LSU Football Magazine Article about Thanksgiving Day 1924!

Thanksgiving Day 1924!

The new campus of Louisiana State University was taking shape south of downtown Baton Rouge. The imposing agricultural pavilion with its wall of windows, was completed at one end of the riverside tract.

And near the river itself, the building which many people feel is most synonymous with LSU was opening its gates for the first time.

It had taken workmen less than 11 months to complete Tiger Stadium, but when it opened an era of tradition and pride began on the Baton Rouge campus.

The cast in that 1924 dedication was formidable, indeed. A governor and three future LSU Board of Supervisors members were listed on the Tiger roster, and no less than the President’s son, Col. Theodore Roosevelt, officiated at the ceremonies.

Later to become governor of the state Robert Kennon was a center on that 1924 squad, and future board members A. L. “Red” Swanson, Oliver P. “Ike” Carriere, and William “Bill” Pitcher were also suited up in the home team’s purple jersies.

The Green Wave won that first contest 13-0, a favor the Tigers returned two years later when LSU prevailed 7-0 at the dedication of Tulane Stadium.

But that first Tiger Stadium contest was significant in that it unofficially launched big-time football in Louisiana. Until that time, the largest crowd to witness a game in Louisiana was about 12,000.

Since the stadium was hurriedly completed, a section of the stands hadn’t yet met the final approval of the engineers and so it was roped off for the first game. Still, an estimated 18,000 fans showed up, squeezing their way into the permanent sideline seats or sitting in the wooden bleachers erected in the north and south zones.

The campus at that time occupied the grounds where the state capitol stands today and Red Swanson remembers he and his teammates gathering at the campus on that Thanksgiving morning.

“We dressed in the gym at the campus,” Swanson recalled. “Then we took taxis to the agricultural building. We stayed there until near game-time and then we walked over – a pretty good distance – to start the game.

A letterman from the 1919 LSU team also helped make history at that first Tiger Stadium contest. Buck Gladden spent his Thanksgiving afternoon walking up and down the sidelines, relaying action through his microphone to a professor in the physics building. The professor in turn, relayed the first broadcast of a southern football game to a network of several stations.

Governor Henry Fuqua missed the opening ceremonies because of an attack of influenza, but former Gov. John M. Parker joined Roosevelt and the other dignitaries in formally christening the new stadium.

“It’s been so long ago,” recalled another member of that ’24 team Ben’ Miller, “It’s really hard to remember that one particular game. But I do remember it was a big day. It was the biggest crowd we had ever played before at home.”

It was, and 12 years later Tiger Stadium underwent its first major expansion. A north end was added, rounding the stadium into a U-shape and boosting the capacity to 45,000.

This time, too, the Tigers upended the Greenies 33-0 in a game which was carried coast to coast on radio. A WPA project which involved over 700 workers helped finish the north addition, which also added 250 rooms for students beneath the stands.

There was also a new face on the LSU sideline for the 1936 dedication, a nine-year-old Royal Bengal Tiger named Mike I, who was making his debut after being purchased from a Little Rock zoo.

A heated fight for funds led to the next phase of Tiger Stadium expansion and rounded the structure into a 67,510-seat bowl. That piece of work was finished in time for the 1953 season, and the story since then has been a part of the folklore surrounding LSU football.

Close to eight million spectators have been on hand to see the Tigers at home since that 1953 expansion, topped by the 71,239 who witnessed the LSU opener against Colorado a year ago.

The pre-game appearance of Mike the Tiger, the Golden Girls, the Golden Band from Tigerland, the roar of Death Valley, and the haunting chant of Goooooooo, Tigers have become familiar sights and sounds to football fans throughout the South

Happy Birthday Tiger Stadium! May your next few years be as glorious and memorable as your first 50!