Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mascot Meditations

The other day at work:

Person 1: "I was an Eberwhite Tree."
Person 2: "I was a Huron River Rat."
Person 3: "That is the silliest mascot name."
Person 4 (Me): "I love that name!"

This is a garnet. Pretty, eh?
Mascot for my high school.
Photo courtesy of Glenn Klein under a
Creative Commons license.
I have always preferred mascot names that convey the sense of place, or that say--in some small way--we are unique, we have our own identity. As it happens, at my high school, our mascot was not a mascot at all. It was a garnet, a semi-precious stone. I was told that when the school was excavated, a large garnet--too big to move--was found in the basement. I don't know if that's the true story, but I always liked the image of the garnet in the basement. (There was a big rock that was left in the basement of my house growing up as well, which might be why I found the story believable.)

The sense of place is why I love the Eberwhite Tree mascot. After all, Eberwhite Woods is right there. It is why I was so disappointed at the choice of Eagles for Skyline.

I have loved the name the Willow Run Flyers, with the nod to Willow Run's history as a bomber plant and an airfield.

And although I can live with the new name of the Ypsilanti Community Schools Grizzlies (and I appreciate the feeling that they should pick a "new" name), the new school district is really rising from the ashes of the old, so wouldn't the Ypsilanti Phoenix be more appropriate? Or--even better--the Phoenix Flyers? Phoenixes do fly. . . at least in fantasy novels. Oh well.

In any case, the Huron High School web site has a lovely write-up about how the Huron student body became the River Rats--find it below.

MASCOTDuring 1967-68, a new Ann Arbor High School was being constructed and there was a problem. The school that was to be Huron did not yet have a mascot.

Before the school even opened, Ann Arbor High students who were not going to be relocated to Huron came up with the nickname "River Rat". They used the name as a joke to refer to their newly rivaled classmates who would attend a school built on the
Huron River and near an old medical waste site. But the Huron students turned the joke around, and they, too began referring to themselves with pride as River Rats.
One of the versions of the River Rats logo.
Found online at:
 Administration felt differently about their issue of the River Rat. Huron's first principal, Paul Meyers, had an especially strong dislike of rats after bad experiences with them as captain overseas during World War II. So the nickname was ignored for the most part, and when Huron's construction finally completed, "River Rat" did not appear to be in the running as mascot.
When Huron was opened in 1969, its mascot was intended to be the Huron. However, this mascot did not draw much enthusiasm or support from the students, and shortly after its opening, Huron had a write-in student ballot to determine a few choices for a possible alternative. Several of the more popular choices, including the Highlanders, the Hawks and the Indians, were put on a ballot during the student elections that year. The River Rat never made it to that ballot. 
However, none of the listed mascots could muster up fifty percent of the votes and student kept writing in "River Rat" instead of selecting a given choice on the ballot. Huron went several years without a mascot, during which time local newspapers started referring to Huron sports teams by the old nickname. Baseball players became Bat Rats and wrestlers became Mat Rats.It was the media that validated the name River Rats.
Over time, the name eventually stuck and became ingrained in Huron's history.
Taken from About Huron on the Ann Arbor Public Schools web site.


  1. I love River Rats as well, and really wished Skyline had become the Salamanders.

  2. If ever "Phoenix" was an appropriate nickname, now would be the time. At least, we HOPE the district rises from the ashes!


  3. Count me as another one disappointed by Eagles - but they do have some nice looking imagery over there... And I totally agree that "Phoenix" (or Phoenix Flyers) would be a great mascot for the new combo district - it's not like YPS had used it for that long, so it's not like Willow Run would be submerged under a dynastic presence, but I suppose something can be said for starting anew.

    Mom to a Pioneer Pioneer. [we liked it so much we said it twice!]

  4. I love creative mascots and wish that Skyline could have been the Salamanders too! I grew up a Pioneer Pioneer (we had some ridiculously funny cheers about coming to the game in a covered wagon) and my husband grew up as a Mount Clemens Bather. They were named Bathers after the mineral baths in the area.