The fire engine that came back
RELEASED: June 15, 2006
DANVILLE, KY—One of the biggest stars of last weekend's Great American Brass Band Festival didn't play trumpet, trombone or tuba. It did, however, play a major role in Centre College lore. The 1920 vintage Ahrens fire engine on display on Main Street figured prominently in one of Centre's—and, some say, the nation's—greatest sporting moments, the "Praying Colonels'" glorious 1921 victory over the No. 1 ranked Harvard team.
Valarie H. Ziegler '76 describes the engine's importance to the festivities when the Centre heroes returned to Danville:
For those unfamiliar with the C6-H0 story, here is a brief recap. In 1921, Harvard, the nation's dominant football power, was riding a five-year winning streak when the Crimson invited Centre up to Cambridge for what they thought would be a "warm-up" game, a light workout before facing mighty Princeton the following week.
On Oct. 29, before 45,000 stunned fans, the Colonels shocked the Crimson, in what some consider the twentieth century's greatest sports upset. Back in Danville, overjoyed students painted the "impossible chemical formula" C6H0 (Centre 6, Harvard 0) on everything in sight, including some cows. One such marking can still be seen on the side of the Centre post office.
The Centre victory was no fluke. The team went undefeated in regular season play, going on to beat other national powerhouses.
On the 75th anniversary of C6H0, Centre challenged Harvard to a rematch. Harvard declined.
But back to the fire engine. The state-of-the-art Ahrens served Danville and Boyle County with distinction into the 1950s. Near the middle of the decade it was traded in on a newer model and local firemen lost track of it. In 1996 when Centre celebrated the 75th anniversary of C6-H0 with a major exhibition at the College's Norton Center, officials attempted to locate the fire engine, but to no avail.Then, in 2003, the College received word that a collector in Ohio had acquired the vehicle and was restoring it to pristine condition. And thus, the 86-year-old fire engine came back to again lead a parade and recall its former glory. Life-size cutouts of members of the 1921 team were placed on the engine for photo opportunities. Discussions are under way about bringing the fire engine back to Homecoming in October to mark the 85th anniversary of C6-H0.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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