Sweeney: The first area... when we taped before, we talked about Tommy
Scott, and you said that you had many stories to relate about him, but
you didn't want to do it--you didn't have time to do it on tape. I keep
hearing about a trip that the football team took to Miami about 1932.
Could you tell me what that... what are your recollections about that?
I think what happened there, if I am not mistaken in some of this, some
of this I gathered in later years. The University of Miami had written
a letter to William and Mary, in regards to scheduling William and Mary
for a football game. Somehow or the other, the letter came to the Norfolk
Division instead of being sent to Williamsburg. So, the contract was
signed and sent down or returned to the University of Miami. And the
result was that our football team, in 1932, went down and played the
University of Miami. This was the year before they instituted the Orange
Bowl Game, so we for many years used to say that actually we were the
first team to play in the Orange Bowl. If memory serves me correctly,
the football team went down there with a number of faculty sponsors,
I know Lewis Webb was one. They went down in a Pullman Car. When they
got to Miami, the Pullman was shunted on the sidetrack and that's where
they stayed until they returned to Norfolk. It was a close fought game.
And I think that the final score was Miami 6 and we had 2. They gave
us a safety to protect their touchdown lead late in the game. They actually
gave us a safety, otherwise, they would have had to punt.
Sweeney: That was a four year school.
Ours, of course was a two-year school. We had a number of outstanding
boys that Scott had recruited. They seemed to have come from all over.
I guess today some of the boys may have been questioned as to the academic
status at the time, 'cause I know that a number of them after football
season was over, just withdrew from school. But, we had only a very
successful season that year. If I am not mistaken, we had only lost
one game previous to the time that we played Miami. I think our record
then was something like 9 victories and one defeat, and Scott had started
to upgrade the football schedule. We were playing smaller colleges like
East Carolina Teachers College (which is now East Carolina University)
or Lewisburg, I think we played the Catholic University freshmen that
year, so all in all it was a very successful year. As I say, that was
the story that I heard, that the letter Miami had sent to William and
Mary, somehow got to Norfolk and we signed the contract and showed up.
Sweeney: Did they
know that it was us before we got down there?
Tonelson: I don't
know... I don't think so. I've never heard their version of the story.
Because, it was as I say, one fine football game and certainly the Norfolk
Division acquitted itself, I think, as well as William and Mary perhaps
would have done.
Sweeney: Was it in December or the end of the summer?
Tonelson: It was
played, I think the day--Christmas Eve it was played? Yeah, it was played
at Christmas Eve.
Sweeney: Do you have any recollections of Tommy Scott in the way of
stories that would illustrate the kind of coach and the kind of person
that he was?
(laugh) . . .Tommy and I tended to be rather close, I don't know why.
There was a time that I almost looked upon Tommy as being a second father
to me. Somehow or the other, he gave me a great deal of care and attention.
It couldn't be because of my athletic ability. I didn't seem to have
too much of that. He was a very warm natured kind of person. He certainly
was interested in each member of the various teams that he had coached.
I know in baseball, which I tended to be rather successful, thanks to
the boys who played behind me, I was the pitcher, but they came out
with all the sterling plays that resulted in victories. But, Tommy used
to allow me to dress in his office which was a two by four cubical in
the old building which has since been torn down. I remember in the--my
third year, I was a student biology lab instructor (whatever that meant).
I was being paid a few dollars a month and because of the number of
hours of work that I was taking, coming to class day and night, in an
effort to try and get as much work in as possible. I did go out for
the baseball team that one year and I remember that I was in charge
of the lab section one day and Tommy came up and said, "Where the hell
have you been!" I said, "Well, Tommy, I'm just too busy. I can't afford
to give the time to baseball." He said, "You come on down after this
class is over and pick up your uniform." I was in fear of Tommy, so
sure enough, as soon as the class was over, I trotted down those steps
and went to Tommy and said, "Here I am" and I received my uniform. As
I say, he was such a warm-hearted person; interested in each and every
one of us who played for him.
One of the first times
that I ever took a trip with our Division team (of course Tommy was
coaching) was our first year in basketball and Tommy scheduled us a
basketball trip in which time we played the VMI freshmen, the Washington
and Lee freshmen and then came on back by way of Richmond and played
Benedictine High School. I don't know that we were too successful on
the basketball trip. I certainly know that we were defeated by VMI,
then by Washington and Lee. I don't remember the Benedictine score.
