It’s high school football season.
Time to go head to head with old rivalries and cheer on the home team. And that got us thinking… how did schools adopt these crazy mascots in the first place? We opened the history books to find out.
Elk Grove High School: The Grenadiers
It was the summer of 1966. The era of peace-loving hippies and the war in Vietnam. It was also the year that Elk Grove High School opened, and according to Jon Rowly, boys athletic director at Elk Grove High School, the new assistant principals chose a grenadier, which is a 17th century solider who threw grenades, because it had alliteration with “grove.” Another story, from Cheryl Juhas, co-president of the Elk Grove Grenadier Athletic Boosters, says the school picked the Grenadier as mascot to honor a local soldier who had just returned home from war.
Highland Park High School: The Giants
Back in the day, many high schools often chose colors or mascots that mirrored a college team. According to Bill Brown, who serves on the board of the Highland Park High School Athletic Hall of Fame, in 1940, the principal of Highland Park chose to name the high school after his alma mater, the Wabash College Little Giants. In 1971, the Highland Park football coach changed the name to The Giants, because he didn’t want his team to be considered “little.”
Lake Forest High School: The Scouts
According to “Lake Forest High School: The First Thirty Years,” LFHS teams originally were called the “Goldcoasters,” presumably because so many rich Chicagoans were moving to the North Shore. But students hated this nickname, and, in 1938, a contest was held for a new name, and “Forest Scouts” won. The idea came from the Senior Star painted on the floor of the main hall, which is a compass that points the way out of the forest (Lake Forest) for all the “scouts” who enter the school.
Lake Forest Academy: The Caxys
According to “Many Hearts and Many Hands: The History of Ferry Hall and Lake Forest Academy,” football was introduced at Lake Forest Academy in 1885, and by the early 1900s, the students would sit on the sidelines cheering “Caxys, co-ax, co-ax, co-ax” ― a refrain from “The Frogs,” a play by the Greek poet Aristophanes that resembles the sound frogs make. The chant became so popular that the team became known as The Caxys, although Sarah Hill, executive assistant to the head of school and the board of trustees, said their symbol is a frog because it’s too hard to have a symbol of a sound.
New Trier High School: The Trevians
In 1981, New Trier East and New Trier West high schools were merging because of declining enrollment. At the time, West was the Cowboys and East was the Indians, so the schools needed to settle on a new mascot that would represent all of them. Since the Grosse Pointe area of Wilmette was largely settled by German immigrants, the students voted on the Trevian, which was a soldier from the city of Trier, Germany during the Roman Empire.
Loyola Academy: The Ramblers
When Loyola University of Chicago started playing football in the 1920s, the school didn’t have a football field, so the team had to travel to play every game and were soon dubbed “The Ramblers.” According to Dennis Stonequist, director of Alumni Relations at Loyola Academy, the high school was originally located in Rogers Park near the university, so it adopted the same nickname in the late 1920s or early 1930s.
Jessica Downs, Emily Eckhous, Lauren Neuschel and Allison Sickert contributed to this report.
Do you have a favorite story about your high school mascot and how it came to be? Let us know on our Facebook page or write in a comment below.