It’s first and ten for a new season of Virginia football, and for the first time in several years my heart is full of more than the usual blind optimism. With a new coach at the helm, I feel as though Virginia has a chance to shake loose the malaise that’s gripped the team for the past few years. In the spirit of blind optimism, then, I present a little history: the back story of a Virginia football song, “Hike, Virginia.”
As I noted earlier this year, spectators used to sing at Virginia football games. And not just “The Good Old Song”–there were songs for every occasion and for every foe. A 1911 football song book that has come into my possession indicates part of how they were able to pull this off, by having lyrics in front of every fan, but there was much more required to make it happen, from the presence of a band (or the Glee Club) at games to Virginia fans who would write songs to be sung by the crowd. One of these fans was L. D. Crenshaw, and the song was “Hike, Virginia,” cowritten by Crenshaw and C.S. McVeigh.
The story might end there, but I did a little sleuthing and found that L.D. Crenshaw was in fact Lewis D. Crenshaw, first secretary of the UVA Alumni Association, first to successfully accomplish a system of modern reunions, and the originator and host of the University’s bureau in Paris during World War I. He was fondly remembered by many alumni as a redoubtable host; a New Years Eve party in Paris was to continue “‘jusqu’au moment où les vaches rentrent chez ell’ (’til the cows come home). On the menu was ‘de l’egg nogg véritable.’” He was also instrumental in getting the centennial reunion together, with his goal being
to see that every human critter that can walk or hop or crawl or fly or swim, or even float down the Rivanna on his back, gets within calling distance of the old Rotunda… [searching for the] oldest living specimen of the genus alumnus Virginiensis, who we will have seated on the throne of extinct beer kegs [prohibition being in full force], and crowned with a chaplet of fragrant mint leaves.
Unfortunately, the infant Alumni Association could not afford to keep up Crenshaw’s salary, reports University historian Virginius Dabney–it seems alums were delinquent in their dues even in the beginning–so he resigned his post and returned to Paris indefinitely.
Less is known of C.S. McVeigh, save that he was in the Glee Club in 1905, per concert reviews in the spring of that year published in the Baltimore Sun and the Alexandria Gazette. (It is becoming axiomatic that just about every Virginia song I run across has at least one Glee Club man responsible for its authorship.) But together they produced a lesser known but still fun gem in the annals of Virginia songs.
“Hike, Virginia” was first recorded on Songs of the University of Virginia and can be heard on the Glee Club’s current record, Songs of Virginia, along with other Virginia songs.