Big paws to fill

It took a zoo to make the Tiger our mascot


Graphic by Holland Rainwater

Story by Charli Hueter, staff writer

Grim Stadium was only seven years old, and Texas High was basking in the glory of their fresh football field. Teenagers buzzed up and down the stone bleachers; resplendent in their pedal pushers, blue suede shoes and new “dungarees”. Students were not energized due to the pregame hype alone – what ignited the school spirit that night was the appearance of a real-life tiger.

Now, we are on a hunt for our tiger origins. The Texas High mascot is everywhere. He’s emblazoned upon shirts, letterman jackets, certificates, walls, and hearts. On the field, football players stream from his mighty jaws. His green eyes watch us daily as we filter into the cafeteria. But, despite his ubiquity within our school, our mascot’s derivation remains shrouded. In order to gain insight as to how he became our beloved mascot, we must travel back to a time when the city of Texarkana introduced its first, real tiger.

Texas High’s first mascots were short, young, and void of stripes. Annually, a lucky three-year-old would be selected to stand as the face of the school. Sometimes even coaches and faculty members were given the honors. At this point in time, photographs were so expensive that these unconventional mascots were rarely promoted in yearbooks.

So, how did the tiger claw its way into the limelight? It all has to do with Texarkana in the early 1960s, when Spring Lake Park was recovering from a series of murders revolving around the so-called “Phantom Killer.” In an effort to clean up the park and restore its communal popularity, a zoo was installed on the premises to provide a more inviting atmosphere. Among seals, lions, cheetahs, and monkeys, a tiger was featured on public display. Soon, in order to bolster publicity, this very tiger came to be a prominent addition to Friday night football games at Texas High.

The zoo had little success and eventually closed in 1963, but what truly instigated the transition from a living to plush tiger was the school board. According to the 8-AAAA Conference, live animals were no longer allowed on the field. By Sept. 25, 1964, however, Texas High had already found an alternative to keep up their tiger spirit.

Fresh from New York on an auspicious Wednesday night, Trochia, our first Tiger Mascot uniform, arrived at the Texas High’s doorstep. Margaret Westerman, a senior at the time, donned the suit with little thought for the historic moment, and became the first student to wear those famed stripes. Fifty years later, a more masculine counterpart would join Trochia by the name of Titus.

Today, the exciting tradition of the Tiger survives. Our mascot is a living aspect of school life here at Texas High, and remains both a source of satisfaction and spirit for the students. With such a magnificent legacy behind it, we can rest assured that our Tiger pride is not mislead.