From undead to uncaged: The mascots of Elizabethtown College
December 1, 2017   //   By:   //   Campus and Community

For current Elizabethtown College students, it might be hard to imagine a time when “Blue Jays Flock Together,” “Take Flight” and “Blue Jays, Always” were absent from campus vernacular.

In the early 1900s, however, “Galloping Grey Ghosts” and “Phantoms” floated through the College’s facilities. These sporty specters haunted our halls clad in cleats, basketball jerseys and shin guards—not the spookiest spirits, but intimidating enough to handle intercollegiate competition.

Up until 1945, the Ghosts lurked in our classrooms and dormitories, with no definitive explanation for why they were galloping, grey or ghosts. So, what happened to them? Why don’t students of 2017 say “Grey Ghosts Gallop Together” or “Grey Ghosts, Always (In Life and Death)”?

It’s all because a living, breathing animal swooped in and made its nest in our campus’ history.

During the 1945–1946 school year, E-town students were invited to submit suggestions for a new athletic mascot. As you can probably guess, the Blue Jay entered the fray and progressed to the final round of voting by the student body.

E-town adopted the Blue Jay as its new mascot, exorcising the Galloping Grey Ghosts from campus once and for all.

Sports teams officially adopted the name in 1947, when Director of Athletics Ira Herr dubbed the men’s basketball team “Blue Jays.” To differentiate the men’s and women’s teams, the Lady Jays were originally called “Blue Birds,” though the name did not last.

The magnificent Blue Jay did not make its first public appearance until 1950, however, when C. Frederick Horbach released its inaugural design. Horbach ’53, a history major and Student Senate president, exaggerated the bird’s already-dramatic head and tail plumage. He also anthropomorphized the Jay, clothing it in Oxfords and a blocky “E” turtleneck sweater.

The conservative attire did not detract from the bird’s vibrant colors, which were partially the reason it was adopted as mascot. As an April 1950 article in the Etownian stated “With its blue body and grey and white breast, the blue jay wears the colors of the school, and with its well-known fighting spirit characterizes the efforts shown by our teams in competition.”

Since then, E-town’s Blue Jay has plucked and preened its way through various designs.

… the blue jay wears the colors of the school…”

After a stint as the Fighting Jay—an angry-looking bird with fists raised and eyes narrowed—today’s Blue Jay has become a recognizable and beloved figure on campus and beyond. Its visage is plastered across the school—on College Store wares, throughout Thompson Gymnasium and hiding across a smattering of promotional admissions brochures like a blue-and-grey avian adaption of ‘Where’s Waldo.’

The school even invested in its own larger-than-life Blue Jay. The mascot costume commonly seen at athletic and campuswide events was made by Pierre’s Costumes, a company owned by Rich Williamson ’87. This rendition of the Blue Jay was dedicated before the men’s soccer game on Homecoming Day 2005. The sweater-and-Oxford-wearing version of the 1950s now opts for a minimalist athleisure look, sporting a jersey and galumphing shoeless across campus.

As mentioned in the early Etownian article, “As the tiger symbolizes Princeton, the bulldog, Yale, so Mr. Blue Jay stands for the spirit and rivalry consistent at E-town!”

About the Author :

Rebecca Easton is a junior at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. She is currently studying English with a concentration in professional writing, and is pursuing a double minor in communications and business administration. Her primary interests in these fields include journalistic writing, copy editing and marketing. She currently works for the Elizabethtown College Center for Student Success as a writing tutor. She also works for the Office of Marketing and Communications.

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