Union City News: Purdue Pete had beginnnings here


Interesting information about former Union City residents: “Purdue Pete,” Purdue mascot was “born” in 1940 as a logo for the University Bookstore. In 1956 Purdue Pete took on a human form when athletic director Guy Mackey gave the go-ahead to create a sports mascot to inspire fans at home football games.

Did you know that Larry Brumbaugh was selected to be the first Pete by the Pep Committee. Brumbaugh was tasked with creating a costume for Purdue Pete. After doing research and contacting various costume companies, he was still at a loss as to what Pete should look like. Mrs. John Keltner from Brumbaugh’s home town of Union City, Indiana, made a head out of chicken wire and paper mache. The head weighed 36 pounds and the chicken wire made it cumbersome to move. Purdue Pete made his first public appearance on Sept. 28, 1956 at a pep rally before the Missouri game.

Tragedy struck in 1962 when Pete’s head flew out of the Boilermaker Special on the way back from the Iowa State game and was never found. This led to a makeover in 1963. In 1976 yet another dawning of Purdue Pete was created by Van Betulius with the help of an artist from Evansville. His head of all fiberglass looked more boyish and less like something from a cartoon strip. It unfortunately weighed 50 pounds.

A few more changes in 1977-1980 then a new decade in 1980 saw the creating of a scowling, meaner Pete with thick eyebrows and furrowed brow. The new head weighed only 10 pounds and was a welcome relief to those who wore it. This tougher Pete hung around until 1980-1983. In 1983 Purdue Pete sprouted hair and construction hard hat. His scowl was replaced with a slight smile and a chin strap to make his eyebrows wiggle up and down. Now the head weighed only 12 pounds. This style remained until 1989. Then the Aviation Technology Composite Manufacturing Laboratory created a 5-pound head that was easier to move around in. Purdue continues to make several heads out of composite materials over the course of a year and repair any damages. In 1995, the individuals were selected to portray Pete were allowed to paint their own hats. This version of Purdue Pete continues to this day.

This year celebrates the 60th year of Purdue Pete, and just think, it all began with two people from Union City, Indiana!

Union City this weekend:

Darla Orians is conducting Workshop with chalk paint at The Art Hub, 215 N. Columbia St. on Saturday from 2- 3:30 p.m. A fun and interesting way to create a wall hanging or gift for Christmas. Orians of “Drab to Fab” will lead the workshop. All materials are furnished. Make your reservations by calling 765-964-4007 or 765-546-1826. Hurry, space is limited.

On Saturday, the Union City Lions Club will host its annual “Pancake Day,” with pancakes, sausage, juice, coffee and milk at the Union City Elks Club on North Columbia Street. Hours are 6 a.m. till 1 p.m. The Union City Lions Club is a philanthropic organization which conducts many events, and contribute to many events financially. Please support this event.


By Linda DeHaven

Union City News

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