Pistol Pete: more than a mascot
Friday, December 1, 2006
Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | email@example.com
Pistol Pete is more than a mascot. To children, he's a hero. To students and alumni, he's an icon and a symbol of pride.
And to the small circle of alumni who portrayed the famous mascot, Pistol Pete represents a special brotherhood.
OSU's mascot became part of university tradition in 1923 after students witnessed the original Pistol Pete — local lawman Frank Eaton — in Stillwater's Armistice Day parade. In 1958, a student donned the now-famous head and outfit, and Pistol Pete became a fixture at OSU sporting events.
Three alumni who portrayed Pistol Pete during their student years — Scott Petty, Lance Millis and John Price — said wearing the head was more than just becoming a mascot. It was becoming someone who lives and breathes the OSU spirit — something they still do today. Each lives and works in Stillwater and attributes the role of Pistol Pete to influencing his life today.
Scott Petty: Pistol Pete from 1985-1987
When Scott Petty came to OSU from Guymon, Oklahoma, he knew he wanted to be Pistol Pete. One of his fraternity brothers, Rick Wilson, had portrayed Pete and helped Petty through the audition.
"I got to go put on the head at Rick's house and experience what it was like to have limited vision," Petty said. "He had a big mirror, so I got to work on my walk, and he gave me some pointers and helped educate me on how the process worked."
Petty says the role gave him a new perspective of the university. And working at events for the Alumni Association and OSU Foundation helped him decide he wanted to work with people after graduation.
Petty also enjoyed working with children.
"Pete has a huge impact on children," he said. "They're either scared to death of him or they're absolutely enamored with this giant cartoon character that's alive."
He remembers visiting an elementary school in Midwest/Del City, where he read to fifth graders as part of Read Across America.
"That was a very poignant experience." Petty said. "It was actually one of those ambassador-type events where Pete represents the university in a different fashion."
Pete's impact really hit home when Petty judged tryouts three years ago.
"We asked an applicant why he wanted to be Pete, and he said, 'I met Pistol Pete when I was 3 years old and I had my picture made with him,'" Petty said. "I looked down at his resume and realized that was in 1986 when I was Pete!"
Petty met his wife, Gerri, while he was Pete, and jokes she only dated him because He was Pistol Pete. They have two children, Catherine, 11, and Will, 9.
Lance Millis: Pistol Pete from 1987-1988
Lance Millis decided he wanted to be Pistol Pete after seeing a few of his fraternity brothers in the role.
"A couple of other guys who were older than me were Pistol Pete in successive years," Millis said. "It seemed like a lot of fun, and it looked like something I'm crazy enough to do."
Playing the role of Pistol Pete created a connection to the real Frank Eaton, said Millis, who continued to research Eaton after graduating.
"To realize that eight years before I was born there was a guy living who had been a deputy U.S. marshal — a real-life Cowboy who had gunfights," Millis said. "That just brought history a lot closer."
Millis said no matter what activity, involvement strengthens one's commitment to the university.
"It got me connected more closely to the university," he said. "I was a sports fan anyway and loved OSU, but it definitely strengthened that."
Millis said children love Pistol Pete, and even if they're scared of him, they still want to be around him.
"Children have to know where Pete is at all times during football games," he said. "That's OSU to them."
Millis and his wife, Linda, an OSU alumna, have two daughters Lauren, 5, and Lindsay, 3. The alumni who portrayed Pistol Pete can be described as a brotherhood, Millis said, and it's usually a wild occasion when they get together. Pete alumni find that friends are still excited to learn they were once such a famous mascot.
"To this day, people that recently came to know I was Pistol Pete will still introduce me as Pistol Pete," Millis said.
His most meaningful moment was when he was contacted by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. A little boy had come back from meeting the U.S. president and said he had a wonderful time, but what he really wanted to do was meet Pistol Pete.
"He came over to a baseball game and we played catch," he said. "He wrote a really neat thank-you note that I still have."
John Price: Pistol Pete from 1988-1990
John Price grew up in Stillwater enjoying Cowboy sporting events. As an OSU student, he had never thought about who Pete was, but when he saw an ad for Spirit Squad tryouts, he thought it would be a lot of fun.
Price said he'II always remember portraying Pete at big events like homecoming, but he'll never forget the small events either. He recalls attending a little boy's birthday party where his much-anticipated arrival made the little boy extremely happy. Even though it snowed that morning, he didn't want to cancel and disappoint the family.
"I will never forget — the little boy jumped up and looked at his mom and said, 'I told you he'd come! I told you'd he come!'" he said. "It really meant a lot to him that Pete came out in the snow and made it to his birthday party.
"That's just always made such an impression on me. When you do the day-in and day-out events and experiences, you forget the impact Pete sometimes can have on the individual."
When Price had the opportunity to come back to Stillwater after graduation, he did.
He and his wife, Suzee, and their children, Quentin, 10, MacGregor, 9, Payton, 7, and Ellery, 4, love living in a college town with all it has to offer.
"One of the absolute highlights for them is the walkaround," he said. "They look forward to that every year."
Price says the mascot has not changed since he portrayed Pete.
"I think Pete is a physical representation of the OSU spirit," he said. "We're fortunate to have a mascot with historical ties to the place and the people. I think having Pistol Pete as OSU's mascot provides an opportunity for a unique sense of pride and history."
Story by: Rachel Weaver
Photos by: Provided