Going to Chapel, 1930’s Style


Exploring the 150 year history of Freed-Hardeman University

Attending chapel Monday-Friday has been a fixture of college life at Freed-Hardeman at least since the days of Georgie Robertson Christian College. Then, as now, it brought the entire college community together for a period of worship and a variety of programs.
As president, N.B. Hardeman frequently presided over chapel. One of his favorite verses to quote was I Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (Later students might remember this verse was also quoted frequently by President E. Claude Gardner.) Hardeman’s affinity for order pervaded all aspects of campus life, especially chapel. Even entrance into Chapel Hall was regimented. Before chapel began at 9:30 a.m., students formed two lines separated by gender. As Miss Joe played “Country Gardens,” students filed into the auditorium and stood at their seats. From the podium, Hardeman watched. When he nodded his head, students in unison sat down.
Students, faculty and guests spoke at various times for the chapel programs. In addition, the literary societies and other campus organizations presented programs.
Occasionally, Hardeman impressed students with his formidable memory, asking students to call out Bible references, which he would then quote. Other days, he switched it around and had students read random passages, which he then identified by book, chapter and verse. Thursdays were reserved for fun when the programs consisted of skits or musical programs.
Sometimes chapel was memorable because of a particular speaker, sometimes because of the subject matter. For example, when Marshall Keeble came to Henderson to hold a gospel meeting at the African-American congregation, he spoke to the all-white FHC student body. In 1939, when war erupted in Europe, the Advanced Speech class presented a program on propaganda that reflected the pacifist attitude still prevalent on campus. A student, John Sam Cary, used a loudspeaker to imitate a Winston Churchill radio address as he asked the United States for economic aid. A group of students that included Wayne Poucher and Earl West acted as a “Committee on Foreign Relations” to critique the propaganda of the speech.
Poucher went on to a 40-year career in radio and television as an announcer and producer. He spoke on a daily radio program called “Life Line” which was supported by oil magnate H. L. Hunt. At one time the program could be heard over 500 radio stations.
Earl West became a historian of the Restoration Movement, known for his multivolume “Search for the Ancient Order.” He also served for many years as professor of church history at Harding Graduate School of Religion.
Most information and quotations are taken from Dr. Greg Massey’s recently published “By the Grace of God: The Story of Freed-Hardeman University.” It is available for purchase for $30 plus tax in the FHU Office of Academics, which is located in Loyd 107.
Exact cash or checks are accepted. No credit or debit cards. For more information, one may contact Heidi Sprouse (hsprouse@fhu.edu, (731) 989-6004).