Friday, March 11, 2011

11 March 1913: "Movie" of UGA Pushball Game Seen Around the World

On this day in 1913, the Athens Banner reported that a film of the second annual Freshman-Sophomore Pushball game would be included in Universal's Animated Weekly newsreel features:

The Lyric was a nickelodeon in the store front now occupied by Walker's Coffee and Pub. They showed short silent filmstrips all day, and featured occasional live evening entertainment, at a cost of five or ten cents per show. Among the more popular films at nickelodeons were filmed athletic events, especially boxing matches. 

According to reports in the Red and Black, the manager for the Lyric theatre had taken several films of various athletic events on campus that year, and that "the University students appreciate Mr. Posey's interest in taking these films and are showing their appreciation by a constant attendance at his interesting productions." 

The Banner's original announcement of the film's inclusion in the Animated Weekly stated, "A bit of advertising that Athens and the University of Georgia will get next month will be by way of the 'movies.'"  The clip film featuring the Georgia game was distributed internationally to over 100 theatres.

The pushball game was a contest between the freshman and sophomore classes to determine which class would get to have a spring banquet. In the past, both classes would schedule a banquet, but it became a contest to see which class had their banquet most disrupted by the other. After the hijinks of spring 1911, where class members were kidnapped from trains en route to secret banquet locations, local citizens insisted on obnoxious behavior on the part of the students. A pushball contest was offered to the classes by Dr. S. V. Sanford, "to confine their activites within reasonable limits." 

Pushball was becoming a nation-wide popular college activity in the early part of the twentieth century. The game was played on a football field, with teams of 11 players per side. To score, a team must "shove the ball under and between the cross bars [sic] of the goal post [sic]" to earn five points, and over the crossbar to earn eight points. If the ball only made it half-way over the goal, the team still earned two points. 

Dr. Sanford requested that the game be divided into four quarters, rather than two halves, so new teams were fielded for each quarter. Total enrollment at the university in 1913 was just 682, so this division meant most of each class would get a chance to prove themselves on the field.

The 1913 game went to the Sophomore class, and those who had participated in the contest paid only 30 cents toward their March banquet; those who skipped the game were charged a dollar fee. Later in the month, they were able to go to the Lyric to watch their victory on Universal's Animated Weekly newsreel #52, that also featured the inaugural parade for Woodrow Wilson and scenes from the Mexican civil war.

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