Daily Dose of Crimson Tide: Burying The Hatchet?

Christopher Walsh

Last week, Forrest Fenn, the millionaire who hid a treasure chest in the Rocky Mountains, said someone had finally found it. The riddle of the prize's location was in a poem from his book, The Thrill of the Chase, but it still took 10 years for the search to finally end. 

Could college fans have something similar (although worth a whole lot less money) in Birmingham?

Prior to the first Alabama vs. Auburn game in 40 years, the 1948 student body presidents, Willie Johns and Gillis Cammack, participated in a symbolic “burying of the hatchet” ceremony at Woodrow Wilson Park.

“There were a lot of hard feelings between the students,” Auburn’s Cammack told Sports Illustrated in 2003. “We were trying to get everyone to settle down and not be so vicious.”

The football teams hadn't met since 1907 due to a variety of reasons, including that Alabama didn't think it had much to gain by reviving the series, and organizers feared that violence would eventually break out. 

Since then, few Alabama coaches have had a lot to say on the positive end about the annual showdown, including Bear Bryant referring to the rival on the other end of the state as "that cow college." 

During the two years Dennis Franchione was at the helm in 2001-02 he didn't endear himself much to Crimson Tide fans, especially after leaving for Texas A&M. But they did like it when he would only refer to Auburn as "That school down the road."

"When I got to Alabama, people said, 'You don't understand how this is going to be with Alabama and Auburn.' I said, 'Don't worry. I understand intense football.'" Curry pauses. "I did not have a clue."

So the hatchet idea was dreamed up. 

Sports Illustrated explained why in the November 24, 2003 issue:

"Fearing that fans might brawl when the football series resumed in '48, Bull Connor, the Birmingham police chief who 15 years later would gain national infamy for attacking peaceful Civil Rights protesters in his city with police dogs and fire hoses, called Cammack and a few other students into his office the week before the game and warned them that he would not tolerate any trouble. 

"He got none, as 43,954 fans packed into Legion Field  which would serve as the game's neutral site for the next 40 years —and politely watched the Crimson Tide destroy the Tigers 55-0.

Woodrow Wilson Park has undergone several renovations, and is now called Linn Park. However, the burial site was not marked.

Said Cammack: “I doubt if that hatchet stayed buried very long.”

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