Ron Marinucci June Column: "Mascots part 2"
by Ron Marinucci, Jun. 10, 2019
As promised last month, here are more unique nicknames and mascots of some Michigan high schools. Explaining the name of the original Zeeland High School, now Zeeland East, Cal De Kuiper, superintendent of schools, said, “We live in poultry country,” hence the nickname Chix.
The district’s community relations manager, Ginger Smith, added, “The [poultry] theme dates back to the 1930s.” She cited a Zeeland Record article of August 13, 1931 “that discusses both the market growth for eggs and for baby chicks.” The Zeeland area was producing upwards of a million chicks a year. The article noted that Zeeland’s Ottawa County was “first in the state…in poultry.”
“A chick design was used on the cover of the 1931 yearbook.” Two years later the school newspaper was christened The Peeper. Zeeland West opened in 2002. De Kuiper said, “When we added the second high school, [East] alumni wanted to keep the original Chix.” Smith added, “The district did extensive work to develop a mascot for the [second] high school. Community and student surveys were compiled, with Dux being the solid winner. Each year, when the Chix play the Dux in football, it is coined ‘The Bird Bowl.’”
Fremont, also in western Michigan, has been the home of Gerber foods since the company’s founding ninety years ago. That has led to Fremont’s title, “Baby Food Capital of the World.” But prior to Gerber, residents were already producing canned vegetables and fruit.
Scott Sherman, the principal of Fremont High School, pointed to the school’s nickname, the Packers. “Fruit packaging was our main industry and just after the turn of the [20th] century, our school adopted the name,” even before Gerber.
In the late 1920s, the Mt. Pleasant oil field was discovered in Midland and Isabella counties. Several oil companies acquired leases. Pure Oil Company struck the richest of the wells and established a pipeline from Mt. Pleasant to the Imperial/Esso refinery in Sarnia, Ontario. Mt. Pleasant, for a while, was known as “The Oil Capital of Michigan.”
Denny Starnes explained how oil influenced much at Mt. Pleasant High School, where he is the principal. “An Oiler,” the school’s mascot, “reflects the oil workers in the area.” He also pointed out that “the yearbook is named the Derrick,” adding “Our rivalry with Alma, another old oil town, had a celebrated Oil Can Trophy.” Famed magician and illusionist Harry Blackstone visited the Colon area in southwest Michigan in 1925. His wife fell in love with Colon and Blackstone decided to use it as a retreat to hone his magic skills between tours. A couple of years later, with another famous magician, Percy Abbott, they founded the Blackstone Magic Company. The partnership lasted only eighteen months, the two magicians never speaking again.
Abbot started his own magic company and began to host magic conventions in Colon. One of the attending magicians labeled Colon, “The Magic Capital of the World.” The city continues to hold an annual magic festival and camp. It also has a Magic Walk of Fame.
Not long afterward, Colon High School athletic teams became The Magi, where, the school Web site proclaims, “We make the Magic happen.”
Two Detroit high schools have interesting and historical nicknames. On the east side of the city, Denby High School is known as The Tars. The school is named after Edwin Denby, a Detroit-area politician who later became the Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet of President Warren G. Harding.
“Tars” is a nickname given to sailors. Black tar was sometimes used in the past to coat ships’ ropes and rigging to prevent them from rotting. The sailors would then, from working with the ropes and rigging, get the gooey tar all over themselves, especially on their hands. Hence the name “tars.”
Secretary of the Navy Denby and “Tars.” Instead of the Denby Sailors, they became the Denby Tars.
Barely five miles away from Denby is Southeastern High School. From an early Detroit Public School information blurb, the school received its nickname from its location. When Southeastern was constructed in 1917, it was in a relatively undeveloped part of Detroit, near the then city limits. It was, people said, “out in the jungle,” their way of saying “out in the sticks.” Therefore, the Southeastern nickname became The Jungleers.
Another theory about Jungaleers comes from the Detroit Tigers of the day. Apparently, during the First World War, some folks referred to the Tigers as “Jungaleers”—tigers live in the jungle. Although a bit far-fetched, perhaps this also played a role in the mascot of Southeastern High School.
Warren Regina is a girls college preparatory Catholic high school. Regina students are called “Saddlelites.” Saddlelites, not Satellites? Yes. The nickname stems not from space vehicles, but that saddle shoes are required parts of the school uniform.
Athletes from Lansing Eastern are known as The Quakers. The origin of that is largely unknown, but a theory persists. At the time the name was adopted, the school was located on Pennsylvania Avenue in the state’s capital city. Pennsylvania, of course, is known as the Quaker State due to its original settlers—William Penn and his Quaker followers. It’s as good an explanation as there is.
According to the school’s Web site, over the years slight changes to the mascot have been suggested. Some coaches thought “Quakers,” with their well-known pacifism, might not mesh with a fighting spirit they were trying to instill in their teams. That led to a short-lived “Quaker Guardsmen.” “Fight Quakers,” a natural oxymoron, didn’t last either. So The Quakers, simply The Quakers, remained.
In the past two months, we’ve looked at more than a dozen unique high school nicknames and/or mascots. But there are still more than one hundred other schools in Michigan which have mascot names used only by them. Perhaps we’ll explore some of them in future columns.