Sammy Switcheroo, 1950s

I got a lot of emails asking for more Sammy, so since I usually (well, at least “often”) aim to please, here y’all go.

As I mentioned yesterday, while we have the basic outlines of the Sammy story and some great anecdotes, there are still some pieces that need to be filled in. For example, we are quite certain that for many decades Sammy was a thing rather than a person in an owl suit. What isn’t always clear is when or why that thing changed form. The most puzzling instance of this occurred in the mid to late 1950s, when two different Sammys seemed to exist at nearly the same time. Here’s one:

Sammy 6 ca 1960


And here’s the other (with Rice Librarian Hardin Craig, Jr., a good sport if I ever saw one):

Hardin Craig Jr with owl


I’d looked at these in the past but had never figured out a way to date them precisely. Then right before yesterday’s talk, I pulled out an old Owen Wister Literary Society scrapbook for an unrelated purpose and this almost leapt off the page:

Sammy Stolen fall 1955

Note that whoever took the trouble to clip this out and paste it into a book did not also make sure to date it. (Don’t do that!) Context tells me, though, that this was written in the fall of 1955. You can see that it’s the owl pictured with Hardin Craig, suggesting that that image was the earlier one.

I still don’t know the whole story (is this the same owl that was stolen by some Aggies and painted maroon and white?) but knowing this date will make it possible to figure more of it out.



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12 Responses to Sammy Switcheroo, 1950s

  1. Richard A. Schafer says:

    Was the stolen Sammy ever recovered?

  2. That’s a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air convertible, introduced at the end of October, 1954. It could be someone’s brand new car, I guess, at the tail end of the ’54 football season but those guys are in shirt sleeves, unusual for late October or November, so it’s more likely spring, ’55 or later. Maybe Sammy fell out of the back of the car and broke in a million pieces and they had to make a simpler one in the fall. (note one-piece body without fragile protruding wings, also less elaborate head and face shapes.) It could well be that pickup trucks were rare among the student body and only a convertible would serve to transport Sammy. If memory serves, I’ve seen one of those big fiberglass Sammies somewhere and I don’t think it was the Woodson. I’ll bet Grungy would remember. (that’s kind of our mantra around here.)

  3. Bill Cox says:

    Rice had a big fiberglass Sammy in the early/mid 1970’s that was kept on the sideline at football games. (Freshmen used to “owl bow” toward Sammy in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.) I have a picture of Sammy in our room (Hanszen new section) from 1975 that I will send to Melissa.

    • Bryan Domning says:

      That fiberglass Sammy resided at the top of the Section 1 stairwell in the Old Tower of Hanszen in 1971. He was indeed the subject of the freshman owl-bowing “rite of passage” on the sidelines at the home opener. “OHHHH SAMMY!” A.L. Smith, Ray Ledesma, myself and other frosh were strongly “incentivized” by Dave Ott and others to participate in this abdominal exercise tribute.

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen 1982) says:

      I remember owl-bowing in either 1976 or 1977 to the large fiberglass Sammy. (My freshman and sophomore years, and I was in Hanszen).

  4. almadenmike says:

    The “Repaired Sammy …” article appeared on the front page of the Oct. 14, 1955, Thresher. (

  5. Yes, I remember Melissa mentioning “owl bowing” in a previous post.

  6. Karl Benson says:

    The Sammy in the rear seat of the Bel Air is the one I bowed down to at football games as a slime in the fall of 1958.

  7. grungy1973 says:

    Owl bowing:

    Not sure what happened to the later incarnation of Sammy that I saw on the sidelines.
    I’d heard that it was destroyed, but no other details, such as “how”, “why”, or “when”.

    I can tell you that the year listed for this image is wrong – it has to be at least 7 years off.

    I’m looking for a particular picture of that Sammy, but haven’t found it yet…

    • almadenmike says:

      The uniforms shown in the 76202 image that Grungy cites appear in the 1971 Campanile (pp. 212-3), but different ones are in the 1969 edition (sorry, no page numbers).

    • Karl Benson says:

      64081 can be dated to 1958 – the beanies have ’62 on them, my class. I don’t recognize anyone except the cheerleader, Margie Moore. The slimes are probably from Hanszen (whose beanies were light blue) or Wiess (yellow). Note that the upper deck of the stadium is full. You can just see an Aggie yell leader between Sammy and the student to the right, so this was Nov. 15, 1958. We lost.

  8. Nancy Burch says:

    I’ve heard that Sammy, the one shown in the convertible, still exists somewhere on campus — possibly in Hanszen. A search project for you, Melissa.

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