October 24, 2009 8:21:00 PM
The recent tribute to Disney artist Josh Meador reminds me of an occasion which I probably ought to recount for posterity, assuming posterity is remotely interested. Change is in the air with the possibility of a new name for Mississippi University for Women, so maybe it is time to tell this bit of history -- or her story, as some would say. I am not totally proud of it, however.
Years ago, when I was a senior at MSCW (Mississippi State College for Women, as MUW was formerly known), I was editor of the school paper, The Spectator. For about a year the staff had talked about the fact that the W had no mascot. State had Bully; Ole Miss, Colonel Reb; other schools had theirs, but we did not.
We decided the newspaper would sponsor a contest to select a mascot. We jumped through all the hoops to legitimize the contest, then asked students from the Art Department to submit drawings of their "candidates." We got, I think, well over a dozen submissions. Enthusiasm seemed to be running high.
Although I can no longer remember the colleges involved, I had learned that one institution had gotten a famous "artist" to select their mascot. I don''t recall which one, but it was one of the creators of the famous World War II pin-up girls, either Petty or Vargas. Some of you might remember the voluptuous Petty Girls and Varga Girls. In fact, I thought, Columbus had its own famous artist -- Josh Meador of the Walt Disney Studios.
I blush to admit how naïve I was. I thought all I had to do was to write and invite him to make the selection. I did. Several times. No response. I tried calling. Several times. I could not get through to anybody. It never occurred to me that I might need a contact, that fame has its barriers. I didn''t even think to contact Mr. or Mrs. Laws Meador to ask their advice or intervention.
Bitterly disappointed, I gave up, and we went to Plan B, a student body election. In those days we had a required "chapel" program two or three times a week. At one of those Monday assemblies our entries, drawn on big poster boards, were paraded before the student body, who had been given ballots.
That afternoon we assembled in the newspaper office and counted the votes. The winner was to be announced in the next issue of the paper, which would come out Wednesday.
The entry that had received the most applause, was presumed to be the winner, and which, indeed, had won the most votes, was a saucy cocker spaniel in an athletic sweater. I think the artist was Pat Box.
On second thought
We were hastily writing the story that night, getting ready for the big announcement, which was to be a surprise, when I was called upon by a solemn committee of students. They said they were reluctant to make this observation at the public assembly, but asked if we had given any thought to what nickname we would be given, especially by the rowdy fellas at State, if our mascot were a female dog?
A deafening silence followed. The idea had never occurred to me, in spite of all the hours and days of preparation. In my defense, however, none of the other staff members had thought of it either. We sat there, stunned and appalled. What to do? What to do?
Time was critical. We had a deadline. There was no time for another assembly, assuming someone would speak out even then. Should we just let it go, possibly heaping ridicule on our college?
We quickly decided we would convene "house meetings" in each dormitory at 10 p.m. that night. One of the staff would visit each dorm. Red-faced as we might be, we would explain the situation and give them the option to re-vote. If they still preferred the dog, which had been a runaway favorite, then so be it. We would go with it. If they wanted to change their vote, they had the opportunity that night to do so.
There was no time to poll the town students, of which I was one. Unless the vote was very close, we were few enough to make a difference, anyway. Fortunately the victory was again overwhelming, this time for a little deer, designed by Frances Ann Ellis of Columbus.
A deer, by any other name
During MSCW days we sometimes slurred the name, calling it "Messy W," or, more rarely, "Missy W." The little deer quickly became "Missy Dear." Signs appeared around the campus, designating "Dear Crossings." Someone (I think it was a girl from Macon whose last name was Pugh) brought a little deer to the campus, where a spacious pen was built for her and people came by to pet her. The bookstore sold little yellow and white (our college colors at the time) stuffed deer. The first two of those toys were presented to Frances Ann and me at another assembly program. Years later my children played with mine. For decades "Missy Dear" was well-loved.
About the time MSCW became MUW, some of the students (I think primarily the athletes) felt the deer was "too precious" for the image they wanted. A small committee(!) selected an owl they named Ody, presumably named for Emma Ody Pohl, who taught dancing there for more than 50 years. I loved Miss Pohl, as did so many of her students; but I still smarted at the repudiation of my "baby."
More time has passed now with all kinds of progress and pseudo progress. Col. Rebel is endangered. There have for some time now been teams called "Lady Dogs." I can''t help wondering if their opponents occasionally call them something else.
This week I even heard of a team called the "Lady Bucks!" Can anyone explain to me what that is?
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.