Bailey Library to host archive open house Oct. 21

old Rocky mascot costumes on display in university archives

The costumes of former Slippery Rock University mascots Rocky I and Rocky II will be on display during Bailey Library's archives open house Oct. 21

Oct. 6, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - As the caretaker of Slippery Rock University history, the archives unit at Bailey Library is the keeper of 127 years of photographs, sports programs, course catalogs, newspapers and correspondence from past presidents, faculty, students and alumni.

Those combined elements will be showcased from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 21 when Bailey Library offers an archives open house, putting a spotlight on its 100,000-plus holdings which help tell the narrative of SRU.

According to archives library technician Kevin McClatchy, the historical cache includes copies of the independent student newspaper, The Rocket, dating back to the 1930s; World War II-era student newsletters; SRU beanie caps from the 1950s; as well as various manuscripts and architectural drawings.

A highlight of the event will be the unveiling of the Rocky I mascot costume, which will take its place next to the costume of Rocky II. Both will be displayed on mannequins alongside related press clippings and photographs.

Over the years, the mascot's persona has changed from that of a "rock puppet" character, dubbed Rocky I; to the golden-maned lion, Rocky II; before giving way to the current Rocky, who is known as "the Pride of The Rock."

"We want to show off our recent acquisition of the first Rocky and of course the more traditional looking lion, Rocky II. It will be a great opportunity for everyone to take some fun selfies," McClatchy said.

According to archives, the University's inaugural mascot, "Rocketman," first appeared in 1948. A Rocket newspaper photo shows a caped character appearing in tights with a full head covering.

Robert Jones, a 1983 graduate with a bachelor's degree in English, designed Rocky I and portrayed the mascot beginning in 1978. His mother tailored the suit, which included a top and sweatpants, chest pad, "rear" pillow and green and white Puma's. Earlier this year, Jones donated the costume to the University.

"We drew it on a napkin, and wanted something that was gender neutral, not male or female," Jones said in an oral history recorded in February for the archives. "You know, with just the eyes, people could interpret whatever they wanted to about the mascot. Its emotion came from the motions of the mascot as opposed to its facial features."

SRU, having always been known as "The Rock," provided Jones the necessary inspiration for his creation.

"We wanted to do something like a rock, which was obviously very, very unique," Jones said. "So we drew that kind of look, gave it some dimension, took that drawing home to my mother who was a very good seamstress, and basically told her that she had to create it. She did a wonderful job."

The unique costume prompted many media inquiries.

"I was interviewed on ESPN," Jones said. "They did a telephone interview with me from my dormitory. Pictures were available through AP wire photos that showed up in USA Today and newspapers around the country of the Rocky mascot, particularly after the first time that the SRU football played at Michigan Stadium. It was, right away, very recognizable as an identifier of the University, which was the whole idea behind creating it."

Jones said he donated the costume to promote interest in University history.

"I felt like it is an important part of SRU history," he said. "And it wasn't just me. I kept my personal life and Rocky's mystique separate ... those personas separate. So, I felt like it was because Rocky was part of the University that he should be here and not in my closet in Lancaster."

Rocky I acted as SRU's mascot through 2000, with Rocky II serving from 2000-2007.

According to the University's website, the current Rocky made its debut at a men's basketball game against California University, Feb. 21, 2007 "after working out for several months at a Rocky Mountain resort and developing rock-hard muscles." Rocky's green and grey colors are said to be from the mossy green and grey rocks of Slippery Rock Creek.

"The current Rocky gives SRU an original mascot that represents the pride, originality and look of the University with honor," the website explains. "Rocky's green highlights, gray colors and the overall appearance are derived from all of the Rocky mascots and truly represent the pride shared by all at Slippery Rock University."

The open house will also feature a display case of memorabilia representing every decade of SRU history between 1986 and 2006.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu