Remembrances of Charles Ferris-TSK founder

Remembrances of Charles Ferris


The first effort to organize a team was in 1892. Charlie Moore was captain. Mr. Wertz, a teacher at a local private school for boys was the volunteer coach, later replaced by Mr. Carmon. Wallace Woodruff, a Yale student, put on his uniform and taught a few Yale plays. I have a picture of the team with names of the players.
It was difficult to find enough students to make a team. Would I play? I was a young instructor but there were no rules to bar me from the team. In fact Mr. Cannon registered as a student, though I doubt if he ever attended a class, and was no doubt our star. I was in no sense an asset to the team. I had never even seen a game. My place in the line was at right tackle. About all I learned was to how fall without having my breath knocked out.
The game was rough. It was in the days of the flying wedge. The line formed locked to the center protecting the ball carrier. On one occasion I must have been rather annoyed by the man playing against me for he came out of the scrimmage with a black eye. By the way I remember the captain asked me to play to add weight to the line. I weighed 156 pounds. Our uniforms were very simple, duck trousers,  wool jerseys, wool caps, cleats on our everyday shoes. No practice field was near the University. The best we could find was a meadow at the end of Yale Avenue, the area now covered by the L&N shops. Local games were played on what was called Baldwin Field, now covered by the Western Market. The property was owned by Mr. Baldwin, vice president of the Southern Railroad.
The first game of the season was with Maryville, played on their field. There were some bad feelings between the students of the two colleges and I remember that the few students who went with the team carried canes, just in case, though no trouble developed.  I played against a very sturdy Jap who complained to the officials that I was holding, but how else could an amateur hold his opponent except by holding.
Our second game of the season was played with Vanderbilt on Friday, followed by a game with Sewanee on Saturday. We lost both games. Return games were played on Baldwin Field. I was out of the Sewanee game recovering from the rough game played at Sewanee. At one point in the Vanderbilt game it looked like we might win, our player had the ball and a clear field but the sole came off his shoe and what chance to make a touchdown with one shoe off and one shoe on.
On the sideline we were honored by the presence of Chancellor Kirkland of Vanderbilt. He was courting Miss Henderson, daughter of the chief attorney of the Southern Railroad. They sat in a carriage behind a paid of fine horses. Two students got into a scrap. Dr, Perkins objected to the point where he hugged both of them.
For years little progress was made in developing football. Coaches came and went with the seasons. The first advance was when Wait field was graded, the area now given over to tennis. Dr, Wait professor of chemistry was chairman of the athletic committee and gave much time to athletics, hence the name. The field was too short. The tall iron fence at the north end was built to keep players off the street. There were a few rows of seats on the west side. Before a game students volunteered to pick up the loose rocks. Prof Mathews was the cheerleader, and a good one. In act Prof. Mathews had a national reputation as a cheerleader. Several years after he joined our faculty to teach mechanical drawing I received urgent telegrams, from the University of Illinois asking that Prof. Mathews be allowed to come to lead the cheering at an important home game. Prof Dougherty was the star player on Waite field. I used to sit with his father on a bench on the east side of the field watching the game. It is told that a rough coach during practice passed behind the line swearing at the players and giving each man a kick where a kick is always resented. When he reached Dougherty, Dougherty said Coach don’t do that again, and he didn’t.
Modern football at the University began when we first won from Vanderbilt on the home field. I happened to sit with Dr. Ayres on the east side bench. He turned to me in astonishment and said, we won. Winning from Vanderbilt aroused local interest in the game. A suitable field was needed with seats enough to care for the public.
