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A Collection Of Bizarre Solved & Unsolved Mysteries

Associated With The University Of Arizona

 Located In Tucson, Arizona U.S.A. From 1885 To The Present Day

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Bear Down Gym's Secrets

 

The University of Arizona Wildcat's battle cry of  Bear Down And Fight song (hear it here) comes from the Thursday October 18, 1926 final dying words of a 22 year old wildly popular charismatic student leader, and multi talented athlete who often trained in what was then the newly built Men's Gymnasium as the Bear Down Gym was originally named.

 

In 1925 John 'Button' Byrd Salmon was the then President of the Student Body, John was the Varsity Football Team Starting Quarterback and its Team Captain. John was also a three-year star catcher for the University of Arizona Baseball Team with obvious major league potential. Nicknamed 'Button' by his family for his small frame (John was 5'8", 145 pounds) and his unbelievably impish good looks, John was extremely popular with his teammates, his coach, his fellow students, the people of Tucson, all the schools girls, and many of the young girls around the area beyond the school in the then small dusty town of Tucson, Arizona.


In 1925, the year just before his untimely death, John 'Button' Byrd Salmon completely amazed a stadium crowd of over 30,000 University of Southern California (USC) Trojan fans as well as his University of Arizona supporters up in the stands at the game against USC in 1925 Los Angeles with his almost superhuman powerful punts, literally flying over the top of opponents, and his totally fearless defensive plays. This was one very talented athlete without fear who was a 'hard as a rock kid' with his wild curly reddish hair and freckles who inspired his teammates to bestow the beloved nickname on Button of  'The Leaping Tuna.' 

 

1925 John 'Button' Byrd Salmon


John 'Button' Salmon was also an exceptionally talented baseball catcher with clearly recognizable major league talents. In the spring of 1925 his clutch two base hit drove in the winning run against the University of Southern California USC in a very heated baseball game. John 'Button' Byrd Salmon was elected as the Student Body President just four days after that amazing basebal game later referring to his 'hit' as 'my 200 vote double.'

John's father, Frank Salmon was born in 1875 and raised in Texas. Frank, was an educated smart tough no nonsense but always very supportive family man who worked hard in upper management for the Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation in Bisbee during the Deportation of 1917. Button's mother Kathryn E. (Simpson) Salmon was a gentle yet tough fine lady and very loving mother born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1878.

In time, both parents would be buried in Tucson near their son who they had proudly loved so very much.

 

 

 

Their son, John 'Button' Byrd Salmon was born in Christoval Texas on October 22, 1903 and grew up with his parents in the tough early 1900's copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona.  'Button's' older brother Riney B. Salmon was also very athletic, and mentored-supported his young brother John 'Button' Byrd Salmon in both baseball and football at Bisbee's Warren Ballpark where the Young 'Button' Salmon regularly played baseball with the likes of numerous members of the Chicago White Socks, and many other pro ball players of the time who spent time there in the off season. 'Button's" brother Riney B. Salmon later became the President of the Arizona-Texas Baseball League from 1948 to 1950.



The very day after the 1926 season's big opening football game, in the early morning John 'Button' Byrd Salmon was driving at a very high rate of speed returning back from Phoenix in his Ford Model T (see article) (see video) with a football-fraternity buddy and a young girl when he missed a treacherous curve and hit the dirt berm hump along the side of the road near Picacho Peak, Arizona. John's car overturned violently numerous times, crashing down into a deep ravine pinning young John to the deserts floor underneath the battered twisted cars wreckage for hours until any help could arrive. The other two passengers in the car were both ejected out into the desert from the car miraculously sustaining deep lacerations, cuts and bruises, but neither were seriously injured.

 

However, the young talented John 'Button' Byrd Salmon was not as fortunate suffering a severe severed spinal cord injury leaving him paralyzed from his neck down. Dr. Victor Melsor, a very well respected and extremely talented Tucson surgeon, performed an intensive eight (8) hour surgery on 'Button' at the Southern Methodist Hospital in Tucson using all the medical technology and techniques available in 1926.

