by Caity Paynich
“A football team from Albion came up to Kalamazoo,
And tried to make a touch-down, but this they failed to do;
Of course, to keep them from their goal we fought,
And made the score against them: 58 to naught.”
Complete with three verses and a chorus, this song opened the “Athletic Notes” section of the Kalamazoo College Index in early fall, 1897. Often in those days Index carried a poem recounting gridiron moments and chants about the “deeds of the eleven” or “the force of Celery’s blow.” During this era of “K” football glory (and playful purple prose) Coach Charles C. Hall (just 12 months removed from his freshman year!) led the Kalamazoo team to three consecutive MIAA championships (1897-1899).
Hall died in 1945, but his football legacy will reawaken as a result of a gift from his grandson’s estate, a portion of which will support the Angell Field Athletic Complex renovation that will begin this spring. The gift came from the estate of Rexford E. Hall, who died last fall. Rexford was the son of Richard and Thelma Hall. Richard attended Kalamazoo College and later graduated from University of Michigan (1928) with a degree in chemical engineering.
The renovation project that the estate gift supports includes installation of synthetic turf on the football field, a new field house, and improvements to the stadium press box and services building. It will make for a very different experience than that of his grandfather’s late 19th-century teams. Those teams played on city fields and a small field at the foot of Academy Street. They fashioned their own uniforms, with little padding and no helmets. In 1896, Kalamazoo College joined the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which at that time included Albion, Hillsdale, Olivet, Michigan Normal School (the forbear of Eastern Michigan University) and the Michigan Agricultural College (today’s Michigan State University).
A freshman at “K” in 1896, Hall captained the team and played left-half in the backfield tandem that included Joseph B. Westnedge, who later served with distinction in World War I. Because of his father’s illness, Hall could not return to study at “K” the following year, but he volunteered as football coach, a position he held for four seasons and three championships. After winning the MIAA championship against the Normal School in Ypsilanti in 1897, team members were welcomed home as heroes: “When the champions alighted from the train they were carried to carriages-in-waiting and then driven through the main streets, followed by a large crowd of college students carrying torches” wrote the Index reporter. Afterward they were treated to orange ice and angel’s food cake at the president’s home. A banquet at Ladies’ Hall followed.
In 1898, Michigan Agricultural College aimed to dethrone the champs. MAC president and fans even hired a special train to bring their team to the “Celery
"Feel the force of celery's blow!"City” for the contest. All for naught; “K” shut out MAC, 17-0. In fact, from 1897 to 1899, “K” won every MIAA match-up, and Hall’s coaching record of 20 wins, 4 losses and 3 ties remains the best in “K” history.
Hall went on to serve as a sports reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette, and later co-founded the New Era Manufacturing Company, a metallic packing and manufacturing company that became the Durametallic Corporation. His son Richard worked for the company as president and chief executive officer. In 1961, Durametallic funded the Charles C. Hall Scholarship for “K” juniors and seniors majoring in the sciences.
Charles Hall was an athlete (and avid tennis player) his entire life, thus an athletics legacy nicely complements the aforementioned academic scholarship. Dedicating a portion his grandson’s estate gift to the Angell Field project seems a fitting tribute to Charles Hall. What the Index reporter wrote in 1897 remains true today: “The lovers of football deeply appreciate the work he has done for us.”
Visit www.kzoo.edu/PlannedGiving to learn more about making a gift to Kalamazoo College through your estate.
Turn of the century game time
MIAA Champions, 1898 (Charles Hall, back row at right)
MIAA Champions, 1899 (Charles Hall, back row at right)