Monday, February 24, 2014

When Vanderbilt Sports Went To The Dogs

Everyone knows that Vanderbilt's mascot is Mr. Commodore (see above), even though the present student wearing that costume at home athletic contests looks a bit different (younger) these days.

Believe it or not, there was a time a few years right before we entered the University in the Fall of 1969 and continuing for part of our freshman year, Vanderbilt's official mascot (at least recognized by one major student group) were a couple of basset hounds. It began back in 1964 and involved a on-field confrontation between one of the dogs (owned by a student) and a UT mascot (a Tennessee Walking Horse).

But 44 years ago this month (February, 1970) the bassset hounds were suddenly gone and a story in THE HUSTLER blamed their exit for the slump of the Vanderbilt basketball team which was on its way to posting a losing record for the first time after years of winning at least 20 games each season and being nationally ranked.

Here's the story from  which explains it all...

It took all four years we were in school for the VU basketball program to get back to the 20-win level which we did our senior season (20-6). The very next year (1973-74) Vanderbilt won the SEC and went to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history. Who knew it would take that long to get over "going to the dogs!!??"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Much More Than A Football Facility

You may have heard Vanderbilt has built an new indoor practice facility for its football program.

It's true but the new (and now expanded) Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center is much much more than that.

Take a look at this VUCast video released earlier in February. It's quite impressive to say the least and it's not just for athletes, but all students and even alumni.....

And as to how all this compares to when we were in school 40-plus years ago?

Well, memories fade a bit over time, but there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to any of this in our day. Throwing frisbees on Alumni Lawn? Sneaking into old Wesley Gym (other than games, Memorial Gym was usually off limits to students)? Weight machines? Indoor squash or racquetball? Swimming in old Memorial? Well, maybe sometimes.

Of course a few of us (who worked at  WRVU) played a game similar to handball using the front of Neely Auditorium. But one or two too many broken windows (tennis balls can be hard) made Plant Ops and Vanderbilt Police take a dim view of such activities.

They probably wouldn't have liked Moon Ball either, played with a tennis ball and cafeteria trays from Rand, then utlizing the ability to run down a batted ball before it stopped rolling (on the Honor Code) in the dark, at night....sober.

Yeah right, what were we thinking?


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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The Good Ship Lollypop" Has Sailed For The Final Time

The greatest child star ever produced by Hollywood, Shirley Temple Black has died at age 85. The darling of the Depression years, she sang and danced her way to the top becoming the most popular movie star on the silver screen from 1935 to 1939. Clark Gable and other adult stars were but a distant second.

Shirley Temple did not make the transition to become an adult actress but her stardom continued for our generation because a number of her movies became a staple of programming on late 1950s and 60s TV. By the time we got to Vanderbilt in the late '60s and early '70s, Shirley Temple was not a movie star we talked about much. But you can bet all of us saw her movies as kids a lot. Just say the words "The Good Ship Lollipop" and back come the memories.......

Or how about her dancing on the screen with stars like Buddy Ebsen, George Murphy, Jack Haley, even Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Her dancing with a black man was still breaking down barriers even in our day....

Shirley Temple dolls are still prized collectables even today and she did not just fade awayin her later years, making a successful second career in public service as a diplomat at the United Nations, Chief of Protocol at the White House and as Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

I am sure how my grandchildren would relate to her movies today. there so much electronics and animation in today's films and videos. And not all of Shirley Temple's movies are in color (many are black & white although available in full on YouTube).  Maybe I'll give it try and see, especially for my precocious grand daughter Libby. I have a sneaking suspicion, she'll like it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Professor Emeritus Harry Howe Ransom Has Passed Away

Another of the long-time Vanderbilt faculty members from our days on campus has passed away. Professor Emeritus Harry Howe Ransom died January 28, 2014 here in Nashville at the age of 91.

A Nashville native and a 1943 graduate of VU, he served under General George Patton during World War II and was a newspaper reporter with THE NASHVILLE BANNER briefly after the war. He then received a Doctorate from Princeton and held teaching positions at that school along with Vassar, Michigan State and Harvard before coming to Vanderbilt and the Political Science Department in 1961. He was Chairman of the Department during the period we were in school (1969 to 1974). During that time,  he was credited with taking steps to hire more women to the Political Science faculty.

Ransom was known for many years as one of the most renowned scholars in the world on the American intelligence community. He is remembered in his obituary that appeared in THE TENNESSEAN (February 4) as "a true gentleman of academia."

During his 26 years on the faculty, he served as Chair of the Faculty Senate and he directed the Vanderbilt-in-England program. He retired in 1987.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy A. Ransom, founder and former Director of the Margaret Cunninggim Women's Center at Vanderbilt as well as a daughter, Katie and a son, William. A memorial service is planned on Saturday, March 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the First Universalist Church in Nashville. Contributions in his honor may be made to that church or to Alive Hospice.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beatlemania 50 Years Later

It was 50 years ago this week that our lives were changed. The Beatles came to America! Already a mania in their home country (Great Britain), the Four Lads from Liverpool (John, Paul, George & Ringo) were also headed up the charts in this country with a number of major rock & roll hits.

When they arrived in New York City (February 7, 1964) over 4,0000 teenagers (mostly young girls) showed up to overwhelm the police and some 200 journalists who were on hand. Here's what it looked and sounded like in the newsreels at the movies. As you can hear, the narrator was not exactly all that impressed.......

The highlight of the Beatles' first three week U.S. tour came on Sunday night, February 9, 1964. That's when 73 million people (about 40% of the U.S. population at the time) tuned in to watch the group perform on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW on the CBS Television Network.

It's an event I am pretty sure almost everyone of us in our generation watched that night and remember to this day. Here it is to enjoy again (both performances during that hour-long show) plus some bonus footage of the Boys out on the town in NYC at what appears to be the Peppermint Lounge. Just click below and scroll down......,the-ed-sullivan-show-first-appearance,qp8rul.html

What happened that night was repeated the next two Sunday nights (February 16 & 23, 1964)with Beatles performances on The Sullivan show. The second appearance (on remote from Miami) pulled in another 70 million viewers all by itself. While we in the VU Centennial Class (1973) were only 12 or 13 years old at the time, being a part of Beatlemania and the resulting British Invasion of rock groups to the American pop charts likely became a part of our everyday lives in what we bought (Beatle records), what we listened to (on the radio and on our high-fi set) as well as how we dressed and wore our hair. Indeed, it continued to shape our culture in some ways even while we were all together on campus (1969-1973) and in the years since.

At the time in early 1964 the long hair and clothes (Nehru jackets) were considered pretty out there, especially by adults. Now looking back, the hair seems rather short and the clothes somewhat dressed up (at least by later fashions of the groups we liked in the late '60s and early '70s and beyond).

It all began 50 years ago this week. Who can believe it's been half a century.