Friends,

TomorrowNovember 23rd, is Thanksgiving;  a holiday that has always been observed at this institution beginning with our first year of operation in 1908.

The first Normal Echo that was published in November 1909, was the Thanksgiving Number, and a big turkey was pictured on the front cover.  On page three a poem about Thanksgiving was written by Mina Renfrow of Rison, Arkansas.  Ms. Renfrow was also the president of the Crestomath Society in 1909, a literary society for women.

The front cover of the first Normal Echo and the poem about Thanksgiving by Mina Renfrow, can be found in the PDF that accompanies this email.

I wish all of you a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING

History of UCA Stepperettes and a Video

Dear Friends,

Happy Wednesday!  Today we are going to take a look at the UCA Stepperettes, one of the most popular organizations ever to exist on this campus.  There is also a video of them performing for several football games and one basketball game. The video appears to be from two different academic years; 1974-1975 and 1975-1976.   I hope you enjoy this time travel experience to the 1970s.

In the fall of 1957, a school-spirit organization was created, the T-Steppers, a 24 member female drill team which performed at football games, basketball games, and parades, and was modeled after the Kilgore Rangerettes.  They were an immediate success and went from 24 members in the fall of 1957 to 42 members in the fall of 1958.  The T-Steppers experienced a name change in 1967 when Arkansas State Teachers College became State College of Arkansas.  The T-Steppers became the Stepperettes and were issued new uniforms.

Their popularity continued to grow, and by 1967, the Stepperettes boasted a total of 80 members.  The Stepperettes, like the T-Steppers, were primarily noted for their performances at football and basketball games, and parades, but also served as goodwill ambassadors for UCA.  They traveled to different parts of the State of Arkansas, judging tryouts for high school drill teams, and also performed at high school assemblies.

Interest in the Stepperettes began to wane in the mid 1980s, and in 1988 the Stepperettes permanently disbanded due to lack of participation.

Here is the link:  Sound begins about one minute later. The video will be at the bottom of the next page, after you click on the link.

https://uca.edu/archives/from-the-archives/video-section/uca-stepperettes/

The L.B. Jackman Award-What exactly is that?

Dear Friends,

Since 1959, the L.B. Jackman Award has been awarded to the most outstanding player or players in the UCA Homecoming football game.  This year, 2017, there were two co-winners of the award, Hayden Hildebrand – quarterback, and George Odom – linebacker and safety.  It was reported that when George Odom was told that he was one of the recipients of the award, he stated that he did not know what it was. Odom’s response prompted me to write a brief history about the L.B. Jackman Award.

Luke B. Jackman was born in Alix, Franklin County, Arkansas, in 1897. He received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas – UCA) in August 1935.  He later received a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York.

According to his obituary, Jackman served as supervisor of schools in Franklin County and was superintendent of Ozark Schools before coming to UCA as registrar in 1951.  Jackman served as registrar until he retired in 1961. He died on July 20, 1966, of a heart-related condition, and was buried in the Houston Cemetery at Alix in Franklin County.

While serving in his capacity as registrar, Jackman also served as a sponsor of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity.  According to documents in the Sigma Tau Gamma collection, during the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity meeting of September 29, 1959, Leroy Froman made a motion to recognize the outstanding player of the homecoming football game.  He motioned that the award be given the title, the L.B. Jackman Award.  His motion received a second and it passed.  Longtime Conway resident and UCA alumnus, Bill Johnson, was serving as president of Sigma Tau Gamma in 1959.

The first person to receive the L.B. Jackman Award was Henry Hawk in 1959.  Sigma Tau Gamma has sponsored the L.B. Jackman Award since it was created, with the exception of a several year span where it was sponsored by UCA Athletics.  David Grimes, UCA alumnus and longtime Sigma Tau Gamma member, said that there was a span of several years where Sigma Tau Gamma did not sponsor the award for some unknown reason.  However, Sigma Tau Gamma resumed the sponsorship of the L.B. Jackman Award several years ago, and continues to sponsor the award it created in 1959.

The members of the media vote to determine who should receive the L.B.Jackman Award.
Sources for this article include: The Scroll, the Log Cabin Democrat, Ancestry.com, UCA Registrar’s Office, The Echo, Steve East – Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relation, Bill Johnson – Sigma Tau Gamma and UCA alumnus, David Grimes – Sigma Tau Gamma and UCA alumnus, and UCA Archives M01-11 – Sigma Tau Gamma Collection.

 

The attached photograph of L.B. Jackman is Courtesy of The Scroll – 1953.

UCA’s First Homecoming

Dear Friends,

The attached article is about the first homecoming in the United States and the first homecoming at UCA.  Please keep in mind that in 1927, UCA was Arkansas State Teachers College, and the writers of The Echo and Log Cabin Democrat, used only part of the name at times.  For instance, you might find it written as State Teachers College or Arkansas Teachers College – when the real name was Arkansas State Teachers College.  The acronym that was used officially was ASTC.  However, you will find it at times as ATC or as A.T.C.

