By Sarah Jennings, Reporter
Many students fell in love with Lady and Joy on their first visit to campus, but otherwise, Baylor University’s live mascots are an oft-forgotten part of regular campus life. In the midst of Homecoming and a week of traditions, it’s time to reveal the truly unique history of the Baylor bears—the furry, four-legged ones.
In 1996, Eugene W. Baker, Baylor University Historian from 1981 to 1995, published a beautiful book, “Here Comes the Bears,” on the history of the bears. With the help of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, he compiled a collection of charming pictures and quirky stories of the bears’ escapades from 1914 to 1996.
On December 17, 1914, a Lariat article announced the newly chosen mascots, saying “And the Baylor Bears it shall be hereafter. Perchance it will be the Bruins or the Grizzles but anyway the designation of the Baptists will be some form of the cognomen of the carnivorous, fearless Orsus.”
According to Baker, World War I affected campus life greatly and slowed efforts to obtain a live bear. Nevertheless, Baylor finally received her first mascot, Ted—often called Bruin, from the 107th Engineer Battalion. Responding to a plea in the Lariat, students raised money to provide for the expenses.
The bears that followed were credited with the success of the football team, due to the enthusiasm created when the early mascots marched with the Baylor band.
Joe College was one of Baylor’s most notable bears. Formally introduced to the student body in 1932, he was known across America and enjoyed fishing and swimming with his caretakers, the Baylor Chamber. He rode in the back of their Model T Ford, was arrested on Congress Avenue in Austin, and got tricked out of going into winter hibernation with hot pads and warm water bottles before the December football game against the University of Texas.
Joe College set a precedent for mascots. Through the 1970s, the bears would hold and drink from a Dr Pepper bottle at football games.
“With the Pepsi invasion on campus, I think we should bring the bears to McLane and relive the tradition of them drinking Dr Pepper,” said Temple senior Molly Montgomery.
This tradition was stopped due to health concerns, according to the sign by the bear habitat. Still, students have expressed interest in more inclusion of the live bear mascots in campus traditions and football games.
Baker wrote Baylor students often caused a stir, using the mascot as the main actor. In 1946, mascot Chita was sent to Waco jail in order to be protected from the Texas A&M threat that they’d steal the cub. Mascots Linus and Lucy often swam in a small fountain which was on Fifth Street in the 1960s. Mascot Delilah beat out Baylor candidates as a write-in for the 1971 Diadeloso Queen contest.
The year 1981 marked the entrance of a new kind of bear. Basketball season featured a “human bear” in a costume donated by Wendy’s Family Restaurant. Student Andy Spencer became Mr. Bear when he added a double zero jersey to the costume.
Students may borrow “Here Comes the Bears!” from the Texas Collection, located in Carroll Library on Burleson Quadrangle. It is recommended to email the Librarian and Curator of Print Materials before visiting at Amie_Oliver@baylor.edu.
More photographs and links to archival materials on the bears can be found on the Texas Collection, Baylor University Flickr page.