The only nearby possibility was the triangular area bounded by Seventh Street, the University campus and the L & N railroad. This was a densely populated area. There was a deep gully on the University side and a cut of 25 or 30 feet was necessary on the west side. The Cooperative Book Store  Board took the initiative in securing the property appropriating $1000 to secure options, appointing Profs Hill and Ferris to act for the board. I remember that we first showed our plans and asked the advice of several leading citizens. Mr. C.M. Mc Clung. Mr. Edward Oats, Mr. Cary Spence and Mr. Dave Chapman approved the project and when given the opportunity gave generous  financial support. Robert Foust of the Alex McMillan Co. was suggested to work with us. We met no serious trouble in securing options, though it was necessary to make a shift to avoid paying an unreasonable price for one piece of property.
The real problem was still unsolved: to raise the money to take up the options. It was decided to secure a charter for the University Realty Company and offer stock to the public. A mass meeting in market house and (?) was well attended and much interest aroused. Cary Spence, a famous athlete in his youth ; then postmaster was president of the Realty Co. Spence, Chapman and Ferris were in charge of stock sales. I remember that at our first meeting it was decided that we should get a leading citizen to head our stockholders with a generous subscription. I was asked to see Mr. C.M.Mc Clung president of the company bearing his name. When I came back with his order for $1000 worth of stock Spence and Chapman felt confident the plan would succeed. Really, selling stock did not prove to be a very difficult task. Dr. Ayres asked me to quit all class work for a few days and devote all my time to the effort. Mr. Spence and Mr. Chapman were very active. Enough stock was sold to warrant us taking advantage of the options. To have ready cash three banks gave us credit to the amount of $10,000.
The University Realty Company became a heavy property holder. There were about 55 houses on the property yielding some income. In the meantime as other property in the area could be purchased at reasonable prices we found some way to expand. Rentals were handled by the Rambo(?) Realty Co.
The World War 1914 to 1918 prevented all thought of development of the property as an athletic field. But when the war was ended interest was renewed in the project. The big event was the generous gift- by Mr. Wm Shields- a member of the University Board of Trustees. President of the City National Bank, Mrs. Shields joined in the gift hence the name, Shields-Watkins Field. Nearly all stock was donated. Mr. Shields purchased the balance and supplied funds to grade the field and build the first concrete seats. Fitting into the plans was the building of Ayres Hall. To make room for so large a building it was necessary to remove a large amount of earth. Filling a large deep gully along the border of the field joining the University campus offered a convenient dumping ground for this surplus. Plans were drawn showing the necessary cuts and fills. Contract was let to George Dempster to remove the dirt from the top of the hill and do the necessary grading. From this distance it seems odd that mules did most of the hauling. It appears that Mr. Dempster was a pioneer in the use of trucks in this area for he used one on the job. Mr. Dempster was no amateur in moving earth for he had worked a steam shovel in the dredging of the Panama canal. Grading the west side of the field the slope was filled to allow the first 2000 seats to rest on the bank.
Our early plans were soon scrapped by the increased interest in football. Early plans called for a quarter mile cinder track, a 100 yard dash in front of the grand stand and baseball diamond.
When the contractors completed the grading and built the concrete seats the University granted a holiday from all class work to allow students and faculty to work on the field to put it in final form for use. I had noted that McGregor Smith a senior in civil engineering had shown unusual qualities as an executive and asked him to take charge of the plans for the day- quite a task for a young man, for about a thousand people were to be employed & with borrowed tools, teams and trucks from local contractors. Much was accomplished. The weather was perfect. The girls prepared and served the midday lunch. At the end of the day the field was in fair shape.
By chance I ran into a rather interesting sidelight. Enthusiasm was so high that if any student failed to report he was due for punishment. An engineering student failed to report. I found a group of his classmates in the act of ducking him in the pool in the hydraulic laboratory. Perhaps I should have gone my way without seeing, but I talked them out of the act.

