Brendan O'Shaughnessy | July 31, 2018
It was May 1924, and the Ku Klux Klan wanted to showcase its power and cement its sudden grip on Indiana politics by holding a picnic and parade in South Bend, the most Catholic area in the state.
About 500 University of Notre Dame students showed their objections by storming downtown and ripping the hoods and robes off surprised Klan members. As the Klan arrived in trains, buses and cars, the students roughed members up in alleys and stole their regalia for battle trophies. They chased the rest to the Klan headquarters downtown at the corner of Wayne and Michigan streets.
A “fiery cross” made from red light bulbs shined in the office’s third-floor window. By a stroke of luck, a store selling groceries on the ground floor had barrels of potatoes outside. The students began launching the potatoes, breaking the window and then all of the lights but the top one. Their arms ragged, no one seemed to be able to reach the last taunting bulb.
The crowd called forth Harry Stuhldreher, the football team quarterback who would be immortalized five months later as one of the Four Horsemen. He reared back and let loose a potato from his cannon of an arm. The crowd leaned in as it traced a perfect arc … and went wild when the light bulb exploded in a shower of sparks. Just kids having a rip-roaring time.
The students were so exuberant that they rushed up the steps toward the third-floor office. At the top of the first flight, a wild-eyed man who said he was a Baptist preacher jumped out and stuck a pistol in the chest of Bill Foohey, a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The students retreated down the stairs and regrouped.
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