History of the UMaine Mascot:
Bananas the Bear
It all started in the spring of 1914 when no ordinary black bear was born. He would soon become known as Jeff and start a tradition that would last for 70 years establishing his species as a permanent characteristic of the University of Maine. As a result he was the University of Maine Black Bear.
Before all that though, a student by the name of Seldon from the class of 1903 "borrowed" an elephant from a company in Bangor and brought it back to campus. With the help of two of his friends, they built an encasement under the football bleachers to store the elephant so that authorities wouldn't find it. In hopes that it would bring good luck, Seldon and his friends unveiled the elephant at the next football game and thus the University had it first mascot.
||But in 1914 on the northeast
slope of Mt. Kathadin, a tiny bear cub was born. Taken while his
mother was away by an Old Town Indian guide and given to a former
Old Town Police Chief, Jeff was loaned to the University's ailing
football team in hopes that it would bring them good luck.
Jeff was first introduced at a football rally in preparation
for the Colby game. As the tiny black bear entered the auditorium,
the surprised crowd applauded enthusiastically. Thinking it the
only proper thing to do, Jeff gratefully stood on his head; the
crowd went "bananas!"
traveled with the football team to Waterville and led the parade
in the pre- and post-game shows. As a result of his performance,
Maine thoroughly overwhelmed Colby in the football game and UMaine
athletic teams have been known as the Maine Black Bears ever since.
It is not known what happened to Jeff during
the summer of 1915, but in the fall, the university was presented with
a new black bear. This new bear's trainer, Lloyd E. Haughton (Class of
'12), brought him everywhere and the coach at the time, Art Smith, recommended
the name "Bananas" because of the crowd's reaction to the earlier bear,
In the fall of 1920, after Bananas was sold
to a man in Texas and Bananas II departed to make way for Bananas III,
Brother George K. Stackpole (Class '25) became the bear's guardian and
keeper. Brother Stackpole and other house members started a long tradition
where the members of Beta Theta Pi became known as the "bear caretakers."
| Bananas III and many
future bears found a warm den at the University across from the
Beta house by the Stillwater River. Every winter, the brothers would
throw a few bales of hay into an old abandoned pump house by the
river and locked the door where the bears would hibernate until
they were ready to wake up in the spring. About once a month some
of the brothers would go to the den and check to make sure that
there was steam coming from the bear's mouth.
Sometimes Brother Stackpole would take
Bananas III into town on a trolley with other students to either "tip
a few" to celebrate a win or drown the sorrow of the game. It is said
that Bananas III is one of a few bears to experience the sorrow of a
hangover. But after a night on the town, Brother Stackpole would chain
her up to a tree, let her sober up, "and she'd be ready to go the next
In the spring of 1922, after coming out
of hibernation Bananas III became violently ill and despite all efforts
died of ptomaine poisoning. Soon after, a trapper in Southern Aroostook
County informed the University of his latest, cutest catch and thus
Bananas IV was born.
During the summer months, Brother Stackpole
took care of the bear cub at the Atlantis Hotel at Kennebunk Beach.
It was here the Bananas IV met a pedigreed bulldog named Jiggs. They
spent many hours that summer together, wrestling on the beach and becoming
the best of friends. When they had to part, Jiggs went away with his
owner and was no longer the "same frisky dog at all, he almost passed
away." So Jiggs' owner sent the dog packing to Orono to meet up with
his old friend the bear and once reunited, the two spent many long,
happy hours together.
||Bananas V was not a long
fixture at the University due to a severe case of Ulcers. Soon after
its death, Bananas VI was donated to the University by Verne Beverly
(Class '21) and has the distinction for setting the stage for one
of the most impressive come from behind victories of the Maine football
team to this date. Brother Stackpole was in charge of the bear and
traveled all around with the bear in his Ford Model T.
Bananas VII began her stay with the brothers
of the Beta House, but after a few days was given to the tender care of
Mrs. Junkins, who raised her from a cub. After passing away in February
1927, the University went through a string of bad luck with their mascots,
having four black bear cubs between 1927 and 1929. Finally, in the fall
of 1929, the needs of Bananas XII was addressed by Dean Corbett who outlined
a plan by which the Student Senate could raise money for the care and
feeding of the bear.
Bananas XII was a major factor in motivating the football team during her tenure at the University. But her fate is not clearly known and a long time employee of the University recalls that a bear was seen on campus until 1939. In 1934, a Bananas showed up at the homecoming game against Bates College and is said to be the key figure as Maine beat Bates.
Sutton Farm in Orono was the place of residence for Bananas during the 30's and 40's. But during the long winter months, the bear was kept at an animal farm in Gray, Maine. In 1957, the playful mascot was reintroduced as "Sally Bananas" by Mayor Ernie "Humphrey Pennyworth" Park.
The last live bear to be kept at the University
was in 1966 by Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and was named Cindy Bananas.
Unfortunately she passed away around the first of October due to pneumonia.
The practice of using live bears as mascots was outlawed due to a Maine
Without a mascot until the spring of 1969, Robert Smullin, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, Sigma Xi chapter, presented his brothers with a proposal to adopt the responsibility of providing a human mascot to the University as part of their service program. Ever since then, the brothers of Alpha Phi Omega have accepted the undertaking of presenting a human mascot at various University events and athletic competitions.
Summary and excerpts taken from "The History of THE MAINE BLACK BEAR" written by Sigma Xi Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega