The traditions and legends of BGSU
From mascots to squirrels to ghosts
By Amy West
Brown and orange, Freddie and Frieda, squirrels, ghosts and Ay Ziggy Zoomba …
Bowling Green State University has over 100 years of rich traditions that form a bond among generations of BGSU students, alumni and members of the campus community. Everyone on campus has met Freddie and Frieda, and brown and orange is to BGSU like pepperoni is to pizza. But do you know how these long-standing traditions evolved? Do you know the secret of the seal? Have you met Alice the ghost?
In 1914, Dr. Homer Williams, the University's first president, gathered a group of people, including Dr. Leon Winslow from the industrial arts department, as a selection committee for the school's new colors. On a trolley ride to Toledo, Winslow sat behind a woman wearing a large hat adorned with brown and orange feathers. He was so interested in the color scheme that his committee recommended to the board of trustees that they approve the combination of burnt orange and seal brown.
Until 1927, BGSU was referred to as Bowling Green Normal University, for its teacher-training curriculum. The school's nickname was The Normals. That year, the sports editor of the Sentinel-Tribune suggested the nickname Falcons because it was indicative of a powerful bird that was small in stature, its coloring represented the school colors and, like the athlete, the falcon goes through a long period of training before battle.
SICSIC was created Oct. 5, 1946, at 12:45 a.m. Seated in the darkened room of BGSU President Frank Prout's office, six young men (Richard Oliver Harig, Erwin Potts, Gilbert Fox, Earl Mott, Max Hofmeisier and James Limbacher) anxiously waited to hear why they had been called to the president's office at such a late hour. Each one had received a secret letter earlier that day telling him to meet in the president's office at 12:45 a.m. and to destroy the letter as soon as he had read and memorized it.
The letter bewildered the boys and piqued their curiosity. President Prout; Harig, a senior Sigma Alpha Epsilon member; and Reverend James Stoner, the campus minister, had met earlier in the year to discuss the need for more school spirit and had decided that a secret spirit organization was the solution. Prout went through the yearbook and hand picked the six men who would become the original "secret six." They had decided the new spirit organization would consist of two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors.
All six young men agreed to join the group and felt honored to have been chosen for the position. The group knew that they must have a unique and original name in order for their organization to stand out, and SICSIC was created. The meaning of the name remains a secret, with only members knowing what it stands for.
Songs of BGSU
President Ralph McDonald opened a five-year contest during which each year a college song was chosen and presented on Honors Day. At the end of the five-year period, a committee convened to listen to all five winners. Edith Ludwig Bell's composition was publicly presented as The Alma Mater of BGSU at the Golden Anniversary Convocation on May 19, 1960.
Before 1948, there was not an official fight song for campus. The Commoners, a men's independent group, created a contest for a new fight song. Following the students' lead, campus officials asked the music department to develop an official fight song. Dr. Wayne Bohrnstedt, assistant professor of music from 1947-53, composed the current song, "Forward Falcons." The words were written by Sidney Freeman, a graduate assistant in the English department.
Brought to Bowling Green over half a century ago by original SICSIC member and World War II veteran Gilbert Fox, " Ay Ziggy Zoomba" is BGSUs unofficial fight song. In 1946, Fox, an Army Air Corps bombardier who served in Italy, brought his interpretation based upon a Zulu war chant back to the University.
Friday is almost everyone's favorite day of the week. Friday means the beginning of another exciting weekend on campus. And here at BGSU, there is another reason that Fridays are so special. Every Friday throughout the school year is a Falcon Friday. From noon to 1 p.m., SICSIC, cheerleaders and dance team members as well as Freddie and Frieda Falcon cruise around campus on golf carts promoting school spirit, sharing information about upcoming campus events and giving away prizes. There is another important note about Falcon Fridays … if you are not wearing your BGSU colors, you could receive a citation from Freddie and Frieda and maybe even a brown and orange T-shirt to throw on!
Post your Falcon Friday pics to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using hashtag #bgspirit
Secret of the Seal
The official University Seal was designed by Leon Winslow in 1914 to follow the format of the State Seal of Ohio. When faced with the problem of designing a seal for the new Normal College, Winslow suddenly remembered that William Creighton had felt the new Normal College was the rising sun of a great new institution of learning. He decided to pattern his seal after the state seal. It was, in contrast to the state seal, divided into four parts: the mountain range, the brilliant sun, the bundle of 17 arrows representing Ohio's rank in the Union, and the sheaf of wheat to signify the great agricultural industry of the state. Around the outside of the main design were printed the words "Bowling Green State Normal College."
Several changes in the lettering have taken place in the seal, as the State Normal College became a state college and finally a university. In January 1958, the buckeye, the state tree, and the carnation, the state flower, were included.
Legend has it that if you stand on the seal at midnight and kiss your sweetheart, you will soon be married. However, if you and your sweetheart are holding hands and let go as you walk around opposite sides of the seal, you will soon break up.
If you pass to the right of the seal, you will do well on your next test. But if you pass to the left of the seal, you will fail your next test. And, never stand on the seal or you may not graduate. But then again, if you never stand on the seal, you may never be married!
How many of BGSU's Falcon flames stood on the seal and kissed? We don't have the answer to that, but 25 percent of BGSU alumni are Falcon flames! What are Falcon flames? They are those who met their spouse while attending BGSU or married another alumnus. At last count, there were over 10,000 Falcon flame couples living throughout the world.
You can't walk across campus without seeing the squirrels. They can be seen jumping through the trees, poking their heads out of garbage cans and chasing each other through the grass. While the campus squirrels might not be ferocious enough to become the official mascot, they might be considered the campus pet. Students have an abundance of squirrel tales to share. The campus squirrels have evolved over the past century to becoming almost socialized. Their craving for nuts is diminishing while they seem to be acquiring a taste for French fries. Check out the squirrels in action!
Alice, the theater ghost, is said to haunt both the Joe E. Brown and Eva Marie Saint theaters in University Hall. Who Alice is remains a mystery. Some legends say that she was an actress playing the role of Desdemona and was killed by a falling object during a performance of Othello. Other stories say she was a former theater student who was killed in a car crash while returning to the University to collect her award for Actress of the Year. Superstition holds that Alice must be officially invited to all performances by the stage manager alone on the stage after the final dress rehearsal. Usually, a seat is left for her at each performance. Some students have claimed to see Alice in the theater; one student even thought he saw her on stage during a performance of "Othello." Regardless, if Alice is not invited to the performance, the shows can experience both minor problems and larger disasters.
Alice Prout Hall, built in 1955, was named for the wife of former BGSU President Frank J. Prout. A portrait of Mrs. Prout was hung behind the information desk of the hall, but was always a little crooked. It is believed that Prout Hall had a ghost and whenever someone moved the portrait, something bad would happen. In the spring of 2000, Prout Hall was demolished to make way for the renovation of the Student Union. Currently, the BGSU Bookstore stands in the location of the former Prout Hall, while the portrait of Mrs. Prout has returned to its home.
This is a small sample of the many traditions and legends that make campus a memorable place. Many of you have painted the Spirit Rock or have been sledding on "Bill's Hill." You might have a slightly different version of the secret of the seal. Maybe your ghost wasn't named Alice but exists nonetheless. It could even be the local food that brings back a nostalgic feeling causing you to travel back to Bowling Green for just one more bite. Homecoming, Family Weekend, Dance Marathon and Sibs N Kids Weekend are most likely highlights for many of you. While everyone in the BGSU family has unique experiences, these traditions bond Falcons together in a special and permanent way. When your time on campus is complete, you will go on your way with a special place in your heart reserved just for BGSU.
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(Posted August 26, 2013 )