Also you will see that in some editorials or articles contained in this article, the word Homecoming is capitalized and other times it’s not capitalized and at times it is two words – home coming – instead of one word.

Please note UCA’s first Homecoming Queen’s photograph on the last page of the article.  In regard to fashion and overall look, her photograph fits perfectly with someone from the late 1920s.

I hope you enjoy stepping back in time for a few minutes; when radio was in its infancy, television was only in its early experimental stage, manual typewriters were the ubiquitous standard business machine, and electronic computers and cell phones were still in the distant future.

From the UCA Archives XXXIII

Promoting Arkansas State Normal School

Dear Friends,

During the early years the faculty, staff and students at Arkansas State Normal School ( now the University of Central Arkansas) developed creative ways to promote their institution.  The primary  mass media was newspapers, magazines and other types of printed material.  According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, radio did not come to Arkansas until 1922.  So, prior to that time, promotion of Arkansas State Normal School was either by oratory, which President Doyne and President Torreyson both excelled in, or published material, mainly newspapers. Doyne and later Torreyson, traveled the state and gave speeches to promote the college.

According to The Normal Echo, the Arkansas State Normal Press Association was created in 1912, for the purpose of promoting Arkansas State Normal School.  According to The Normal Echo of January 1913, “The purpose was to promote the interests of the Normal throughout the State by means of letters written by students to their various county papers.  These were to be sent during the summer to the secretary; later a suitable recognition by the Student Council was to be made. Of the responses, it has been decided by the Student Council  that Lod Goza’s letter, which was published in the Times Journal and Malvern Meteor was the best and deserved second honor.  A copy of his letter is published below:”

In Goza’s promotion letter he emphasized several things, including the leadership of President Doyne, a growing enrollment, the quality of the main building, the family-like atmosphere of the college, sports and the various literary societies.

Lod Goza’s letter is attached to this email in a PDF.  No photo of Lod Goza, Jr., could be found.
Sincerely,
Jimmy

A Poem About the World-NORMAL

Dear Friends,

Attached is a PDF of a poem authored in 1912 by one of Arkansas State Normal School’s (now the University of Central Arkansas) more creative writers, Owen O. Green.  Green was the author of “Normalite.”  The students of Arkansas State Normal School (ASNS) routinely referred to themselves as Normalites.  During the days when ASNS had no mascot the sports writers also referred to ASNS sports teams as Normalites, as well as Pedagogues, Tutors, and Pea Pickers.

Green was quite clever in his poem, “Normalite.”

Sincerely,

Jimmy

The Normal Echo, November 1912

The Normal Echo- Dec. 1912

Dear Friends,

The Normal Echo began publication in 1909.  Unlike The Echo, The Normal Echo was more of a literary magazine than it was a newspaper or news magazine.  It was 6.5 x 9.75 inches in size and published short stories, poems and humorous anecdotes, editorials, information about Arkansas State Normal School (ASNS) and was written primarily by ASNS students with an occasional contributing faculty writer.

In the December 1912 edition of The Normal Echo, there was news about the Normal’s four literary societies, three stories about Normal sports, one article on education, four poems and short stories and one editorial.

The editorial was expressing concern about the low graduation rate of Normal students.  According to The Normal Echo, “More than twelve hundred students have been enrolled in the State Normal since its establishment, and their value to the communities into which they have gone as teachers, or to which they have returned for the time, is beyond estimate.  It is to be regretted that, of this number, only ninety attended sufficiently long to complete the course and receive their diplomas, the number now in attendance being excepted.”

The  editorial pointed out the great demand for properly trained teachers in Arkansas and that some states do not permit the employment of teachers who have not graduated from a normal school.  The rest of the editorial discussed the importance of literary societies, President Howard Taft and how nobly he had accepted defeat, and that the ASNS students were looking forward to Thanksgiving.

One of the more interesting short stories published in The Normal Echo was “An Odd Marriage” authored by Ethel Smith, a freshman in 1912.  I made a PDF out of Ms. Smith’s story and it is attached to this email.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sincerely,
Jimmy

Hendrix College-Longtime Friend to UCA

Dear Friends,

When the employees of the UCA Archives were putting together the display materials for the Chavares Block/Ryan Henderson Collection, we were amazed at the size and the number of signatures on the Hendrix condolence banner.  It reminded me of the close friendship that UCA and Hendrix College have enjoyed over the years.  Even though the two schools were staunch rivals in sports for many decades, they also worked closely together.

The following was taken from “Hendrix College A Centennial History” by James E. Lester Jr., “The creation of a normal school in Conway led to an institutional rivalry between Hendrix and Arkansas State Normal School.  Both schools vied for local support as well as supremacy in athletics and other intercollegiate competition.  Initially, however, the Hendrix community welcomed the arrival of the new school.  In October, 10, 1908 the Mirror assured the faculty and students of the Normal School that ‘Hendrix entertains the best of good will towards the Arkansas State Normal…We do not believe that the life of your school means the death of ours, the existence of both can only work to the upbuilding of Conway and education…the promise for the future is bright.  We wish you success.'” The Hendrix College Mirror was a literary magazine.

