Thursday, July 5, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Hockey Field

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

This is the sixth in a series based on my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s scrapbook that she kept during her freshman year at Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University). 

When I was in college, women’s field hockey reigned supreme as the main sport on campus.  So I’m surprised to learn from Velma’s scrapbook and yearbook that the sport had such shaky beginnings.

Prior to 1924, field hockey struggled to find a place in the hearts of the HTC students.  From 1912-1915, teams were formed and competed during Field Day which was always part of the commencement activities at that time.  But then field hockey was dropped as an organized sport until 1919 when the sport was revived with Junior and Senior teams. 

The sport became especially popular in 1923.  Harrison Hall was the setting of a pre-breakfast song and yell contest followed by a snake dance out to the hockey field located next to Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

1924 - Hockey field was located where Burruss Hall
and the library are today.

Finally in 1924 the first varsity field hockey team was organized.  The girls played only one game and lost miserably to Westhampton 4-1. In the years following they played 3 games a year.  The second year produced a winning season defeating Shepherd’s College 13-0 and Fredericksburg (now Mary Washington University) 15-1, losing only to Westhampton once again 1-4.  In 1928 HTC added an alumnae game to end the season. 

The team of Velma’s day wouldn’t know what to make of today’s new field hockey complex.

from JMU Sports 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Great post about Field Hockey and how it began at JMU. Did Velma play?

    1. If she did, it wasn't on the team. She was on the basketball team her freshman year but not in her sophomore year.

  2. That sounds like quite the rough and tumble sport for those ladies. Um, does the photo show them playing in skirts or dresses by any chance? Wow, that would be interesting.

    I had to smile when I read about the snake dance. It just sounded so funny. But what exactly is that?

    1. Jana, In 1924 the team actually wore midi blouses and big baggy bloomers which probably was only a minor improvement over the skirts worn in the previous decade. As for the snake dance, I don't know for sure, but I picture sort of a conga line without the drunken frenzy, maybe just a line of girls winding their way in a sinuous path out to the field. But there were actual INDIAN snake dances popular at that time in places like New Mexico. From what I can tell, Velma's classmates had a flair for the dramatic so there's no telling what dance they were doing!

    2. Bloomers! That's so cute!

      Too bad they didn't make a movie of their "snake dance." Couldn't you just see one of those old time grainy silent movies or newsreel movies featuring the girls in bloomers "snake dancing" their way onto the field?