Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2-9-11 Bearkat Fever

A short Bearkat history. . . .

Sam Houston Normal Institute was established in 1879, making SHSU the third oldest college charter in Texas, behind Texas A&M and Texas A&M Prairie View (both chartered in 1876) and it holds the distinction of being the first teaching college in all of the southwest.

It wouldn't be until 1912 that they played (and lost) their first football game to Rice (it was their very first game, too). Get this: they were the Sam Houston State Normals. Really strikes fear into an opponent's heart, don't it?

In 1919 the first baccalaureate degree is awarded and in 1923 their name is changed to the Sam Houston State Teachers College (which will stick until 1965 when they become Sam Houston State College) and they choose as their mascot the slightly off-spelled Bearkat.

I wonder if the 1922 film "The Bearcat" featuring "the singin' kid Hoot Gibson" might have been partly responsible.

Or maybe it was the popularity of the decade's association with the Stutz roadster model of the Roaring 20s, often mentioned in connection with college students, raccoon coats and bathtub gin.
According to the University website, there was a slogan "tough as a bearcat" that was all the rage, and they chose the "k"in the spelling because it was a creature more mythical than real.

Whatever it was, the Bearkat was at least a step up from the Normal, I suppose.

The earliest logos depict what appears to be just a black cat, which probably sat well with my grandmother and aunt, who both attended SHSTC. My grandmother would drive down from Mexia (also known as the black cats) each Saturday to complete work on her degree while she taught elementary school all week long. My aunt, Dot (Dorothy) attended here as well in the 50s.

The costumed mascot didn't come onto the field until 1959, looking a bit deranged. For the longest time I wondered why he wore a sailor hat (General Houston was an infantry man) before I realized it was a college beanie. Aha! All it needs is the little twirly, spinny thing on top to match this crazy face.

(1962, from the SHSU gallery)

1968 looking a little more polished


1978 (nice manicure)

Also 1978? Appears to be an older incarnation on campus, as a statue, possibly?

1984, in what was clearly an attempt to butch him up, but they kept the beanie. Hmmm. Like the Hitler-esque mustache, though.

Good Lord. 1986. Case of the mange. And maybe hairballs.

Samantha Bearkat was also introduced as a mate for Sammy Bearkat in 1986 (because looking like he did, he couldn't possibly land a date), which was also the first year Bob was a student. She was "retired" in the 90s, presumably when Sammy got his new look, had a midlife crisis, and left her in his shiny new sports car.

1995. The Dog Years. Sammy was definitely suffering from an identity crisis.

Samantha Bearkat, also 1995

The current and very popular incarnation of Sammy came in 1996-7 when Bear-like Sammy began melting in the rain.

1998 Samantha, before the fall.

Welcome to the Bearkat family, Nick. Forever may our beanies fly. . . .


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