Thursday, April 30, 2009

Old Blue

Boarding "Old Blue," 1976. University of Kentucky general photographic prints. 2001ua025.

A 1982 article in a men's basketball program proclaimed "A little bit of the United Kingdom has come to the University of Kentucky." The author was referring to "Old Blue," the 1953 double-decker tour bus purchased by the Alumni Association and presented to the university in 1974. Fixed up and given a fresh coat of (blue) paint, "Old Blue" made it's first run September 16, 1974. The bus could be found on the north side of the Administration building every Monday-Friday at 2 p.m., waiting to take visitors on a free 30 minute tour of north, central, and south campus. It was staffed by student tour guides and was a big hit, especially for kids on field trips or attending basketball camps at UK. According to one tour guide, "Kids really think it's fun to ride on the upper deck of 'Old Blue'."

Restoration work on "Old Blue," circa 1974. University of Kentucky general prints. 2001ua025.

Having seen photographs of "Old Blue" in the collections, we wondered what ever happened to the bus. An article by Don White in a local publication, The Chevy Chaser, provided the missing pieces of the puzzle. The bus was bought at an auction for less than $3000 and stored at a towing company until Ed Nighbert agreed to store it at his A-127 storage business in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. There it sits for the moment, although Nighbert says they do have plans to get it back in shape and running again. Today, campus visitors are given a guided walking tour instead of a ride on "Old Blue." We are still unsure of the date of the last "Old Blue" tour, so would welcome comments from anyone who knows.

"Old Blue," 1984. University of Kentucky general prints. 2001ua025.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Your guess is as good as ours

Pictured above are two photos which came from the Ben Williams negatives. They depict two booths. The first is called the Case of the Curious Bride and has a peep hole cut in a sheet the other is called April Showers and appears to be two women holding guns and two holding candles. Some user generated feedback would be nice since both photos have us stumped.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A truly wild Wildcat

" TNT," the second live mascot, circa 1922-1923. 1998ua002:2528.

Modern UK fans are used to seeing the Wildcat mascot at sports events: a man in a wildcat suit rallying the crowd, dancing, playing pranks. But the history of the wildcat mascot goes back to 1921, when the wildcat was not a man in a suit, but a live bobcat (Lynx rufus, referred to as a wildcat in Kentucky). The first live mascot, "Tom," was purchased by Dick Webb, an assistant football coach. Tom was lauded in the press and paraded out in his cage during games. The wildcat, a human-shy, mostly nocturnal and solitary mammal native to the state, does not take well to captivity, and Tom died in less than a year. He was replaced by "TNT" the next year, who died in a few months only to be succeeded by "Whiskers." There was a long line of live mascots up until just before World War II, the cats either dying or being released into the wild again.

In 1947, the school newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel, ran an article entitled "Live Wildcat Years Ago, Why Not Now?" The article sparked a flurry of alumni activity to set the plan for a new live mascot in order. A 20 pound female cat was captured from the wild in Whitley county and named "The Kentucky Colonel." The Colonel lasted longer than most -- seven years before being sent to the state wildlife farm, where she died of pneumonia. In the late 1950s, a stuffed wildcat was purchased from a taxidermist and trotted out at games for 10 years. The last live mascot was "Baby" in 1969. Athletic Director Harry Lancaster put an end to Baby's appearances after two games due to a fan's complaints about the cat's treatment.

"Tucky," a stuffed wildcat, at a game circa 1960. 2001ua025_0167.

Happily for wildcats and animal lovers, 1976 saw the beginning of the human-dressed-as-wildcat tradition at the University of Kentucky. Gary Tanner was the original mascot. Today, UK claims "Blue," the male wildcat at the Salato Wildlife Center as its official live mascot. Blue was born and bred in captivity and is never present at events.

"The Kentucky Colonel," live mascot for seven years. Photo originally from Kentucky Kernel, 1947. ukawcp1988_12_35_022.

Much of the information for this post was obtained from an article by Russell Rice in "The Cats' Pause" newsletter from August 27, 1988. Volume 12, number 35.