First Competition, First Records, Crowley Rivalry
These stories originally appeared in "The Daily Advertiser's History of Acadiana by Jim Bradshaw: Beginning Traditions," published May 26, 1998.
First Competition may have been Field Day
The first regularly staged athletic competition at SLII may have been the Field Day held on Saturday, May 2, 1902. It offered something for everyone. A flyer printed to advertise it promised 16 events, ranging from the 100-yard dash to an intramural girls' basketball game, to something called “Japanese stunts."
The handbill also listed the competitors in each event, though not always giving a complete name.
The events and competitors included:
- 100-YARD DASH: F.L. Breaux, Lester Bordelon, Lee Broussard, Leon Chiasson, Jacques Domengeaux, Durocha, J. Authement, Longanecker, Kelly, Morse, W. Mills, C. Seeling, F. Siadous, Saucier, Talbot.
- EGG RACE: Misses H. Bell, Boudreaux, Chiasson, Compton, Guedry, Roy, A. Thibodaux, Williams.
- RUNNING HIGH JUMP: Bienvenu, Longanecker, Lalande, A. Gravemburg, Siadous, Smedes, Talbot.
- SACK RACE: Broussard, L. Breaux, DeBlanc, Domengeaux, Gauthier, Kahn, Saucier, Prosser, Tilley, Talbot, Alford, G. Thibodeaux.
- Crumpacker, Erwin, Gravemburg, Mills, E. Wellman, C. Wellman.
- RUNNING BROAD JUMP: Crumpacker, Durocha, Erwin, Keller, Longanecker, G. Marton (sic), Smedes, Siadous, Talbot, C. Wellman, E. Wellman.
- POTATO RACE: (A) Alford, Authement, J. Bienvenu, Lester Bordelon, Breaux, Lee Broussard, DeBlanc, Durocha, F. Gauthier, H. Gauthier, Gonsulin, Gravemburg, E. Lalande, Mills, Morse, Poimboeuf, Prosser, Steeling, Siadous, G. Thibodeaux, Tilley, Talbot.
- THREE-LEGGED RACE: Seeling and Prosser, Bordelon and Talbot, Gravemburg and Bienvenu, Gauthier and E.G. Lalande, Thibodeaux and Poimboeuf, Lester Bordelon and DeBlanc, Crumpacker and Gauthier, Smith and Breaux, Tilley and Siadous.
- PUTTING THE SHOT: Bienvenu, Lewis Bordelon, J.L. Chiasson, H. Gauthier, Padgett, Mayeaux, Talbot, Verret, C. Wellman.
- BARREL RACE: Alford, Lester Bordelon, Lee Broussard, Domengeaux, F. Gauthier, Morse, Poimboeuf, Prosser, Seeling, G. Thibodeaux.
- HURDLE RACE: J. Authement, Bienvenu, Breaux, Crumpacker, Domengeaux, Durocha, Erwin, Gravemberg, G. Mouton, Poimboeuf, Saucier, Seeling, Siadous, Tilley, Verret.
- JAPANESE STUNTS: Gaston Mouton.
- ELEPHANT RACE: Longanecker and Cade, Chiasson and Verrett and Bell, Breaux and Maxim Guidry.
- TUG OF WAR: Longanecker, Breaux, Crumpacker, L. Chiasson, Mills, C. Wellman, A. Broussard, Durocha, and D.C. Smith versus Verret, Bienvenu, E. Wellman, Mayeaux, Singleton, H. Gauthier, Erwin, Kelley, DeBlanc, J. Authement.
- BASKETBALL GAME: (Green Team) — Captain, Armye Guidry; goal players, Rhena Boudreaux and Perrly Roy; base players, Aimee Thibodeau, Loolahbel Williams, Oceana Belanger, and Eva Dudley. (Yellow Team) Captain, Marie Mouton; goal players, Lucy Guidry and Eula Stokes; base players, Louise Chiasson, Leonice Belliveau, Eleanor Compton, and Rupiter.
- TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP: (A) Misses Dupre and Boudreaux. (B) Mills and Biossat.
Six minutes, 34 seconds won mile run in 1904
The first SLII Field Day was held on April 16, 1904. According to a letter in the USL Archives, these were the times and distances of the winning track and field competitors. The winners were not named.