The relationship between UCA’s second president, B.W. Torreyson and Hendrix College president, Dr. John Hugh Reynolds, was very close.  Torreyson and Reynolds were famous for playing practical jokes on one another.  In one instance, at the meeting of the Conway Rotary Club where both men were members, the following took place – but a bit of background information will help.

Torreyson, a native of Hillsboro, Virginia, was 61 years old when he became president of Arkansas State Normal School.  In 1923, when Dr. Reynolds made his comments, Torreyson was 67 years of age.  According to Ted Worley, author of “A History of Arkansas State Teachers College,” the following took place in 1923. “Rotary was the scene of much good-natured jousting between Torreyson and Dr. John Hugh Reynolds, president of Hendrix.  A typical exchange of compliments was that of 1923 when Dr. Reynolds remarked that Virginia men matured very late in life and therefore he had not abandoned hope for Torreyson.”

In 1959, UCA’s fifth president, Silas D. Snow, was granted an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from Hendrix College.  Hendrix College has been a good friend to UCA and this friendship continued to be exhibited in the large 4′ x 12′ condolence banner that Hendrix students, faculty and staff created for UCA after the October 26, 2008 murders of Ryan Henderson and Chavares Block. This was a very kind gesture and UCA is indeed grateful to Hendrix for being so thoughtful.

There are approximately 500 names on the banner and some students left words of encouragement.  A few of those comments were captured on camera and are attached to this email.  This large banner will continue to be preserved, along with the Northern Illinois University banner, and with other materials in the Block/Henderson Collection in the UCA Archives.

Sincerely,
Jimmy

October 26, 2008 – A Sad Day in UCA History

Dear Friends,

We are quickly approaching the ninth anniversary of the worst tragedy to take place on the UCA campus.

On October 26, 2008, the UCA community suffered an unprecedented tragedy.  Two UCA students, Chavares Block, 19, and Ryan Henderson, 18, were gunned down and killed while standing outside Arkansas Hall, a UCA residence hall.  The two innocent victims were shot by non-students who were firing from an SUV.  The shooter, Kelcey Perry, 19, of Morrilton, is being held by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and will be eligible for parole in 2035.

Word of the tragedy spread quickly and soon the UCA shooting made national news headlines.  An outpouring of sympathy resulted and letters and cards from around the nation soon began arriving at UCA.  Some of those expressing sympathy were the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas Tech University, Hendrix College and Northern Illinois University

The students at Northern Illinois University (NIU) created a banner, made of heavy cloth material, that was approximately five feet long and three feet wide, and covered in words of sympathy and encouragement from NIU students.  NIU had been the scene of a murderous rampage on February 14, 2008, when a gunman killed five people and injured 16 with gunfire from a shotgun and three handguns.  Some of the comments from NIU students included, “Huskies feel your pain.  You are in our thoughts;”  “We know what you’re going through.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you;”  “I’m sorry that this is how we have become united, but we’re here for you;” and, “Huskies give UCA Bear hugs.”

Students, faculty and staff from Hendrix College also created a banner. The Hendrix banner is very large at four feet wide and twelve feet long and has the same type of messages as the banner from NIU.  The Hendrix banner was signed by several hundred people.

The University of Washington Graduate and Professional Student Senate observed a moment of silence for UCA’s Chavares Block and Ryan Henderson as well as for one of their own students who was gunned down in 2007, Rebecca Jane Griego.  The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Student Government Association also held a moment of silence for Chavares Block and Ryan Henderson at one of their meetings.  The university that sent the most letters of sympathy was UCA’s longtime rival, Arkansas Tech University (ATU).

The students from NIU drove to Conway and delivered their condolence banner during the halftime of a football game.  NIU also held a candlelight vigil for the UCA Community, two days after the shooting on October 28.  One of the students involved with organizing the candlelight vigil was Justin Kuryliw, who I now consider a friend.  Justin recently sent me the video of the vigil held by NIU and it is at the end of this article.  The video turns green on occasion, but, continue watching until it times out at two minutes and forty seconds.  The quality of the video is not the greatest, it was made at night, but it was an emotional experience for me.

Starting on October 16th and ending on October 27th, the UCA Archives will display all the materials held in the M08-09 Block/Henderson Collection.  Visitors to the UCA Archives will be able to read the letters written to UCA students and see the two large banners and the touching comments made by those at Hendrix College and NIU.

The link below is the video of the NIU candlelight vigil that was held for Ryan Henderson,  Chavares Block and the Bear Nation, on October 28, 2008.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoJ6YzdIrM8

Sincerely,
Jimmy