Off to War and a New Beginning: 1940-1949

World conflict in Europe and in the Pacific area in the first half of the decade of the ’40s saw Marshall students march off to serve their country in the military forces while the few left behind did their part on the home front. Numerous servicemen also received military training at Marshall.

The post-war period launched a new era for the college as the veterans returned, pushing enrollment to record numbers. A new president arrived in the latter half of the decade and proved to be a significant leader for more than 20 years. Athletic teams gained national attention on the court and field after competition diminished and even suspended during the war years.

Marshall took on a new role and gained new vitality at war’s end. More than 500 veterans were enrolled in 1946. An accelerated curriculum allowed many to graduate in three years. Federally provided fabricated housing for the veterans sprung up on and off campus.

Dr. Stewart H. Smith, dean of the Teachers College, succeeded John D. Williams as president in 1946 and led the school until 1968. The Graduate School was created in 1948. The men’s basketball team won a national championship in 1947 and the football team played in the 1948 Tangerine Bowl in Florida. Both teams were coached by the legendary Cam Henderson.

Marshall cheerleaders in 1940 give the old shake and shimmy and the guys are right in style with times in their knickers.
Before the Memorial Student Center, the popular gathering place on campus was Shawkey Student Union. This is an early 1940’s photograph when Chesterfield cigarettes, Imperial ice cream, root beer and smoking pipes were popular items.
While almost all the male students left campus for the military service during World War II, many men also came to campus for military training. Above, the Marshall College Army Air Force training detachment marches along snow-covered 16th Street in front of the college. Marshall’s program was three-fold: military, academic and physical. Thirteen classes graduated and the full strength at one time was 400.
Tuesday night dances were among social activities planned by the USO for the College Training Detachment servicemen on campus during World War II. The USO even checked out the credentials of the women, who had to have USO approval to attend the dances. Dances were conducted in the campus dining hall which later became the home of the Community College in the mid 1970s.
Fairfield stadium, above, had natural turf and about 5,000 fewer seats during this late 1940s night game. This was a view looking south when the scoreboard was at the opposite end of the field from its position in the 1990s when the stadium was used by Huntington High and Huntington East High Schools. Semi-professional football was also played in the stadium at one point.
A popular boy-girl activity during the 1940s was Sadie Hawkins Day. The men were given a slight head start and then the women would chase them – the goal to catch them for a date. This was the start of a Sadie Hawkins Day race on Central Field in the mid to late 1940s. Green Village, a trailer town for veterans, can be seen in the background at left.
A post-World War II bonfire in the fall of 1947 brought memories of pre-war football excitement. Football had been suspended during the war. According to the Huntington newspaper, this bonfire before a game against Morehead provided the first collegiate atmosphere since before the war. This scene is Central Field behind the James E. Morrow Library.
Marshall suspended its football program during World War II, but many notables who later would be important figures in area sports were members of the 1946 team, above. They are, from left, front row, Gatewood, Williams, Smith, Wilson, Rowe, Chapman, Snyder, Blevins, L. Gibson, Clark, C. Miller, and Kautz; second row, Niday, Seelinger, Costello, Anderson, Young, Bowling, Lipscomb, Roberts, D. Gibson, McCoy, McComas, Allen, Campbell and Bias; third row, Haman, Rowsey, Childers, Rule, Preston, Plybon, Mullins, Brackman, Fieldson, Sang, Henthorne, Freeman, Wetzel, Powell, and Lawthon.
Marshall Basketball was the hot ticket in Huntington in the 1940s. The team played in Radio Center, earlier known as Vanity Fair, which was situated in downtown Huntington. Above, a photograph of the game between Marshall and Toledo in January 1942 which was played in Radio Center. In 1950, play moved to the new Veteran’s Memorial Field House and in 1981 to Marshall’s own arena, Cam Henderson Center. At left, is the outside view of Radio Center as it was in 1940s.
Fifteen thousand fans turned out at the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Station in Huntington in March 1947 to greet the basketball team and coaches after they won the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball championship in Kansas City. Coached by Cam Henderson, they beat Mankato State to bring home the school’s first national championship.
Marshall College campus in 1949. The current Science Hall is under construction at the top left and Old Main annex, a wooden building, can be seen at middle left. This is a view looking southwest from the corner of Third Avenue and 16th Street.
A service station still is in business as workers move equipment and furnishings into the Science Hall which would be dedicated in 1950. The station along Third Avenue later was demolished.