Reflections from the Dome

Early sketch of Cartier Field


This story about Cartier Field is taken from the November, 1929 edition of The Notre Dame Scholastic. It is entitled: "Cartier Field - The Old and the New" by Alfred E. Gall. Many thanks to Joe Madonia of Chicago, for sending me this article for the newsletter.

When future Freshmen will be seated in the new stadium, perhaps watching a second edition of the immortal Four Horsemen running the ball down the field and plowing through the opposing line with the aid of another Seven Mules- when another Elder, Rockne, Stuhldreher, Walsh, or Gipp will save the day for the University - the past stadium, the history of old Cartier field, will be but a passing memory in their minds.

Shakespeare said once that all the world was a stage on which we are merely players. Experience, however, teaches that only a limited number of us are football players. Notre Dame men who have trod the turf ever since the incarnation of football at the University have immortalized the very turf on which they made and broke records.

Back in 1886, when the University was still in her 'teens, her football teams, unacquainted with the modern-day box office receipts played on an open field. This old system of conducting all varsity sports on such a field was soon found to be unsatisfactory.  The burden of supporting the teams rested chiefly on that portion of the student body then residing in Brownson and Sorin halls. Generous sums from different faculty members, however, were all that saved the Athletic Association from ruin.

In 1899, after a meeting of various University representatives, letters were sent to the alumni for aid, but not a bit of help was extended the growing University. Whether the men addressed had cracked ice in their shoes or wore cold water bags around their necks is a matter of conjecture. Somehow it seemed that college loyalty, which to the alumni then seemed only a matter of rooting for the teams when they played, was frosted. The contributions which were solicited did not even suffice to defray the expenses of mailing the letters.

Despite this setback, the University authorities in June, 1889, decided to go ahead with the project of building an enclosed field. Those who attended these games would then have to pay admission in order to share expenses. A letter was sent to Warren A. Cartier, C. E., 1887, asking him if he could lend any assistance toward purchasing some land and putting a fence around it. Mr. Cartier, who resided in Ludington, Michigan, at the time, was a member of the firm of Rath and Cartier, and also of the Cartier Lumber Co. He was, to quote from files of the Scholastic of 1900, "respected for his abilities and for his genial character."' At the time of his donation he was acting as mayor of his home town. The response to the request overwhelmed University officials. Father Morrissey, who was the president of Notre Dame at that time, was much touched when he read Mr. Cartier's reply. The loyal alumnus not only promised aid, but said that he himself would buy the required lumber for the project, build the necessary fence, and last of all, construct a Grandstand. A ten acre plot across the street (at that time) to the east of Brownson campus was therfore purchased.

After careful consideration the ath
letic management decided to use a kite-shaped track in laying out Cartier field, named after the generous donor.   A bicycle track-they had bicycle races in the gay nineties-and a foot track circled the proposed football field and a baseball diamond. A grandstand and a clubhouse were to be erected on the southwest side of the field.

It was soon realized that such a proposed structure would soon be inadequate for the needs of the teams,  consequently a subsequent change which resulted In the first Cartier field was therefore adopted.

This consisted of an enclosed field with entrances located at the north and south-west sides, and two entrances on the west side of the field. Specifications for the field called for a 220 yard straightaway running almost diagonally across the field. On the north of this track was to be situated one of the two football fields with an adjoining grandstand. South of the runway was to be a quarter mile track, banked at the turns so as to provide thrills for the bicyclists of that day, Inside this enclosure was to be located another football field and baseball diamond. The grandstand adjacent to this field was built to seat 500 people.

Special attention was given to developing the quater mile track. A Mr. E.W. Moulton of Vanderbuilt Universary who was in charge of the work, has given some interesting facts about the construction of the work. There were seven layers of material on the track: (1) three inches of coarse cinders, (2) a spreading of earth, (3) three inches of medium size cinders; (4) another spreading of earth; (5) two-thirds of an inch of fine cinders and loam mixed; (6) the same; (7) the same only with the cinders still finer. Each layer was sprinkled and rolled and final hardening was obtained by using a seven ton roller.

The University, recognizing the generosity of Mr. Warren Cartier, had a beautifully mounted and embossed testimonial sent to him. It was etched in blue and gold on white parchment. The decorating and subsequent painting was done by the Art department of Saint Mary's Academy. An old Scholastic writer says that the fact that the Academy was doing the work "is an assurrance of the tastefulness with which it was done."