The Marble Posts

During my early years at the University very little money was available even to pay meager salaries. (My first years pay was $600) In Washington for some mission for the University by chance I had breakfast with the president of Michigan State College. I had been in his classes in chemistry and he called me Charlie.”Tell me Charlie, how you people in Tennessee can run a university without money. I could almost say with sweat and blood and tears for Dr. Dabney had a way of working  everybody very hard and he did not spare himself.
The above is merely introductory to the story of the marble posts at the main entrance and to the Estabrook Road. There was nothing to mark the main entrance to the campus, merely an opening in the hedge. Dr. Dabney asked me if I could do something about it. I could. A man in the marble business had a son in the University taking my classes. I knew the man had more marble than money and arranged for him to supply the marble for the posts at the main entrance in payment for his son’s fees.
When the road was opened from Main Street to Estabrook we again needed a suitable marker. It seemed logical to erect marble posts similar to those at the main entrance. To secure the necessary funds letters were sent out to graduates of the Engineering College. The response was liberal. I doubt if Tom Allen a brilliant engineer, valued citizen of Memphis, member of our Board of Trustees, remembers that he sent his check for $20. By the way, Tom was the other member of my first class in thermodynamics. I agree with him that I did a very poor job.
There is an amusing story in connection with the building of those posts. At that time I was living on White Ave. near the University. One night about eight o’clock I received a telephone call from a student asking if I would approve the holding of a simple ceremony appropriate to the building of the posts and would I be at home to a group of students who wished to call. Soon I heard the then famous, notorious KucheKuche Band playing on West Clinch Ave. cerenading(sic) Prof. Carson and Dr. Perkins. When they reached my home Mrs. Ferris joined me on the porch to greet them. After some more music the leader asked me to join them. Before I could answer Prof. Carson called “come on Ferris and have some fun. We went to the home of  Dr. Waite on the campus. A speaker in the group made rather slighting comments on the doctor’s subject, chemistry. Dr. Waite saw no humor in the occasion and refused an invitation to join us. We passed Barbara Hall and cerenaded(sic) the girls , then on to the posts. The boys had a rough coffin and with short, appropriate speeches copy of each textbook in engineering was deposited in the coffin. Well I remember when they buried a copy of the descriptive geometry which I wrote and used as a text. The orator slammed the book into the coffin. “There lies descriptive geometry , written by Prof Ferris, ignored by everybody else”. All the books were bedded in concrete in the west post and are there to this day.

The Road to Estabrook

The original Esta brook Hall was but the beginning of the present rampling(sic) structure, the original entrance shows as the arched opening down stairs in the court. The building was reached by a mud road from Seventh St. when the large addition was made to the front of the original building. The road level was necessarily raised and thus came a need for continuing the road to Main St. Money was never available to pay for the bare necessities but from some source enough was found to pay a contractor for the rough work, cutting and filling, but the road was not ready for surfacing with stone. I explained the problem to Dr. Ayres and asked that all engineering students be given a holiday to work on the road.
A rather misterious(sic) notice appeared on the bulletin board at Estabrook calling for a mass meeting of engineering students and faculty. They all came. I asked if the students would like a holiday. Would students accept a holiday? Of course they would. I suggested they reserve their enthusiasm until they knew my terms. Then the problem was explained and I asked the students to work a day surfacing the the road. The acceptance of the conditions was equally enthusiastic with the understanding that the faculty would work.
Plans had already been made. Seniors would be foremen. Each assigned about 15 men with a list of tools needed and the place to work. Students voted that Prof Carson and Dr. Perkins should serve as water boys. Sure enough they were on the job all day . Each with a new tin pail and dipper. Necessary tools were borrowed from a local contractor. Each foreman was given a list of needed tools, headed by one unicycle. The boys had never heard of a unicycle. It proved to be a wheelbarrow.
It was a great day. The weather was perfect and much work was done. The girls served lunch. We have several good pictures of the boys at work. One in particular shows Dr. Ayres with a hand full of sandwiches , enjoying the day with the boys.
As usual Prof Mathews was the leading character. Early in the afternoon he proposed that we end the day with a banquet. A messenger was sent to the hotel to make necessary plans. It was a good occasion for speeches. Prof Mathews was toastmaster. All right, said Mathews, I will call on you and you and you. So began the annual engineering banquet.

