The Tatum Bell The Story of the Country Day Touchdown Bell
Photo by Sharon Ellman
By Daniel L. Tatum ’81 Anyone who has been to an athletic event at Rosacker Field has seen the large bell near the home stands. Country Day students and families all know that the bell is rung to celebrate a Falcon touchdown, goal or victory, but because the bell has been a familiar sight on campus since 1969, few today know of its origin, or how it came to Country Day. The plaque set beneath the bell tells that it was donated in 1969 by Dr. and Mrs. Judge M. Lyle and Dr. and Mrs. G. Douglas Tatum, Jr., in honor of their children, Stephen L. Tatum ’72, Leslie Tatum Dollahite ’73, Scott D. Tatum ’76 and Daniel L. Tatum ’81. But the story of the bell goes back to the earliest days of Country Day—and even before. The bell itself is a 36-inch iron church bell cast by the Blymyer Manufacturing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, sometime between 1872 and 1904. Those years were a boom time for the construction of churches and schools in the U.S., so bells were a lucrative line of business for foundries. Blymyer also made steam engines, sugar processing equipment and ice-making machinery. It is unknown where the bell was for the first 50-plus years of its existence. My mother, Barbara Lyle Tatum, eldest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Judge
M. Lyle, collected bells as a child. She has many of them in her home still. There are bells of every shape and size from all over the world: tiny jingle bells, bells shaped like ladies in hoop skirts, hotel desk bells decorated with mother-of-pearl, steam locomotive bells and a U.S. Navy ship’s bell. One day when she was a teenager, her parents gave her what would be the largest bell in her collection, a 36-inch cast iron church bell. It hung in a stand made of iron pipe (the same one you see today), and it was set in the ground in the yard of the Lyle’s longtime home on Westcliff Road South, near Texas Christian University. My brothers, sister, cousins and I all enjoyed ringing the big bell when we visited our grandparents. The bell’s connection to Fort Worth Country Day began a few years later. In the early 1960s, Dr. Lyle served on one of the committees that originally organized Fort Worth Country Day School, and on the first day of school in 1963, my brother, Steve Tatum, and sister, Leslie Tatum Dollahite, were there. With the exception of the five-year period between 1981 and 1986, there has been at least one Tatum enrolled at Country Day ever since.
In light of her family’s involvement in CDS athletics, my mother conceived the idea to give her church bell to Country Day, to be placed on the field and rung when CDS scored a touchdown. By the 1969-70 school year, Steve was a sophomore; Leslie was a freshman; Scott was a sixth-grader, and I was in second grade. Steve, Scott and Leslie were all involved in CDS athletics: Steve in varsity football, soccer and track; Leslie in field hockey, speedball and softball; and Scott in Middle School football, soccer and track. My father, Dr. G. Douglas Tatum, Jr., was serving on the Country Day Athletic Committee. In light of her family’s involvement in CDS athletics, my mother conceived the idea to give her church bell to Country Day, to be placed on the field and rung when CDS scored a touchdown. Dr. and Mrs. Tatum approached Headmaster Peter A. Schwartz and Athletic Director Rocky Rosacker H’00 with the idea, and they enthusiastically accepted. Richard Steed, another long-time CDS parent and owner of a construction company, volunteered to arrange the pick-up, transport and installation of the bell at CDS. At that time, Country Day’s “stadium” didn’t have the berms, stands, press box and lights it does today. It was simply a flat playing field, not much different from the other practice fields. The details concerning its original placement are murky, but instead of being placed on the field, the bell was first installed in the center of campus, just outside the entrance to the Sid W. Richardson Gymnasium. The bell stayed there until construction of the Scott Theater began, when it was finally moved to the stadium where it is currently located. Because of
its distance from the field in the early days, the bell was not often rung to celebrate a Country Day touchdown, as my mother originally intended, but once it was moved to the new stadium in the mid-1970s, that tradition immediately took hold and has continued ever since. Even though the bell was now at Country Day, my mother still took a proprietary interest in it. I recall at least one occasion when she drove me out to school on a Saturday to put a fresh coat of silver paint on it. In fact, the bell has been through many paint schemes over the years. For the first few years it kept its original silver color; later, one night before a big game, classmates Steve Tatum, Richard Garvey, Clark Kemble, Steve Jennings, Larry Kleuser and Doug Decker painted the bell half red and half blue, with a large “No. 1” on both sides. That paint scheme stayed for some time until it was given its current gold color. The bell was once even painted all blue as part of a Trinity Valley School prank. Beyond mere pranks, the bell has sometimes been a focus of tension between Country Day and Trinity Valley. My sister recalls more than one occasion in the 2000s, while her sons were playing for Country Day, when we lost to Trinity Valley on our home field. She had to stand and hold onto the bell’s clapper after those games to keep Trinity Valley players from trying to ring the bell themselves. Dr. and Mrs. Tatum’s contributions to Fort Worth Country Day have been many and particularly in support of Fort Worth Country Day athletics. My father perennially served on and chaired the Athletic Committee, and he and my mother rarely missed one of their children’s’ or grandchildren’s games. All of their children, grandchildren and other relatives who attended Country Day participated in athletics in one way or another. The Tatum Bell not only honors all of their achievements on the field and on the court, but it also honors all Fort Worth Country Day athletes, past, present and future.