History of the Tiger Mascot

by Dr. Charles Baker

  • We see and hear a lot about tradition at Wheaton Warrenville South. We are, in fact, one of the oldest high schools in DuPage County, dating from 1876 when high school classes were first offered at what is today Longfellow Elementary School in the center of Wheaton. We are proud to be the Orange and Black Tigers and though we cannot think of South as anything different, there was a time when the Tiger didn't exist and even the school's colors came under question.

    1876 Although the first graduates were announced in 1882, a total of two incidentally, the first appearance of orange and black was in 1914 when the annual, or yearbook as we know them today, was titled ORB, a combination of the school's colors, orange and black. The 1918 edition of the annual sported a different name, and it stuck for the next eighteen years because each annual until the 1936 edition was titled Orange and Black.

    1936 That 1936 book took a bold step. In its foreword, the editors explained a new direction: "...in studying the books of like schools, it was readily seen that the name of our book, in spite of its fine tradition, was not as original and as representative as it might be. The limitations placed upon each staff as to the choice of a color scheme, due to the name Orange and Black, greatly hindered the development of original ideas." The students petitioned the administration to change the annual name from Orange and Black to WECOMI, an abbreviation of the school's official name, Wheaton Community High School. The colors remained, but not much mentioned, and as for the famous Tiger, well, he was waiting to be discovered some sixty years after the school's first graduating class.

    1940 Though there may have been references about a mascot before, the first official reference to the Tiger was made in the 1940 yearbook. As the record indicated, it was not a particularly auspicious start, but the idea must have made an impression because in the 1941 yearbook, "Little Butch" Tiger introduced himself on page one of the edition. His likeness appeared throughout the book, proving that he was already a versatile and successful Tiger. Two years later, with World War II raging, "Little Butch" Tiger did what all good citizens expected of him-he went off to war in 1943 and originated his own version of the famous "Flying Tigers." His support for the war effort was demonstrated throughout the book, including even dancing, perhaps at a U.S.O. sponsored event, with his own unnamed Tiger date.

    Over the years, the Tiger mascot took on any number of costumes and names. His picture can be found in yearbooks in the 50s, 60s,70s, and 80s. In the late 80s he took on his current form as Tom, the Mightiest Tiger, and he is artistically rendered in the Orange and Black Gym, breaking through the wall and entering what has been his home since 1992. The yearbook, in that same year, once again changed its name to conform more to the new location of the high school. WECOMI was honorably retired and the student editors renamed the yearbook TIGRIS in honor of a mascot that had simply become so much a part of the school that when someone mentions "the Tigers" they know it refers to one place--Wheaton Warrenville South High School.