The Manual for Engineers

The engineering faculty was small in the year1900. A photograph taken at that time showed Prof Carson, professor of civil engineering, Dr Perkins, professor of physics, Dr Waite professor of chemistry, J.R, McColl instructor in shop practices, C.E.Ferris instructor in freehand and mechanical drawing.(don’t repeat this, but I was known on campus as the art teacher.) We had noted with regret that there was but a small development of industry in the state. Tennessee was producing raw materials, the product of unskilled labor  to pay for the products of skilled labor. No people could grow prosperous with such a handicap.
Dr. Perkins and Prof McColl came to my office to discuss what the university could do to arouse an interest in industrial education as an approach to the development of industries to fabricate the products of our natural resources. We decided to publish a small leather bound book of vest pocket size carrying carefully selected data, chiefly tables, of use for engineers and business executives. The tables were purposely too short to fill the page , leaving room for our messages in the interest of industrial education. Quoting from the preface of the first and all succeeding editions: “Our object in compiling the following pages of tables and other engineering data is to secure a medium whereby we may bring to the attention of the men who control the affairs of the South the strongest possible arguments  in favor of industrial education as a means of developing our undeveloped resources.
The first edition was 5000 copies printed locally. We sold enough advertising to pay the cost of publication. I am still surprised that so many leading  manufacturers in many states purchased space with  nothing to show except our letters telling of our purpose.
We fully expected to distribute the books without charge to men of affairs in the South. But the unexpected happened. When we sent bills to the advertisers , along with their checks came requests to purchase copies, the manufacturers name to be printed on the cover. We needed the money. Of course we would sell. In fact the entire edition was sold with practically no free distribution.
This started a new train of thought. If manufacturers thought so well of our little book why not another edition, and more editions. We were sorely in need of equipment in our tool room in the shops and in our laboratories. In later editions we sold as much advertising space and copies of the book as the traffic would bear. Then began trading  space and copies for much needed equipment. Until the plates were badly worn we published about 125,000 copies giving us something like $20,000 worth of equipment. I remember that we made a trade with the Standard Oil Co. for enough asphalt to treat the road from Estabrook to Main St.

The Student Loan Fund

In the early years of the present century there was a very evident dollar shortage among the students attending the University. Many came with the hope that they could find enough work to pay a good part of their expenses. Even when work could be found too much time was taken from studies. I think it was during the first summer school that Dr. Dabney asked me to help in starting a student loan fund. As I remember some kind of an entertainment was given by the summer school students in benefit of the fund. I wrote a number of letters to Knoxville citizens who I thought would be interested. Several hundred dollars were secured. I remember the very generous gift of $100 made by Mr. Leon Jerolmen, leading attorney.
I do not know how her interest was aroused. Mrs. Smith, mother of J.Allen Smith, Grandmother of Powell Smith gave  $5000 to the fund. With this generous gift service to the students began. Later Rush Strong gave a very large sum to the fund. My connection with the loan fund was limited to the initial effort, acting on the suggestion of Dr. Dabney.
Note. Early in my connection with the University Dr. Dabney formed the habit of calling on me for things he wanted done. I would receive a telephone call from the office,”Ferris you are a fine fellow” All right Dr. Dabney what do you want me to do now? On a rather recent visit to the University he made the very extravagant statement:”When I wanted another building I could tell Ferris today and it would be ready tomorrow”. He was referring to the problem of finding classrooms to care for the summer school students who came in unexpected numbers. But I wish to add that it was a pleasure to work with Dr. Dabney. No matter how poorly my tasks were performed he never offered a word of criticism. Rather he showed his confidence by asking for more.

