May 2011

“Two-Gun” Baker

Ken Baker, son of longtime PC professor Kenneth Baker and himself a PC grad, recently sent us some stories about PC that were shared with him by his father and his Uncle Ralph, who attended Newberry College.

Kenneth N. Baker, Jr., as a senior at PC

Ralph, who attended college around 1917, remembers playing basketball in the gym in the basement of Jacobs Hall (a space which later housed the physics lab). One of the walls of the old gym was actually considered in-bounds, and you could bank a ball off that wall and not be out of bounds. Indeed, if you were really good, you could bank the ball off a brick that protruded from the wall and use it to improve the height on your shot. The markings for the old basketball court were still on the floor in the mid-1930s when Kenneth Baker came from Newberry to teach at PC.

The gymnasium in the Jacobs Hall basement

Before the PC-Clinton library (now the Smith Administration Building) was opened in the 1940s, Jacobs Hall also housed the college library, and Ken Baker remembers checking out books there as a small child.

Baker also has some interesting stories about Coach Walter Johnson. According to one account, sometime in the early teens, Newberry came to PC to play basketball, and, as usual, Coach Johnson had hired a referee. The Newberry team was acquainted with this referee from previous games, and refused to play if he officiated. The Newberry players said that they would be willing to play if Johnson himself officiated – a real feat, to coach and serve as an impartial referee in the same game.

Coach Johnson also told Ken Baker that when he went in the army at the beginning of World War II, he put the records of most of the college’s athletic contests in the basement of Neville Hall. When he returned to the college, they were gone. That solves a longtime mystery for those of us in the athletic department and the archives who are frequently asked to provide these statistics; we’ve always wondered where those records might be.

Dr. Kenneth N. Baker in the classroom

One of the most interesting and amusing stories concerns Dr. Kenneth Baker himself. According to his son, “In about 1948 I would see my Dad use caulk and mark about his office door. I did not know what he was trying to do but soon after Dad slipped over to his office late one night and caught two students in his office trying to steal some tests. He had his trusty Smith and Wesson .38 special pistol and one of the students started to run away before he could be identified. Dad told him to stop or he would shoot, and it was a long distance before he could clear the corner of the building. He did stop before Dad had to shoot. He was the quarterback on the football team. They were asked to withdraw from school. When Dad retired from Presbyterian he was given another stainless steel Smith and Wesson revolver by the friends of the college. Quite a retirement present. He was known as” Two Gun” Baker for a long time. I still keep both of them close to me most of the time.”

Our thanks to Kenneth Norton Baker, Jr. ’56 for sharing these memories with us.