Tuesday, March 17, 2009

O.B.I.E.'s Origins

Where did the famous Massillon mascot, O.B.I.E., get his name?

That's exactly what one patron was pondering one fall afternoon when he called our Reference Desk for some help. A proud member of Washington High School's class of 1930 (!), he recalled a contest in which his fellow students were invited to suggest ideas for their new mascot's name; the most clever submission of the bunch would be the one bestowed upon the tiger cub. One of his female classmates won the contest with her entry for O.B.I.E. (which stands for Orange and Black Is Excellent, of course!). However, after all these years, our patron seemed to have forgotten the winner's name and asked that we provide him with it, if possible.

So we got to work! We scoured all of the old Washington High School yearbooks from 1926-1930 for any mention of a contest or a winner. We combed through old newspaper clippings from The Massillon Independent. We sifted through pages upon pages of materials from our collection dedicated to the history of Massillon football, like Massillon Memories: The Inside Story of the Greatest Show in High School Football and The Massillon Tigers Story: The First Hundred Years. Alas, despite our best efforts, we found no mention of the mystery girl behind O.B.I.E.'s namesake.

Enter Junie Studer, Massillon Booster Club historian and former president. When we called Mr. Studer at home the next day, his initial response to our query was a familiar laugh; this question had obviously been posed to him many times in the past. He told us that the winner of the naming contest, held in 1926, was Viola Black, a member of the WHS graduating class of 1927. Success!

We were happy to wrap up this reference question by sending our patron a letter with the information he requested, along with a copy of a page of the 1927 edition of a Washington High School yearbook that included Ms. Black's senior picture. Now our patron can put a face to a name that was attached to a fond recollection from his past. We hope he enjoyed that trip down memory lane!

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