The Cooperative Bookstore

Half a century ago there was no organization for handling student books and mail. Some professors ordered books for their students. One dealer  in the city tried to carry student books. Mail for students was delivered to a student who stood in front of the Y.M.C.A. Building surrounded by students who asked:”any mail for me today?”
About 50 years ago Dr. Dabney asked me to organize the Book Store and Post Office. Space was assigned in the south end of South College. No funds were available. Equipment for the store and post office was secured on credit. Credit was established with the publishers. I was appointed clerk in charge of the post office with a salary of $100 per year. The business was small and my secretary served part time. She was not a very keen business woman .I remember that after selling out some article I dictated a replacement order. She commented: “There is no need to place that order . We can’t keep it in stock.”
About 1902 it dawned on me that I was personally responsible for every transaction. Sometimes amounting to as much as $10,000. To relieve me of this liability a stock company was formed. Shares were sold at $5.00 each to students, employees and professors giving a capital of about $3000. The board of directors was made up of students and professors. I never owned any stock in the enterprise. It was never our purpose to make a profit. Each year a small surplus was earned and distributed to student enterprises.
The turning point in athletic history occurred when we first won the football game from Vanderbilt in 1910. Our football field was the small area now used for tennis.
The cooperative bookstore initiated the plan to purchase the present field. The board appropriated $1000 to secure options and appointed professors Hill and Ferris to represent the board. Options were secured on much of the present area , then a slum section.
To secure funds to purchase the property the University Reality Com. Was chartered. The success of the sale of stock was largely due to the enthusiastic support of many leading citizens. I may mention Mr. C.M.McClung,Mr. Edward Oats, Mr. Carry Spence, Mr. David Chapman. About $18,000  worth of stock was sold which with few exceptions was donated. During the development of the field practically all of the surplus earnings of the Cooperative Book Store were donated to the enterprise.
Not all the earnings of the Bookstore were donated to athletics. The list of other donations would be rather large. A loudspeaker was purchased for Jefferson Hall at a cost of $1462. There was need for an employment secretary to help students find jobs. The Book Store paid his first years salary, $1800. Through the 50 years the book store has returned to student enterprises more than $40,000, divided roughly, Athletics $15,000 all other student activities $25,000. The store and post office have expanded with the growth of the University. Now occupying all the first floor of South College with the present enrollment this space is too small. At no time has the University expended any money to develop the bookstore. In return for light, heat  and janitor service the store furnishes examination books for students at a present cost of about $1200.
Sales have grown from a very small beginning to more than $300,000 due to the large enrollment. With no working capital it has always been necessary to maintain a high credit rating. Every opportunity to secure cash discount has been accepted. Many times to protect our credit rating it has been necessary to secure short term loans from our banker. In parentheses may I add that the banker always required my personal endorsement of the loan.
Credit should be given to the two women who have been the active managers through the years. Mrs. Lule(sic) Jones, known to the students as “Jonesie” was a friend to all students. She resigned in 1921. For 25 years  Miss Mary Hess has been the capable manager, meeting growing needs with rare executive ability. Never sparing herself in her service to the students.

In Lighter Vein

Years ago students celebrated Halloween with vigor. One morning the entrance to Science Hall was completely closed with railroad ties taken from maintenance work at the street railway on Main St. One morning a small pony belonging to Dr. Perkins was found on the second floor on South College. The janitors were unable to lead the pony down in the orthodox way and tried backing him down. The rear feet got tangled on the steps and the poor fellow rolled down. He did not seem to mind the experience and began to eat grass.
Col. Nave, commandant found all his guns were missing from the armory and were not found for several days. At chapel he told the boys what dire things would happen if the guns were not returned promptly. In fact he was really standing over the guns hidden under the platform.
There was a small pipe organ in the Science Hall Chapel located in the balcony. It may be there still. On one occasion the boys scrambled the pipes. To Prof. Parsons, the organist, discord meant pain. One can imagine the tragedy when he touched the right keys and produced discord.
In the olden days all students were required to attend chapel. The boy who was not in his seat was called before the Administrative Council. Faculty members were supposed to attend but were not disciplined for absence. It was custom to sing the first and last verses of the hymn. I was not present on this occasion and can only repeat what was told to me. The boys ganged up on Dr. Dabney. They agreed to join in the first verse of the hymn but to remain silent for the second. It is reported that Dr. Dabney did his solo without a break and without comment. I can never forget my first appearance  before the students at chapel. Dr. Dabney sent a messenger to tell me that I must make a speech. I was then on my way to chapel. Dr. Perkins was also a new member. He made a short appropriate address. Then I was introduced. What would I say? What could I say? I have read that the human brain begins to work at birth and stops abruptly when called on to make a speech. I remember that I tried to say that the young men present would be running the affairs of the state in twenty five years. I stammered and stopped. Dr. Hoskins who was in the audience, a graduate student, delights to say that he has been waiting all these many years  to hear the balance of that speech.

University Extension

The paper ends without anything about the university extension so it is clear he intended to write more. This paper may have been written in 1946, which is 5 years before he died.
For reference Dabney 1887-1904, Summer School 1902, Ayres 1904-1919, Morgan 1919-1934, Hoskins 1934-1946


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