I recently told someone how the "Bronze Derby" came into being and I was encouraged to put it into writing. You don't know what the Bronze Derby is?
Much like the "Little Brown Jug" in the Big Ten, this is an athletic trophy rotating to the winner of the P. C. - Newberry College football game. At this time it resides in the trophy case of Presbyterian College.
When I was an undergraduate, not only did everyone not have an automobile as they do today ... there were very few who did... Jimmy Kellet was one of those.
Jimmy lived in Fountain Inn, which is near enough to Greenville for me to have ridden with him on many occasions. Hitchhiking was more acceptable at that time and not as dangerous. It was relatively easy to make connections this way.
Never miss a local story.
On one Sunday afternoon when it was time to return to school I was in Jimmy's house and he was walking around with his grandfather's black derby. He took it to Clinton with him and we all had turns trying the derby on the trip.
From that point he was frequently seen on campus with the derby and at the next basketball game in Newberry it was very much in evidence. It was a very spirited game and Jimmy was to be seen everywhere with the derby and antagonizing those on the other side of the gym.
The game ended and all the bad feelings moved right outside to the parking lot and an ugly situation came very near materializing. Jimmy was right in the middle of it.
At one point someone grabbed the derby off his head and ran quickly into the darkness. This really incited things and they got ever nearer the boiling point.
At this time,the president of Newberry College came on the scene and did what he could to calm things and send everyone home. Jimmy insisted he was not leaving until he had his hat. I was more than ready to leave but we felt we could not leave him there in such a hostile crowd.
Finally a school administrator told him that if he would just quietly go home he would guarantee that the derby would be returned to him. This did the trick and pretty soon the mob was dispersed and headed home.
In the ensuing days cooler heads located the derby and came forward with the proposal that it be bronzed, much the same as a baby shoe, and that it reside in the school which had last won the football game.
Since this happened at a basketball game I'm not sure why it became a symbol of football supremacy... probably because football is just played one time a year. I have heard other variations of how the Bronze Derby came about but believe me, I was right there and know it to be absolutely accurate.
I have since been told that this custom would be no more because the two would no longer be playing football. I assume this is correct but it is also a bit sad.
-- H. Sanford Howie Jr is executive director emeritus for Episcopal Church Home for Children in York.