In the Susquehanna Valley land of rippling streams and rills…
We Can Do Better
It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve walked the halls of Sayre High as a student, yet I still regularly share stories of soccer bus rides, trash-filled lockers, and yes, band camp. I’ve come to appreciate the small-town school lifestyle that so many living in big cities would just never understand—something painfully apparent when they respond, “Your class size was how many?” Like many others before me, and hopefully, after me, my time at Sayre was sweet. And to this day my school pride swells when I hear the Alma Mater. “The Redskin”, our dear school mascot, however, is hardly remembered. That was until I moved to Utah.
In the deserts of the red sand state Native affairs aren’t just left to the history books, they're part of everyday life, and so are the people. One day, I walked into work wearing my sister’s “Lady Skins” jacket—don’t ask. I didn’t even think twice about the name or logo until the Creative Director of my organization, a man who’s created company images for the likes of Nike, Vans, MTV, and more, stopped me and said one word: “Yikes”.
“Oh, it’s just my high school’s mascot”, I naively replied.
“That doesn’t mean you have to wear it,” he said.
He didn’t abuse his position and order me to take it off. He didn’t lecture me with his wisdom and experience. He didn’t flaunt political correctness and emphasize the meaning of my mistake. He simply gave me a look and walked away.
I took the jacket off.
For a town so small, Sayre holds an interesting history. Its hills hide old fables of giants (no lie), it’s the convergence of the two of the largest rivers in the state, and it's home to hundreds of bright minds—so why do we insist on settling on a controversial and unethical name? The nation-wide protests in the name of George Floyd have summoned a wave of self-reflection, education, and new perspectives. And while every day has been an appropriate one to consider a name change, the wake of that wave gives us the perfect opportunity to address our woes, and right our wrongs.
So here are five names for Sayre High School’s mascot that are more clever, more relevant, and more ethical than Redskin.
1. The Sayre Giants
In the early 1900’s Sayre’s Spanish Hill was the subject of international interest. Myth or not, it makes a great tale. Archeologists found evidence of native habitation and began excavations. This was nearly 100 years before Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, making this illegal today. The researchers found remains of “giants” and even more, “horned giants”. While the remains dug up were big, they were no Nephilim. And the horns were either a hoax or a miscommunication. Either way, having giants in your backyard is much more interesting than the current naming convention.
2. Sayre Steamers
Sayre’s origins lie on the back of train and track. Without the work of the railway, the town would have never come to be. In 1904, when the locomotive shops were popping up in Sayre faster than builders to be found, the main structure was thought to be the largest in the world under one roof. With the country rapidly modernizing, the claim wasn’t contested for long, but at one point our little town was home to the largest building in the world! What a claim to have! Athens has nothing on that.
3 & 4. The Sayre Union / Sayre Rapids
After living in four states, I’ve grown annoyed at the rumblings some locals have about our geography. True, we don’t have magisterial, snow-peaked mountains, but the Valley is beautiful. It’s a fact that I myself took for granted while living there. Two unmistakable features of our home are the mighty, and sometimes terrifying, Susquehanna and Chemung rivers. Here, in our valley, the two rivers meet forming a single union of waterways. The rivers are the life-blood of the town. They’ve carved our hills, and defined our landscape. They also force us to come together and fight as one when the swell rises above the berms.
5. The Sayre Serpents
In honor of more modern times, the town services fewer trains, and more people. Separated by one road, the high school’s campus nearly overlaps with that of the Guthrie Hospital’s. The Guthrie is a major employer, doner, and namesake of the town, so why not show some mutual love? The serpent-entwined staff that appears on many medical vehicles, known as the Rod of Asclepius, would serve a great homage to the amazing work done by the hospital, and the school’s vicinity to the medical world. The snake and rod represent medicine and healing, something people seek from all around the country and find right across the street.
A Great Opportunity
SHS, it’s time for a change. Let’s show the world that even small towns can take the necessary steps towards progress. This is a simple solution to a problem that only the worst kind of pride halts—high school pride.
Join the growing group here, and sign the petition!
About the author
Alex Moliski graduated Sayre High with the class of 2012. Since graduation, he's lived across the country chasing interesting careers. From public policy and politics in Houston, Texas, to robotics in Philadelphia, he's finally settled on a writing career in beautiful Park City, Utah. See more of Alex on his Instagram, @alexmoliski .