But Tommy, you now, was a former VMI great, and I remember that the
first sight that I had of VMI, the Quadrangle or whatever it was called,
it must have been two o'clock in the morning on a snowy day or evening.
Whatever it was, but it was two o'clock in the morning, the ground was
covered with snow and I remember these two cadets walking guard in front
of the building in which the cadets were housed and it just looked like
another prison at that time.
But after the game,
as I remember, Tommy took me, of all the boys, he took me, and we got
in the car. I don't know where we drove, up and down some mountaintops,
and finally we got to one, and when Tommy came in there about twenty
people who were there, they were older than Tommy, and of course they
were older than I happened to be, and oh - they just hugged and kissed
Tommy. And it was "Tommy Boy" this and "Tommy Boy" that. Which I think
gave me a great deal of insight into how well Tommy was liked. As
I say, his personality just seemed to exude from him.
So these are some
of the things and say Tommy always seemed to take a delight in me. Again,
I am talking about myself. I remember one day, I believe I had pitched
against East Carolina Teachers College. It was about the third time
in two years, and I was successful. Again I say thanks to the players
behind me who came up with miraculous double plays and catches, and
that kind of thing. And as I went into Tommy's office after taking my
shower, I overheard the East Carolina coach tell Tommy, "That Tonelson
is the poorest, most successful pitcher I have ever seen." I guess that
was just about right, because Tommy used to say about me, I did not
pitch with my arm, I used to pitch with my head. They used to--my nickname
at that time was "Poofball". That is what I was known as "Poofball Tonelson".
Sweeney: How did you travel on those trips? Did, did Tommy Scott drive
Tonelson: No, Tommy
had a car and he would take about four of us and then a couple of the
other players would have cars. So, the team would travel in private
cars. In basketball, of course, we would probably go in two cars. And
in baseball, of course, perhaps three or four cars at best. We had a
manager who managed all of the teams almost all of the time that I was
here, Bill Rosenfeld. Bill was a cripple; I guess he had polio. He got
about using two canes. And aomehow or the other, Bill had a car and
Bill would drive. So, we could always depend upon Bill taking four or
five of us and say Tommy would take four or five, and then one of the
older players perhaps would have a car and he would take four or five
players. This is the way that we would travel. Basketball, as I say--we
had this valley trip was a big thing because a lot of us had really
never been out of Norfolk before. In baseball, we had quite a number
of trips into the Carolinas.
Sweeney: Going back to the beginning, when students came here, would
you say that the basic reason that students came to the Norfolk Division
was because of the depression, they didn't have money and they could go
to the Norfolk Division and thereby save money?
Tonelson: I would
say that the depression of the '30's probably was responsible for about
95% of the students who enrolled in the old Norfolk Division. Perhaps
the other five percent for some reason or the other maybe could not
be admitted to some school outside of Norfolk, so they ended up at the
Division. But it was certainly a question of finances with most of us
that sent us to the Division. There were a handfull of students (I was
one of these) who had spent some little time at some other college or
university and having been caught up in the financial pinch for one
reason or the other did enroll at the Norfolk Division. For instance,
when I enrolled in '30, I had completed a half a year at William and
Mary on their campus in Williamsburg and in addition, I had completed
some extension courses that they taught in Norfolk that I had taken
immediately after graduation from Maury High School. So, as I say, the
majority of students that did enroll in the Division, did so because
financially it was within the reach of their parents. I have forgotten
exactly the tuition, I think probably was $50.00 at that time. So the
first year, of course, we had the largest number entering were freshmen,
but there were a handful of what they called special students who had
some credit that they had earned previously.
Sweeney: You mentioned
the last time that we talked, that a number of professors came down from
William and Mary and I talked to the former Dean Miller some time ago
about professors up there and their attitude toward the college here.
He indicated they didn't have a very positive attitude. They didn't think
about it at all, or tried not to think about it. I wondered if this was
true in the beginning. Did the professors who came down here from William
and Mary have a good attitude towards students and did they give their
Tonelson: I would
say that the professors that I had, that commuted from the campus up
at Williamsburg, certainly were presenting their courses the same way
that they did on the campus at William and Mary. I especially remember
Dr. Blocka, who taught Philosophy and what he required of us. I'm sure
was no different from what he required of those students that he was
teaching on the campus at Williamsburg. There were others that commuted.
I remember Dr. Marsh, who taught economics and certainly he was demanding
in everything that he asked of his students and as I say, as far as
I'm concerned they certainly asked us to do as much as they were requiring
of their students on campus. We were somewhat handicapped in that we
did not have the library facilities that they had on campus up there.
