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This is the second interview conducted with A. Rufus Tonelson and deals with Tommy Scott, student life during the depression, faculty from William & Mary, and the first Norfolk Division enrollments.


July 2, 1979

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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?

Tonelson: Well, 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.

Tonelson: Right. 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?

Tonelson: Well... (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 a bus?

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 best effort?

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 openings.

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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