Bits & Pieces with Rebecca Lavallee: School Colors & Mascots

Last week Justin came to me asking for the next “Bits & Pieces” article. Between my last project and the holidays, I had nothing. I hadn’t started a new project yet, I had nothing in reserve, I was drawing a complete blank. As one does when they need to come up with a new idea, instead of thinking, I chose to procrastinate and went on Facebook. And there it was, this month’s “Bits & Pieces.” A member of one of Douglas’ Facebook Communities posed a question regarding the town’s mascot, the Tiger, and the school colors, Blue & White. This caused the gears in my geeky little mind to start turning – “Why does Douglas have a tiger as her mascot and blue and white school colors?”

Let’s begin with the school colors. Today, in the United States, school colors are an essential part of the school’s identity. These colors are used myriad ways to represent your school – uniforms for sports & band, school signs, apparel, website design, building design, anything that can help differentiate your school from others. And students proudly don caps and gowns in school colors as they walk across the stage on graduation day. (A quick side note, it appears that most high school graduations did not utilize the caps and gowns until after the Great Depression. Most students would wear their Sunday best for graduation.) Most discussions of school colors revolve around the collegiate level, so it is difficult to find out when high schools began using school colors, but I tried my hardest with the resources I have available.

To try and narrow down when Douglas began using Blue and White as their colors, I referenced Graduation Exercise Programs found in the archive. I was only able to find 10 programs from 1879, which is when the first class graduated from Douglas, to 1955. In these programs, it is not listed as “School Color(s)” but instead it is “Class Color(s)”. The first class in 1879 chose the color Blue, in 1909 they chose Yellow & White, in 1928 it was Green & Silver. There was no continuity in the colors chosen by each class. The final reference towards Class Colors was in the 1956 Annual Report when the Class of ‘56 chose Blue & White.

Now something to be aware of. When the Douglas Memorial High School was built in 1924, it did not have a gymnasium. Any sporting events that required the use of a gym took place at the Sokol Hall. In 1957, a gymnasium was added to the high school. While I do not have confirmation of this, it is believed that when the gymnasium was added, it was painted in blue and white, making Douglas’ School Colors Blue & White. The archive has yearbooks dating back to 1960 and in the yearbooks, the graduating class would list the Class Moto, the Class Flower, and the Class Song; however they no longer listed Class Colors. Once again, I do not have definitive proof of this (if anyone knows for sure, please let me know), but it is believed that the school colors were determined in 1957/1958 with the new gymnasium.

So our colors are Blue and White. What about the Tiger?

Quick history lesson on mascots. The term mascot comes from the French word mascotte, which means lucky charm. In 1880, a French opera called La Mascotte, brought the term to the mainstream. By the mid-1880 in America, you can find the use of these mascots (usually live animals or people) being brought to sporting events as lucky charms. It wasn’t until the 1960s with Jim Henson’s creation of Muppets that we began seeing the cartoon-like three-dimensional mascots that we have today.

Now, onto Douglas’ Tiger. As previously stated, we have Douglas High School Yearbooks (The Gauntlet) going back to 1960. I decided to go through the Yearbooks to try and determine when the Tiger became such an integral part of Douglas History. And luck would have it that the very first yearbook we have, 1960, mentions the tiger as Douglas’ mascot.

We the class of “1960” hope that the tradition of having the Douglas High School mascot, the Tiger, on our class rings will be continued. We feel this Tiger not only makes you a member of your class, but also a member of the whole school.

In that same yearbook, we also have a picture of a stuffed tiger and the basketball and baseball players are referred to as Tigers.

Over the next twenty years, the Tiger goes from being sporadically mentioned to becoming a more prominent character in the yearbooks. The school paper goes from the Hi Lite to the Paper Tiger. The Tiger starts showing up at more and more sporting events – the athletes becoming Tigers & Tigerettes, signs proclaiming “Go Tigers”, and eventually the 1974 mural by Rose Minor that became a prominent feature in the following years.

Much like the school colors, we have a base timeline of our Tiger Mascot, but we have no beginning. When was the Tiger chosen? How was the Tiger chosen? And why was the Tiger chosen?

These were the questions that I was hoping I’d be able to answer, but unfortunately I couldn’t. If anyone has any resources or stories that might shed some light, it would be greatly appreciated.

TL;DR: Blue and white sometime before 1960. Tiger sometime before 1960.