- 100-yard Dash: 10 1/5 seconds
- Discus: 80 feet, 2 inches
- 880-yard run: 5 minutes, 36 seconds
- Pole Vault: No record made. Stopped when three men of one team were ahead.*
- 220-yard Dash: 25 seconds
- Hammer: 87 feet, 11 inches
- 440-Yard Run: 51 seconds
- High jump: 5 feet, 1 inch
- Mile run: 6 minutes, 34 seconds
- Broad Jump: No record made. Stopped when three men of one team were ahead.
- Shot: 28 feet, 8 inches
*The competition was by school, not individual, so when the only contestants left in a competition were from the same school, the competition was halted.
Field Day created rivalry with Crowley
The annual Field Day competition begun in 1904 apparently created several rivalries, not the least of which was one between SLII and Crowley High School that, by 1910, had all of the markings of bad blood between them.
In 1910, Crowley tried to have the games moved there, but SLII President Edwin L. Stephens maneuvered to keep them on the Lafayette campus.
On Jan. 16, 1910, J.J. Collins, principal of Crowley High School, wrote to Stephens:
“I don't know whether you knew that the people of Crowley wanted the contest of the IA&OA here or not, but (I) do think that you were unfair in selecting Saturday as the day to decide this, knowing, as you did, that all principals were called to Shreveport on that date. We want the meeting here and if you are willing to do the right thing you will at least call another meeting where the principals will have a chance to express their wishes."
Collins got support two days later in a letter to Stephens from E.S. Jenkins, superintendent of Lake Charles City Schools.
“Your circular letter stating that the date and place of our next meet was fixed last Saturday reached me this morning," Jenkins wrote to Stephens. “In regard to my endorsement of the action, if there was a quorum present and the meeting was held according to the constitution, I cannot do otherwise. However, I think it unfortunate that you did not cancel that meeting and call it on a date when a larger number of the principals were not forced to be absent. Several of the principals at Shreveport were of the opinion that Crowley is entitled to the meet provided that they can show us that they can take care of it. The date fixed is rather early, and I believe for the good of our association we should have another meeting and give Crowley a shot at it.
“Rally Day at Baton Rouge promises to make serious encroachment into our territory," Jenkins continued, “and I am of the opinion that the life of our association depends on perfect harmony among the members of our association. Understand that I am not opposing Rally Day, for I think it a good thing; not that I love Rally Day less but our association more."
Stephens apparently relented and called another meeting to vote on the site. On Jan. 25, he wrote to J.H.R. Parsons, general passenger agent of the Southern Pacific Railroad in New Orleans, asking for his help.
“The Principals of the High Schools of Southwest Louisiana met here last Saturday and decided upon Saturday, April 9th, for the day and Lafayette for the place of our annual interscholastic contest," Stephens wrote. “I had some trouble convincing some of the men that Lafayette is the place for it rather than Crowley. And the final argument I landed with was my assurance that we could beat any other place on account of the fact that we can have special trains take the crowd home Saturday night at eleven o'clock in all three directions; that is, to Lake Charles, Morgan City, and to Washington or Cheneyville.
“Therefore, I write to you at once to bespeak of you these accommodations — not only to bespeak, but also beseech and besiege, if necessary. We want a one-fare rate for the round trip from all points on sale Friday, April 8th, good to return Sunday, April 10th; and also three special excursion trains to take the crowd home, as stated above, at eleven p.m. Saturday night, April 9th.
“We are determined to make this the greatest school stunt in Southwest Louisiana and we want to do it so well that nobody henceforth will question the necessity of anchoring this annual event at Lafayette, which, as you know, is the hub of the whole country," Stephens continued. “Please do not forget us, or allow any other arrangements to interfere with the plan proposed above. You see, we are absolutely dependent upon those return excursion trains. I must advertize (sic) this fully and a long time in advance to get the crowd that we must have in order to make a success."
It took some finagling, but he got his trains. The railroad agent agreed readily to run special excursion trains after the meet to Vinton and to Morgan City, but balked at sending a train north.
“Upon looking up our records for last year," he wrote to Stephens, “we find that for the two dates of sale we only sold 35 tickets from Washington and intermediate points to Lafayette. If the same thing happens this year, running a special train back to Washington would be a losing proposition."
