PV or GV? Sides become one for College Night Centennial

Published 9:52 am Monday, October 15, 2018

By NANCY WILSTACH / Special to the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – The University of Montevallo celebrated the 100th anniversary of what is possibly the nation’s oddest college homecoming with a show featuring current and former Purples and Golds singing, dancing and acting together.

And the musical show celebrated the joys of having two competing musical extravaganzas each year to welcome alumni to their class reunions.

“College Night—the Centennial Celebration” was all about being a Purple (PV) or a Gold (GV) and what it means to go to a school where music, art, theater, dance and some intramural athletic events take the place of a football game against a patsy opponent.

UM started life as an all-girls’ college with strict rules about leaving campus or fraternizing with town boys. Entertainment was not at the top of the administration’s to-do list in those days, with most students headed for a few years as a classroom teacher and then marriage and family.  It was all pretty predictable and, possibly, a shade boring.

Thus, the inventive young women launched a contest between classes that has grown to the choosing of sides (Purple and Gold), the wearing of colors, the shouting of slogans and three nights of competitive performances each February.

On Saturday night an observer was safe in saying that some choose a side at an early age, such as the gurgling baby clad in a purple onesie on the left side of Palmer Auditorium, totally at home among loyal Purples who wore glittering purple jackets, purple sport coats, dashing purple bow ties, purple gingham dress shirts, purple hats and vests . . .

A girl of perhaps 7 or 8 stood among the cheering Golds on the right side of the hall, her black frock dusted liberally with sparkling golden flecks.  She sang along with the “side” songs among men in gold neckties and gold sport coats, women in gold sequins and gold scarves.

“An Evening to Remember” featured a cast, chorus and orchestra with some 50 Purples and Golds working together to present nearly 30 songs.  Among those on stage and in the audience were many faces familiar to Shelby Countians.

While Mary Reid Howard, 1991 female Gold Leader, sang and danced on stage as a cast member of the retrospective, friends in the audience recalled that ’91 College Night when, after the final evening’s performances, Joe Howard, the male Gold Leader, dropped to one knee and asked Mary to marry him.

On Saturday night, their son Ryan, sang in the chorus.  He is the male Gold Leader for 2019. The Howards live in Montevallo.

In the audience were Jim and Vicky Davis of Riverchase.  He retired as the financial director of Shelby County Schools and was the male Purple leader of 1963; and he wrote the Purple show’s script the previous year.

Familiar faces were everywhere.  The Montevallo High School band director, Lyndsey Underwood, played trumpet in the pit orchestra, while her husband, B.J., sang and danced on the stage.

The  centennial was part of UM events surrounding its 122nd Founders’ Day.