Phi Sigma Kappa restores football cannon tradition
By Albert Shelby
December 7, 2012
If you are a Missouri Western football fan, you’ve probably have had to endure the loud blast that is shot from the cannon used at home football games. Considering that the football team has had some success this season, it’s hard to miss the loud crack countless times this year at Spratt Stadium.
The installment of the cannon had to go through quite a few people to get approved. It also has history that dates back to the early 1980s. The Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity went through the necessary precautions and is now allowed to shoot off the cannon after every touchdown the school makes.
Coltin Ridenour is the secretary of the fraternity, who has the privilege of shooting off the cannon. He admitted that it gets pretty loud.
“We had to go through a lot of channels to get it done,” Ridenour said. “Some people did not like the idea at first. But we talked to other people about it and we explained how it would work, people came around and saw that it was a bit safer than expected. It took a full year for it to be approved.”
Ridenour shoots off the cannon right next to the loud speakers that usually plays music and the broadcast during and before the games. As you can imagine, earbuds are needed and depending on how close you are, the sound of the cannon alone can cause damage to any part of your head.
“It’s very loud and efficient,” Ridenour said. “I do wear ear plugs. You just have to make sure that nobody is in front of it. It can definitely cause some brain damage.”
Dirck Clark is an alumnus of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity at Western. His grandfather is the person who found pieces for the cannon, then reconstructed it from scratch.
“I was in the Phi Sig fraternity, and I wanted cannon, so I went to my grandfather to see if he could build us one,” Clark said. “My grandfather was a farmer and good at those types of things, so I knew he could do it.”
Clark said that around the early 1980s, his grandfather went out and found scrap pieces, including two large wheels, that could help put together a cannon.
“He went out to a scrap pile and found two big metal wheels that are close to being about a hundred years old by now,” Clark said. “He found a pipe and other necessary things that he needed and he built it. Between my grandfather and my uncle, they built the cannon, and we gave it to the fraternity.”
The cannon had been a tradition here at Western until the cannon went missing in the early 1990s. The cannon were missing for about 20 years until a rumor was spread to the fraternity about the cannon being in an abandon home.
Nick Niemeier is a current member of the fraternity and admitted that the cannon went missing for a while, but they were able to retrieve it eventually.
“The cannon had been missing for quite some years,” Niemeier said. “We decided to search for it, contact a lot people and we ended up finding it at an abandon home in a junk pile. We had to piece some things together and then we thought it was time to bring it out for football games.”
Niemeier noted that he knew that the cannon were a tradition and it meant a lot for him to not only help restore the cannon, but allow everyone attending the games to experience something that has been a tradition for years.
“This will be a tradition that will be a huge part of Griffon football for years to come,” Niemeier said. “It helps with the team, the crowd and the atmosphere at Spratt Stadium, and we want to be able to bring it back every year to keep it going.”
The fraternity has received a lot of support from alumni and students of Western from Twitter and Facebook, commending them for restoring a huge part of history here on campus.
“It adds a lot of excitement to the football games,” Clark said. “I was disappointed in the years that the cannon disappeared, and now I’m just delighted to have it on the field again.”