Stephens answered the objection immediately, “I don't believe we have yet given that territory a fair shake. I was not smart enough last year to get the special return train from you until just about two days before the Meet. I remember that I wired the Opelousas people to print the posters up there, as there was not time enough to do it here and mail them. Then we had a bad, rainy, and cold day. So it was not only the first time we had ever given them a chance, but it was only a poor chance we gave them.
“I have always felt that this railroad difficulty was the reason for our not working up much more athletic spirit at Opelousas and Washington. I am not so sure of this, but do not yet feel that a sufficient try has been made in the direction of giving them railroad facilities. ... I feel that I must therefore ask your indulgence with one more special return train on this branch, and I will agree to drop it for the future if we don't make good this time. I think I shall make a trip to Washington, Opelousas, Sunset, and Carencro to work this business up, and, if the weather on April 9th is good, and you don't make more than thirty-five sales of tickets, then I'll know there is a trick in it."
The railroad conceded, and provided the northbound train. But that wasn't the end to the difficulties with Crowley.
Participants in the athletic events had to be enrolled members of the school for which they competed. But on April 5, 1910, P.J. Voorhies, an SLII alumnus, wrote to Stephens: “I have just received the institute bulletin in which are given the names of the contestants in the different departments and we notice that there appears the name of Mr. Jap Morris of Crowley, La. We wish to state that this young man was working in a rice warehouse the greatest part of this Fall in Eunice, and I saw him personally in Crowley recently collecting bills for some firm in that place and my impression is that they are trying to enter him in the contest unjustly. We understand that he is a very fast short distance runner. ..."
Stephens took up the matter with the Crowley principal in a letter dated April 7: “A member of the Association has written me to ask that I communicate with you for the sake of greater certainty regarding the eligibility of three of your entries, namely Miss McDonald, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Buckley. The suggestion is made that Miss McDonald has attended a professional music school, which it is thought would exclude her (under the association bylaws); that Mr. Morris is not a regular student of your High School; and that Mr. Buckley's age is in doubt.
“Of course," Stephens continued, “my answer is that they are all properly vouched for by yourself, and that I am referring the matter to you for such attention as you may deem fit, or such action as you might find necessary in case of a protest against any entry.
“I have looked up the records of previous meets in the case of Mr. Buckley, and find that his age currently corresponds with his previous certification. I find, however, that he has failed to make acknowledgment in his present entry card of the First Place he won in the Pole Vault in 1908, which is essential in arranging the handicaps under the rules. And while looking up Mr. Buckley, I was astonished to find that Mr. Morris was certified to as being 17 years of age in 1906, under Mr. Gott, and again 17 in 1907, under Mr. Chapman, and now certifies to being only 19, under yourself. This I regard as a serious matter which will doubtless be brought to the attention of the Executive Board at the meeting Saturday morning."
Mr. Morris did run in the meet, winning the 100 yard dash in 11 seconds, the 220-yard dash in 24 3/4 seconds, and the 440-yard run in 54 3/4 seconds. However, a hand-written note, that appears to have been written on the field at the meet, reads: “Moved by Crawford — Mr. Morris of Crowley be entered under protest and a committee be appointed to investigate and report in ten days ... also discrepancies in birthdays of contestants."
There is no report of the investigating committee in the archives.
On May 10, Frank Bison, manager of the Crowley High Track wrote to Stephens, asking for information about “the medals won by Jasper Morris of this town. ... The boy is very anxious to know whether they are going to give them to him or if they will give them to some one he beat."
Said Stephens by return mail: “...The protest that was entered concerning that matter is still under decision, and I am as yet unable to say what award will be made. I shall endeavor to hurry the matter to a conclusion, however, and trust that it will work out satisfactorily."
That letter was the last word about the matter in the archival record. It does not say whether Jasper Morris got the medals or whether they went to someone that he beat.
But there is one other piece of material that indicates that all was not pleasantness between SLII and Crowley High. It is a printed card, entitled “Yells of The S.L.I.I. Rooters Club." Cheer No. 3 is: “Ice Cream, Soda Water, Ginger Ale, Pop! Lafayette Institute Always at the Top!," which is in stark contrast to Cheer No. 4: “Crowley, Crowley, Pumpkin and Squash! Hayseed, Hayseed, Yes — By Gosh!"
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