Last week University Relations & Marketing borrowed one of our famous black and orange hats for a photo shoot with alumnus Ken Austin (class of 1953), who served as OSU’s original “Benny Beaver” when he was a student in the early 1950s.Ken Austin with Benny Beaver, photo by SCARC director Larry Landis
Back on the field last week, Austin remembered a great story about sitting on the crossbar of the goal post during a game. Stanford was driving toward a touchdown and Austin was perched up high to thwart their concentration when they were closing in on the goal line. Game officials told Ken to get down or OSC would be assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty… Truth be told, a beaver in a brown shag carpet head might have thrown me off!
Going to my “go to site” for quick historical quips (George Edmonston’s writings on the OSU Alumni Association page), I found a treasure trove in “Up Close and Personal: Primal Traditions,” a piece that takes a look at four basic traditions every Beaver fan should know. Edmonston writes of Austin that
Growing up in the northern Willamette Valley near St. Paul, Austin had delighted as a boy watching rodeo clowns perform at the town’s annual Fourth of July Rodeo. After failing at an attempt to become Oregon State’s Yell King for the 1952 football season, Austin was approached by the guy who beat him out, Bill Sundstrom, who then asked him if he might want to join the rally squad as a school mascot, that is, dressing up as a beaver for the games. In those days, student mascots were rare in college football in the West, although Cal had Oskie the Bear and Stanford had its “Indian.” Why not a beaver for OSC?
Austin “took the idea and developed it into one of OSU’s most cherished traditions: student volunteers spicing up athletic events as Benny Beaver.” However, Austin isn’t actually the first student parading in a beaver suit… Edmonston reports that “[o]ver the years, it has been often reported that Austin was the first person to dress as a beaver for an Oregon State football game. This honor apparently goes to OSU alumnus Doug Chambers of Salem, who dressed in a homemade beaver suit for a halftime skit during a home game during the 1939 season. Chambers’ character didn’t have a name.”