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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • WES FRANKLIN: How Neosho High became the Wildcats

  • Columnist’s Note: This is an excerpt from a column I wrote in 2011, just after that year’s Wildcat Pride Night. Since this year’s Wildcat Pride Night was on Saturday, and since we are starting a new school year, I thought I would dust this off and present it again.
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  • Columnist’s Note: This is an excerpt from a column I wrote in 2011, just after that year’s Wildcat Pride Night. Since this year’s Wildcat Pride Night was on Saturday, and since we are starting a new school year, I thought I would dust this off and present it again.
    I realize that sometimes I may write about things that make people mutter, “c’mon, Wes, tell us something we don’t already know.”
    This is probably one of those times.
    I don’t recall whom it was I was talking to, but the subject of how Neosho got its school mascot came up in conversation. When I related the story, as I know it anyway, the person seemed surprised and said they had never heard that.
    So while most or many of you probably already know the story, I try not to take anything for granted. And since Neosho just celebrated Wildcat Pride night, I thought this might be an appropriate time to share. I might add that my information comes from the book, “Here’s to the Black and Gold: A Wildcat History” published by the Newton County Historical Society in 2004. I have heard, or perhaps read, a slightly different version. But here goes.
    Before 1924, the Neosho football team was called “The Black and Gold.” Bit of a mouthful for a sports team, isn’t it? Incidentally, every Neosho class used to pick its own colors, sometimes changing them every year from freshmen on up through senior year. It wasn’t until 1922, or perhaps a little before, that black and gold officially became the school colors.
    But back to the mascot.
    On Sept. 26, 1924, the Neosho football squad played Monett at home — and totally stomped them. The final score was 31-7, but the newspaper reported that the game was really over by the end of the first quarter. Apparently, some of the Neosho players reveled in the massacre. One of those was a kid named Philip “Red” de la Porte. He started the game in the position of guard but was later moved to halfback. From that point on he “ran wild,” the newspaper said.  At one point in the game, perhaps after making a big play or maybe just before getting sent back onto the field, Red became “overwhelmed with enthusiasm,” according to head coach Bill Morrison. Red yanked off his leather helmet, flung it across the field and screamed, “I’m a wildcat! Let’s go!”
    And the name stuck. At first it was just a nickname for that year’s football squad. Obviously, though, it has lasted a wee bit longer to become something more.
    Page 2 of 2 - So, to borrow from the late Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.
    By the way, if you know the origins behind any of the other school mascots in the area, please let me know. I’d love to learn about it, and be more than happy to share.
    Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He is also public relations and events coordinator for the City of Neosho. He can be reached at 658-8443.
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