We had no library whatsoever. And if we had assignments, we just had
to do the best that we can in digging these things out. I am trying
to think of... oh! Dr... Another professor that I remember extremely
well was Dr. Kathleen Bruce, who taught United States History. She was
extremely demanding and certainly she couldn't have been any tougher
on those of us who were in her class than she would have been on the
students in her class on the campus of William and Mary. I think out
of a class of maybe a hundred and fifteen students, at the Division
who took her United States History, I don't think that she ever gave
an "A". She had about eight "B's" and then from then on the grades just
dropped into the "C's", the "D's" and the "E's". And She was very,
very demanding, as I remember of what she required of us. Dr. Pate,
in Government had written his own workbook in Virginia Government and
certainly he had adhered to it astringently here, as he did on the campus.
Because I had some friends who had taken the same course from him on
campus and there was no difference, there.
And as I look back
on that particular faculty, I would think it was rather outstanding
because of the the majority of the professors, whether they were commuting
from Williamsburg or whether they were living here, had their doctorates.
There were just a handful--of course, there weren't too many on the
faculty, but other than perhaps four or five, including Tommy Scott
in Men's Physical Ed.[Education]and Mary Old in the Women's Physical
Ed.[Education](Mary Parker, her name was then)they all had their doctorates
in their field. It was really an outstanding faculty. As I say, others--high
school students used to kind of be derisive of us and call us "Larchmont
Tech", but actually it was a college and we were expected to do as much
as I guess students that were on the campus of any college or university
in the United States.
Sweeney: Do you think
that they had better teachers in those early years because they were from
William and Mary? They would offer them a contract that would say William
and Mary, it wouldn't say Norfolk Division.
Tonelson: I think
that this had a great deal to do in enticing these professors that they
got there. I think that it was really the prestige of William and Mary.
I mean, these people who applied for positions knew of William and Mary.
After all, it was opened, I belive, in 1693. So, they had a long time
to think about that. And I think this had a great deal to do with the
recruitment of professors here. And of course, as I say, it was the
depression years and it may have been difficult for some of these professors
to have gotten jobs and here was a new school opening up with a rather
prestigious name attached to it. And I think that this enabled those
who were doing the hiring, which I imagine was Dr. Alvin Chandler, to
secure top rate professors in each of the fields that they had to fill
Sweeney: There is a story that you had made arrangements with other
people--two other people so that all three of you could be called the
first to register but that doesn't go with what you said the last time.
I think it's probably mythical. You just came out here to Hampton Boulevard
and came to register, didn't you? You didn't make prearrangements with
others, did you?
Tonelson: No. The
story... there was a Mr. Healey, who was the principal of Blair Junior
High School at that time. He was the principal of Blair Jonior High
School. And he, with I guess A. H. Foreman, and some other individuals
in the city were very anxious to open up this Division in Norfolk. As
you know, William and Mary had been teaching extension classes to teachers
in Norfolk. They would have their professors come in, and I think that
this had started way back in 1919 or so. And I had taken some of these
extension classes, right after I had graduated from the high school. So, I knew something about the extension classes as such but Mr.
Healey had set up at Blair during the summer before the Division opened.
That would have been in the summer of '30. Actually, when registration
was opened, as I remember, there was a brother and a sister. I believe
their last name was Wilson. I am pretty sure because she is now a James.
They went to Blair and spoke to Mr. Healey about enrolling there. I came
directly out to the old school building here on Hampton Boulevard and
enrolled with a Miss Voight(?), no, well... I don't remember her name,
it was either Voight or Vogel, I can't remember which one, well anyway,
but I enrolled out here. And at that time, she was the secretary to
the Director Timmerman and at the time that I filled out the papers
and the like, she said, "You're the first." So, it may have been that
I was the first to enroll in this old building out here, whereas, the
Wilsons had gone to Blair to enroll with Mr. Healey. Years later, the
alumni came out with some article and they mentioned the fact that I
was one of the early ones, and everything. Well, anyway, there was some
controversy really about who was the first and Mr. Webb, in his wisdom
at that time, who was in charge of the Division, said, "Well, we'll
have to say that there were three." So, I am proud of the fact that
I'm one of the three. But, who was the first one? And I guess we'll
never know because I don't think they ever had records like that.
Sweeney: Well, thank you Dr. Tonelson.
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