After I posted on Facebook about the Pioneers' huge win over the Statesmen last week I offered to tell the story of how the bell came to be the prize. Several readers wanted to know so here it is courtesy of Ron Krieger and published in the Autumn 2022 Kirkwood Historical Review, the newsletter of the OTHER KHS, the Kirkwood Historical Society. I will paraphrase and direct quotes will be so marked, it's a long article!
First Editor Ron gave an introduction to set the stage. Some of he following information was taken by Ron from the Webster-Kirkwood Times, Nov 21, 2003. The source at that time was Peter Bredehoeft, a fellow KHS53 classmate of Ron's. The occasion to write the story was the Class of '53's 50th reunion.
Early in the 1953 school year, Murl Moore, principal, received a letter from the Frisco Railroad asking if the school would like to have a bronze bell from a steam locomotive due to be decommissioned because steam locomotives were being replaced by diesel. [See my commentary below, this is not the complete story, ed.] You may recall that Bev Sarff's father (she our classmate of course) was the assistant principal and he asked the Student Council if they thought it should come to the school...according to this article the Council's mood was that anything free is worthwhile, but had no idea what they'd do with it. Peter had a trailer used to haul equipment for his business so he was designated to go the rail yard and retrieve the Bell. It was on a skid next to the train, but too heavy for anything but a forklift to move. "The Frisco employees volunteered to make a rolling stand for the bell in their shop." When Peter returned in a couple of weeks, the railroad folks "could not have been more accommodating or nicer." The bell arrived at the school and was displayed outside Mr. Moore's office, which proved problematic. "Some daring students thought it was great fun to wait until the officials were all in the office, sneak up to the bell and give it a few healthy rings and then run like the devil. The bell very quickly became a liability, not an asset to the school administration." No kidding...
Soon it was relegated to "...the bowels of the school near the boilers and out of harm's way."
Peter said he wasn't sure where the idea came from to give the bell to the winner of THE game, but obviously it seemed like a good one and it stuck. Peter continues, "As an aside, I am sure that the school administration was glad to see it go. Mr. Moore contacted the folks at Webster and the deal was struck." "...in 1953 a tradition was born, thanks to the generosity of the Frisco Railroad and the Class of 1953. (More information is written in Shawn Greene's book "Turkey Day Game Centennial 1907-2007" page 107.)ed. Thus ends the Kirkwood Historical Review article.
If any of you don't know, Shawn Greene is the son of our classmate Phil Greene and his wife Caroline, also a pal of mine. So there we have it, and Kirkwood now has the bell for the 9th year in a row. Last I saw, it reposed in the library, but that's been awhile back. We know it's somewhere! If you didn't know, this year's score was 56 - 7. I do not remember ever knowing this story in the past, but maybe it was well-known and we've just forgotten, sure has been a fast 57 years since we were hanging around the hallowed halls of dear old KHS!
After typing all of that, it dawned on me to go look at page 107 in Shawn's book! I own the late Jim Olson's copy autographed by Alvin Miller. I had a copy Phil & Caroline gave me, but I believe I passed it on to a KHS65 alum who was green with envy, no pun intended. Later, Jim gave me his copy, now a treasured memory of our friendship.
Back to THE BELL. .. Page 118 of Shawn's book is headed Bring Back The Bell! And it begins thusly: "In the fall of 1951, [Mr. Moore] was contacted by an old neighbour and friend, Robert Stone, who was the VP of the Frisco RR Co. The Railroad was in the process of replacing its steam locomotives with diesel and Stone asked Moore if KHS would be interested in having one of the bells from a replaced locomotive...the Student Council accepted the gift." Note this says fall of 1951. The article goes on to tell about Peter Bredehoeft, KHS53 and his being chosen to get the bell because of his flatbed truck and this article goes along like the above. "It became an obligatory prank of the students to ring the bell and quickly flee before Moore could catch them. This may have necessitated a decision for a use for the bell." A bit different (I read that as tongue-in-cheek) but similar to above. According to this article by Shawn Greene the bell was introduced at the 1951 Turkey Day Game, won by Kirkwood 33-0, but was awarded for the first time to Kirkwood in 1952 after the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Kirkwood was awarded the bell by default because Webster had the Little Brown Jug from the previous year's loss. Thus the first team to actually win The Bell was Webster in 1953, winning 33-13. At the time of the publication of Shawn's book, 2007, the Bell had changed possession 25 times and only five graduation classes never had it during their tenure: Kirkwood 1966, 1972 and 1973, Webster alumni 1984 and 1990.
I have spent too much time on this today so will stop here. There is more "lore" about The Bell and the Turkey Day Game. I believe there is a copy of Shawn's book at the Kirkwood Library. There should be, I am pretty sure I ended up with another copy which I donated to them not too many years ago! What a fun bit of memories...in looking at the pix of the teams over the years, I see SO many names I know...our Football Maids, our players, the coaches and others. What a place that Kirkwood is!