But sadly, John's spinal injury was just far too severe and far beyond the medical science and its capabilties of the later 1920's time period.

John 'Button' Byrd Salmon died 14 days later on October 18, 1926, at the Southern Methodist Hospital in Tucson, Arizona.

 

 

Southern Methodist Hospital Tucson, Arizona October 1926

 

 

On that day of October 18, 1926  John 'Button' Byrd Salmon gave a final message to his coach 'Pop' and ultimately to all his football and baseball teammates, to his University of Arizona classmates, and those student who would follow in perpetuty. John 'Button' Salmon's coach 'Pop' Mc Kale, who had been visiting 'Button' Salmon every single day for 13 days at the hospital, was talking to 'Button' when the injured young man suddenly whispered 'Pop' come closer.....

"Tell them...Tell The Team To 'Bear Down.' 

The nurse in attendance at his bedside, Mrs Rebecca then noted in the official hospital record that John ' Button' Salmon breathed in one last breath and then died peacefully at 10:32 am on October 18, 1926.

Funeral Procession

The Funeral Procession In October 1926

 


On the day of John 'Button' Bryd Salmon's funeral all classes at the University of Arizona, and all work and all schools throughout the city of Tucson were cancelled for the day. Employers and employees all over the city left their jobs to attend John 'Button' Byrd Salmon's funeral service which was held on the University of Arizona's campus at the auditorium with crowds pouring outside surrounding the building .

Afterwards, there was over a three (3) miles long line of  Ford Model T's, Ford Model A's, Chevrolets, Packards, Cadillacs, Chrylers, Franklins, Buicks, Pontiacs, Dodges, Oldsmobiles, Hupmobiles, Harley Davidson and Indian motorcyles, citizens on horseback, citizens in horse drawn wagons and coaches, every single taxi in town that was running, police and fire departments vehicles, city officials, those walking and on bicycles, and various other cars and trucks of the era slowly made their way from the University of Arizona through downtown Tucson and up the dirt Oracle Road heading north out of town to the main cemetery off Oracle Rd.

 

 

Recounted later on the night of October 18, 1926 after the University of Arizona Coach 'Pop' had returned from the hospital, Pop was working at his office desk inside Bear Down Gym around 10:00PM that night. Pop revealed only later that the ghost of John 'Button' Byrd Salmon wearing his full football jersey had appeared to him at the doorway to the office and began walking toward its now exhausted coach.

 

The apparition then uttered only two words, "Bear Down." Since 1926, other University of Arizona employees, janitor's, volunteers, and students in the gym both during the day and especially late at night have reported over the years their encountering the apparition of a short young man in a well used 1920's era football jersey moving throughout various areas of the gym.  

 

Constructed in 1926 to replace Herring Hall, and named after Colonel Herring, which was the university's original gymnasium, Bear Down Gym is a two story brick structure noted for its curved roof, large semicircular terra cotta entrance and deeply recessed entry with copper-clad window frames. The building is topped with a slightly projecting cornice that includes terra cotta detailing. The structures unique exposed bow-truss roofing system is a highly notable interior feature.

 

Originally, the main level of the gym provided basketball courts and room for gymnastics, while the lower level contained locker rooms, offices, and space for the Department of Military Science and Tactics. The building at one time seated about 6,000 spectators and was used for sports, school dances, and the annual student registration activities.

 

USS Arizona Pearl Harbor

The Battleship USS Arizona - December 7th, 1941 7:48am Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

 

Suddenly, after December 7, 1941 with the outbreak of  World War II then hanging ominusly in the background, Bear Down Gym (and many other facilities at the University of Arizona) were taken over by the United States Militray War Department as a barracks for 500 young students at a time as they went through their "Expedited Naval Indoctrination School," just before being shipped off to the war in the Pacific Ocean. Many of those 'green' future sailors and officers who lived and trained at Bear Down Gym together 24/7 gave their lives in the war effort and never returned to complete their later adult lives. It is said and at times documented that their ghosts of that haunting past still frequent Bear Down Gym looking to start where they left off back when they were very young University of Arizona students. 

 

Bear Down Gym - During War Time - January 16, 1942

 

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