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Mac is back

Juneau-Douglas High School Class of 1987 challenges students to find mascot before homecoming

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2008

In 1965, the senior class' gift to the high school was a large brown bear to be used as a mascot. The bear was given the name Mac, after George MacMillian, the principal of Juneau-Douglas High School from 1954 to 1965. The bear stayed within the school walls for one full year.

Courtesy Of Dawn Skrzyski
Courtesy Of Dawn Skrzyski

However, during the 1967 school year, Mac was kidnapped. The principal at the time, Harvey King, was really upset and got an arrest warrant for the person or persons responsible for Mac's disappearance. The police received an anonymous tip that Mac was found in the principal's garage. For an unknown reason, the principal was not arrested. He pleaded total innocence and claimed he was framed.

And so the tradition began.

Mac was to be stolen by the senior class and found by the underclassmen before homecoming. As the years went by, seniors would hide the bear in various places, and the underclassmen would race to find him before the homecoming games. A member of the Class of 1977 said that after homecoming, Mac stayed permanently at the school and was then displayed at every high school activity.

There are many wild stories of Mac's adventures throughout the years. One year, the teachers stole Mac and hid him in Beth Belflower's basement, a shock to all the students.

In 1981, Kurt Brandner went to his father, who was a shop teacher at the time, and asked to borrow a cutting torch. (Mac was kept in a cage with a bolt lock.) Mr. Brandner declined to lend him the cutting torch but said he would help to get the bear without destructing school property.

Mr. Brandner obtained a key to the cage, and the bear was stolen along with the lock. The kidnappers sprinkled iron filings around the door to make it look as though the lock had been cut. Mac and the lock were returned at homecoming, without ever leaving the building.

In 1985, Mac was kidnapped by his creators, the Class of 1965, for their class reunion. The deed was blamed on the students.

A new principal with a new set of rules thought he could stop the bear-stealing tradition in its tracks. The first weeks of school in 1985, Mr. Bogden thought he could scare the spirit out of JDHS by stating that anyone caught stealing Mac would be arrested. He made sure Mac was "safe" from his annual trip outside of JDHS by enclosing him in a glass case, making him "impossible to get to."

That year, tradition was broken. A group of four junior girls decided Bogden could not dampen their school spirit. They rounded up some buff friends and a willing dad to keep the spirit alive. The group snuck into the school one evening, carefully lifted the case from Mac and left behind a single red rose and poem with the first bear-hunt clue.

From September to December, bear hunts were arranged, clues left weekly. Not only could the student body not find Mac, but they did not know who had taken him. A week before homecoming, a bear scavenger hunt with tips and a rare painting round in a photograph sent to the J-Bird tipped the senior class off to the house Mac was residing in. Two blocks up from JDHS, the senior class arrived at the house and insisted they claim their prize.

No one was arrested that year. Why? We don't know, but, for one, I am thankful!

Not to be outdone by girls, two boys from the class of 1987 again stole Mac, in the fall of 1986. They hid the bear so well that even their own class did not know where he was.

One week before homecoming, the boys told the senior class where Mac was, and those who felt they wanted him took him and hid him. The next time Mac was seen was at homecoming assembly, in one door and out the other. Mac did not enter JDHS again until the summer of 2007 - the 20-year reunion of the class of 1987.

Mac has had many travels and shows a little wear. His last year was spent in the care of Bob Scherf, Mac's personal taxidermist. Mac is back to new and ready to represent JDHS spirit once again.

In the spirit of tradition, the class of 1987 challenges the students of JDHS to find the bear! We only have two weeks until homecoming. Who will bring him home?

Mac is "hidden" in plain sight, due to the short amount of time we have to hunt. If you think you have spotted Mac, please do not try to move him. Notify the responsible adults surrounding him, and they will contact the class of '87 with your information. We will be sure he is safely transported and ready for homecoming. Please remember to be considerate of those helping us hide Mac!

Have fun. Go Bears!

• Dawn Skrzyski may be contacted at jsparkye@aol.com.



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