Given that the contest for a new St. Thomas fight song is underway, Ann Kenne, head of special collections and archivist at St. Thomas, visits university fight songs in this Tales from the Archives piece.
Boost St. Thomas and the Purple and Gray
Every day and in every way.
For Alma Mater we’ll be staunch and true,
And give our best in all we do.
Rah! Rah! Rah!
“Play the Game!” our slogan ever will be
And we’ll do our best to win the victory.
And we’ll fight! fight! fight! with all our might,
For old St. Thomas we’ll be true!
These are the lyrics to "Boost St. Thomas," the school’s first “rouser” or fight song. Composed by student Ralph Pyke '23, it was officially adopted in 1923.
The song was the product of a competition sponsored by Father Thomas Cullen, president of the college. Judged by a committee of faculty and students to be the best of nine entrants, Pyke was awarded $25 for his composition. While the song remained the official rouser until 1948, there were frequent student complaints about it as they thought it sounded like “Boo” St. Thomas.
"Boost St. Thomas" was not the only fight song to appear in the 1920s. In 1929, a football-specific fight song was published in the homecoming football game program. With lyrics written by Edwin Shields '31 and set to music arranged by Sergeant John Weber, "Charge St. Thomas" never caught on as an official fight song.
St. Thomas men charge down the field
For victory, for victory!
With honor bravest foe may yield
To us a victory.
In dark misfortune's blackest hour
Our backfield strikes with lightening power.
Broad-shouldered linemen trample through
Every line, strong and fine.
No loss can shake their valor true.
Charge! St. Thomas line.
For men of such heroic stuff
A single field's not large enough.
Charge, St. Thomas! Crush that line
Yard by yard, fighting hard.
Here’s to you in victory’s wine!
As our name you guard.
Hit ‘em high! Hit ‘em low!
Hit ‘em hard and off we go!
Yoop-a dee, a-dee, a dah
Yoop-a-dee, yoop a dah
Yoop-a-dee, a dee, a dah
Yoop-a-dee, a dah
On Nov. 8, 1940, the band Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians played a new St. Thomas “pep” tune for the first time at the Vanderbilt Theatre in New York City. As a part of an advertising campaign for the radio show “Chesterfield Pleasure Time,” Waring held a contest to write songs for various colleges. St. Thomas was selected for this honor after over 800 students signed a copy of the 1940 Aquinas yearbook and sent it to the band as a petition.
Father James Lavin recalled that "The St. Thomas Victory Song" received a lukewarm response when it debuted as its lyrics “didn’t seem to relate much to St. Thomas.” The school soon learned that every time the song was played a royalty would have to be paid. Rather than pay the fees, the song quickly faded from use.
Dr. Anthony Chiuminatto of the St. Thomas Music Department introduced a new “pep” song in 1948. Chiuminatto told the Oct. 1, 1948, Aquin that he composed the song because the “old song seemed to be resented by the people in the band, the people on the field and the people in the bleachers.” The "Purple and Gray" he hoped would “catch on and be sung with fervor."
Cheer! Cheer the Purple and Gray:
Fight, team show them the way!
Come on, St. Thomas, hit your stride:
Then we will shout with pride!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Hail the Tommies once more:
Drive hard for that score.
Our fame enhancing.
Crown this day with victory!
With a few tweaks to the lyrics, the student body embraced the new song. But use of it faded in the late 1950s. The college’s pep band, known as the Tom Cats, found the music too complicated for them to play. Instead, the group started playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" and Chiuminatto’s song was left behind.
In 1995, the All-College Council and the Student Orientation Office sponsored a new contest for a fight song. Eleisia Pence won $100 for penning the prize-winning lyrics, which were then set to music by Dr. Matthew George of the Music Department. Despite their best efforts, the "Spirit Song" never took off as the fight song.
Let us cheer for UST
Press on to victory
We stand proudly Purple and Gray
Hail Tommies, seize the day
When the battle line is drawn
And we must make the move
Let our hope and faith prevail
Leaving nothing more to prove.
Bind us all in unity
With trust forever more
Let us root for our home team
And spread the Tomcat roar!
More recently, when football coach Glenn Caruso came to campus in 2008, he was surprised not to find a school song. So, he wrote one himself based on the tune “Oh My Darling, Clementine.” The Saint John Vianney seminarians were among the first to embrace the song after hearing the football team sing it after the coach’s first win. Members of Caruso’s Crew adopted the song and keep up the tradition of singing it after each football game win.