The scroll embraced the emblems of nearly every field sport played at that time in the American colleges and universities. It read as follows:
                           WARREN A. CARTIER, C. E. '87
         Greeting from the University Of Notre Dame. Grateful for the generosity which
          promted you to bestow to your Alma Mater an enclosed field to be used in
         perpetuity for the athletic games and contests of the students, the University
         of Notre Dame offers you this assurance of thankfulness. The gift will be known
         forever as the Cartier Athletic Field, and your name will be inscribed in the list
         of eminent benefactors of Notre Dame. By your generous gift you have earned
         the gratefulness of the University, and of the students, present and future, to whom
         you have set a wholesome and conspicuous example by your loyalty to your Alma
         Mater and your solicitude for her welfare.

This spirited example of generosity was never to be forgotten. It was perhaps this thought which prompted the teams to fight hardest when they had their backs to their own goal line. It was this spirit, too, which spurred on the team, for from 1905 to 1928, twenty-three years, they remained undefeated on their home field.

Notre Dame's football history is a chronicle of brilliant achievement. Her first game was played in 1887 with Michigan. The Michigan team gave Notre Dame a few minutes of preliminary practice before the regular game. Such was Notre Dame's initiation into the sport which in future years produced stars like Gipp, Eichenlaub, Rockne, Dorais, Eggeman, Farley, Salmon, Miller, Luke Kelley, Dinimic, Philbrooke, Cofall, Bachman, Walsh, the Four Horsemen, Kiley and Hering.

Back in the "good old days," the flying wedge was the most popular form of assault. It was a cross between a steam roller and a 42 centimeter shell. The center was under no obligation to pass the ball. Whenever he felt moved by a spirit he would tear through the line himself with the whole team concentrating its weight in the small of his back, while the opposition concentrated their weight in the pit of his stomach. Skill was never permitted to enter into the limelight along with weight, blood-thirstiness and the desire to trample the opposition into the sod. Those were the days of moustached heroes. In the absence of the old cheer of "Holdemsonsofnotredameh-o-ol-d-dem," the atmosphere was rent by the dull crunch of breaking bones and the occasional thud of a luckless player exploding between the impact of two tons of beef.

Those days were soon over. Coming down through the years, we find Notre Dame's teams winning countless victories on Cartier field. The terriffic line-plunging of Salmon and Eichenlaub, the uncanny forward passing and drop kicking of Charlie Dorais, the accuracy of "Big John" Eggeman, center; Lou Salmon, captain, '02, '03, '04, the hardest-driving fullback who ever ripped an opposing line to shreds; Rog Kiley's stellar performances, "Pop" Farley's runs around ends-all these are still being discussed in the smoke-filled rooms of the students.

In 1905, Notre Dame scored what was probably the largest score ever made on any field in America. They played the American College of Medicine and Surgery and beat them, 142-0. There were 33 minutes of play, or an average of four and one-third points a minute. Yosts' "hurry-up" system in comparison with that is a mere tortoise. It, is said that play was so fast that the only time the spectators saw the players was before the game and during the half. There was a period in which 10 touchdowns were scored in eight minutes, or seven and one-quarter points a minute.

And then came Gipp-the wonder man and the most picturesque and outstanding player of Notre Dame football history. His memorable feet still tread the immortal turf on Cartier. The echoing thud of his cleats is still drumming in the minds of present-day Notre Dame halfbacks. The team of that year, 1920, and the team of 1924, the year of the Four Horsemen and the consequent national champions were hailed as the greatest teams to be turned loose on Cartier field. Their bewildering aerial attack, brilliancy in offensive and defensive play, and herculean line plunging stand out like searing words burned on a human soul.

Through it all can be seen the misty spirit of Cartier hovering over the teams. The blotching of her escutcheon last year by Carnegie Tech will never be forgotten. [Editor's note: The first home field loss for Notre Dame in 23 years]

The new Cartier field stands are being rapidly filled. A mass of humanity is slowly filling its concrete seats. Banners, bunting, gay colored ribbons, chrysanthemums, girls, an autumnal sky and another Notre Dame team are providing an excellent setting for the first game. Thundered cheers are echoing across the molten blue of an Indiana sky. Humanity, crowds, footballs, tenseness, silence, line plunging, a touchdown, cheers, pandemonium, another quarter, no score, end runs, blocking, an injury, a steadfast fight at the goal line, two minutes to play, a penalty, a beautiful punt-the final whistle and a new victory to dedicate a new Cartier.

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