Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Jayhawk ‘habitat’ extends beyond Lawrence

April 6, 2001


Along Pennsylvania Highway 130, southeast of Pittsburgh and between Monroeville and Greensburg, there is a little town that makes Lawrence, Kan., not quite so precious.

That other little town would be Jeannette, Pa., population 11,000, home of that mythical, funny-looking bird: the Jayhawk.

"They have Jayhawks plastered all over town even more than here in Lawrence. They have Jayhawk flags all over," said Paul Getto, a retired Lawrence dentist, in an interview last fall.

Getto graduated from Jeannette High in 1935. According to Jeannette lore, it was Getto's late brother, Mike Getto, who inspired Jeannette to adopt the Jayhawk as mascot, probably in 1936 or 1937.

Mike Getto, a KU assistant football coach from 1929 to 1939 and 1947 to 1950, grew up in Jeannette with his brother. Mike Getto also was the town's only All-America football player, a distinction he earned playing at the University of Pittsburgh in 1928. He died in 1960.

Paul Getto recently visited his two nephews who live in Jeannette. It was there he heard the story how the Jeannette Jayhawk came to be.

Saw it, loved it

"I questioned about it awhile back and was told it was the result of when my brother went back there years ago, and people saw the emblem on his car when Mike was in town and they wanted to use it," he said.

Ann Porreca, library assistant at the Jeannette Public Library, has heard a similar story.

"We used to be known as the Red and Blue. We had blue sweaters with red J's for Jeannette," she said. "What I've heard from someone is that Mike Getto brought the Jayhawk to us. We still use red and blue as our colors."

According to high school yearbook records, Porreca said, the first reference to the Jeannette Jayhawks was a 1937 yearbook story about a football victory, which called the team "blood thirsty Jayhawks." In a 1936 yearbook, the team was still called the Red and Blue. Paul Getto recalled the athletic teams being called the "Jeannette J's."

"I kid them about it when I'm back there and I tell them the Jayhawk originated back in Kansas," he said.

Pre-Civil War roots

At KU, the visual representation of the mythical bird wearing boots can be traced back to 1912, when Henry Maloy, a cartoonist for KU's student newspaper, introduced it.

But the name "Jayhawkers" dates back to the 1850s. It was used to describe people who looted, sacked, rustled cattle and stole horses. A few years later, people who were headed to California in wagon trains said they were going to "jayhawk" their way across the United States and thus became known as the "Jayhawkers," according to Kansas University archives.

The Jayhawk took many forms over the years, but it's Harold D. Sandy's 1946 design of a smiling Jayhawk that survives. It's also the same symbol the Jeannette High School uses today.

Doug Vance, KU's assistant athletics director for media relations, said it's hard to tell whether there was an agreement between an athletics director at KU and someone in Jeannette years ago that permitted the Pennsylvania school to use the mascot. He said if there was, it would take a lot of research to find any documentation.

In 1988, after KU won the NCAA basketball championship, Paul Vander Tuig, KU's licensing administrator, said the university registered the Jayhawk logo. He said he was not aware of another athletic team using the Jayhawk symbol.

Licensed users

One of Vander Tuig's duties is to make sure the logo is used correctly. As popular as it is, he said the Jayhawk mascot cannot be used without permission. He agreed it would take some research to learn more about the Getto story.

"The question is how is it being used and what's the likelihood of the confusion with our logo?" he said.

"If there's a Kansas tie to it, that would be something we would consider. We want to be diligent about protecting our trademark rights, but it probably isn't prudent for me to speculate."

Vander Tuig said there are approximately 450 licensed Jayhawk users who market products with the logo.

Jessica Hazelwood, a Jeannette High School junior, said the community shows a lot of support for the school's football team.

She said, "Everyone goes to the games. We have a lot of pride and spirit out here. You and us are the only ones that are called the Jayhawks."

Iowa, too

Not really. At least one other high school uses the logo and a variation on the name.

In Urbandale, Iowa, the high school's teams are known as the J-Hawks. The Des Moines suburb also uses the booted bird logo, and its girls teams are known as "Jayettes."

Annually, when basketball season gears up for the KU Jayhawks, it would be hard to contest which town has the most red-and-blue spirit.

Vander Tuig said the Jayhawk has become a beloved and well-known symbol to many people.

"It's very, very important not only for myself who deals with it every day, but also to our valued alums and the fans of our athletic teams and even the city of Lawrence has a great deal of pride for the Jayhawk. ... It means different things to each person. I'm sure each Jayhawk fan has a different story to tell," he said.

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