More than a mascot

The new mascot has a lot of his- tory to live up to, and it’s not going to be easy.

Bradley’s gargoyle mascot will be revealed during the Feb. 22 men’s basketball game. As the uni- versity gears up to advertise the gargoyle, I decided to fulfill my obligation as a history nerd and dig deep into Bradley’s glory days with the Brave mascot.

I searched through old Scouts, Hilltopics articles, Anaga Yearbook features, decades-old Bradley publications and a paper written by Special Collections Librarian Charles Frey.

What I found is that in order to churn up enough spirit among students today as the Brave did in the past, it might take more than a new mascot.

Lydia Moss Bradley didn’t invent the Brave mascot. As early as the 1920s, Bradley year- books and the student newspaper referred to teams as “Indians” or “Braves,” but there wasn’t a defi- nite mascot at that point.

That was until the 1940s, when Bradley’s athletic teams wore Indian head logos on their jer- seys, and slowly, but surely, the “Braves” nickname synced up, producing mascots on campus.

Bradley proudly embraced the Braves (in a day and age where depicting a Native American wasn’t politically incorrect.) Braves were all over the place – as cartoons in basketball programs, attending campus activities and featured throughout The Scout.

Brave mascots performed with cheerleaders at Homecoming events. One mascot in 1947 entered and won a campus jitterbug con- test. In the 1950s, Bradley debuted the “little Brave” mascot Tommy Hawk, who pulled pranks on ath- letic opponents.

The cafeteria was named the Wigwam, and according to the 1948-49 “B” student handbook, it was “decorated in manner of a western lodge, with Indian relics exhibited inside and Indian names such as Rain-in-the-Face or Chief Flying Horse burned into the wood of the booths.”

The Student Center was coined “the Tepee.” Homecoming week featured a “Pow Wow” variety show. In 1942, a student met with Orchestra Leader Fred Waring in New York to smoke a peace pipe with him after Waring composed the song “Braves, Bradley Braves.”

Speaking of peace pipes, the handbook went on to explain that pipes were “smoked before each basketball game with a represen- tative of the opposing school to show good sportsmanship and fellowship.”

We’ve been the Braves for a long time. But it’s been more than a name and more than a mascot for a lot of people during those early years.

Being a Bradley Brave was a lifestyle. It was incorporated in almost everything students did on campus, not just a mascot during basketball season.

Braves rallied spirit, student involvement and, most importantly, pride. It didn’t really matter if it was a Native American theme or not. It was something for students

to be proud of, together. There was a sense of tradition, of belonging.

Perhaps the reason why Bradley student apathy has increased dur- ing the past decade is because of our lack of mascot. After conduct- ing all my research, I seem to think so.

Will the gargoyle do the job and help ignite students with Bradley Brave spirit once again? I’m not sure. It might be too soon to tell.

I don’t necessary think install- ing gargoyles in Geisert cafete- ria or playing music from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will have the same effect as what the Braves did 70 years ago.

But I think any new mascot is a step in the right direction, to get spirit back on the Hilltop.

Be warned that a new mascot popping up at random campus events isn’t going to do the trick.

We’ll need something bigger than that. We need Bradley Brave spirit ingrained in all that we do.

Only then can we start our own tradition of mascot glory days, beginning in the year 2014.

– Vickie is a senior his- tory major from Arlington Heights. She is the Scout Editor-in-Chief.

Direct comments, ques- tions and other responses to vberkow@mail.bradley.edu.

Follow her on Twitter @TheVBerks