The PCHS dragon through the decades

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

It’s on the logo of the Pekin Police Department and it’s the school symbol and sports mascot of Pekin Community High School – a red dragon. How did the high school and the police department come to choose a dragon as logo and mascot?

The reason for the choice of a dragon is rooted in the city’s name, which, as we’ve discussed here before, is an older “Anglicized” form of Peking or Beijing, China’s ancient imperial city and modern capital. In origin our city’s dragon logo is the representation of a wingless Chinese dragon (or “lung”) – although the PCHS dragon’s form has varied greatly through the decades.

Pekin’s having been named in 1830 after China’s capital soon gave rise to a tradition of fanciful association with different aspects of Chinese culture. Thus, Pekin residents very early on took to calling their home “the Celestial City.” Later on Pekin’s professional minor league baseball team in the early 1900s was called the Celestials, and the old downtown Pekin Theater was decorated as a Chinese pagoda. Local businesses often used Chinese themes and written Chinese characters in their advertisements.

This tradition of fanciful association with China does not appear in Pekin high school’s earliest “Pekinian” yearbooks, but by the 1920s the occasional or rare drawing of someone or something Chinese begins to appear in the high school yearbook.

It wasn’t until 1937 that the classic PCHS logo of a Chinese wingless lung first appeared in the Pekinian. In that year and over the next few years the same logo was printed on the front cover of the yearbook. The same dragon logo also would be embossed on the high school gymnasium floor and painted on the side of PCHS buildings. This is the same period when the high school adopted “the Chinks” – an old colloquial and sometimes disparaging American slang term for Chinese persons – as the school symbol and team mascot.

Pekin Community High School’s official logo, featuring the school’s seal over a wingless Chinese “lung,” made its debut on the cover of the Class of 1937’s graduation yearbook.

For a few years in the 1940s, the PCHS dragon disappeared from the high school yearbook, but it reappeared on the cover and inside pages of the 1948 Pekinian. The 1948 Pekin yearbook depicted a traditional Chinese dragon, but one with small wings. The following year, a pencil sketch of a scene reminiscent of traditional Chinese art was printed in the yearbook – central to the scene was a large Chinese lung flying through the sky. Other Chinese-themed pencil sketches are found throughout the 1949 Pekinian.

The cover of the 1950 Pekinian, however, departed from the classical Chinese dragon tradition, instead featuring more of a cartoon-style European winged dragon. The class ring that year featured the same dragon representation as on the yearbook’s cover.

The PCHS dragon usually was not featured in or on the cover of yearbooks during the 1950s, but the dragon began to appear more frequently in the 1960s. It was in the 1965 Pekinian that Pekin’s long established tradition of Chinese-themed fancy reached its apotheosis. Not only did the yearbook feature the high school’s traditional Chinese dragon logo, but the cover drawing featured Chinese bamboo window blinds, and the sections of the yearbook were organized and titled according to traditional Confucian social classes. The yearbook staff perhaps had pulled out all stops that year to celebrate Pekin’s 1964 high school basketball state championship.

Four years later, the Pekin dragon reappeared on the 1969 yearbook cover as a classic Chinese lung within a gold-embossed medallion. The 1970 and 1972 yearbook covers had the same dragon in a gold medallion. Only once more in the 1970s – in 1975 – did the PCHS dragon appear on the yearbook cover. That year it was a photograph of the old school logo painted on the side of a high school building.

Chinese themes grew more and more rare in the Pekinian during that decade, and during that time Chinese Americans visited Pekin to express their great offense at the use of “Chinks” as a team name, asking the school to choose a different mascot. The great majority of high school students and alumni favored keeping the name, but in 1980 District 303 Superintendent Jim Elliott decided, despite opposition, to retire the “Chinks” mascot permanently. He retained the Pekin dragon, however, and the cover of the 1981 Pekinian sported a photograph of the new PCHS dragon mascot costume at a basketball game.

The 1981 Pekinian was the first PCHS yearbook after the school mascot was changed from “the Chink” to “the Dragon.” The yearbook cover sported a photograph of the new mascot.

In the 37 years since then, the PCHS dragon has frequently appeared in and on the cover of the yearbook – but as a rule he takes the form of a classic European fire-breathing winged dragon, not a Chinese lung. The old school logo of the Chinese lung – which debuted on the cover of the 1937 Pekinian – may still be seen at the school and the stadium, and even appeared on the one of the pages of the 2011 Pekinian. This year’s Pekinian cover shows a European dragon amidst flames.

The cover of the 2017 Pekinian features a fiery European-style dragon rather than a classic Chinese “lung.”

Below is an extensive gallery of images showing examples of the PCHS dragon through the decades:

Pekin Community High School’s official logo, featuring the school’s seal over a wingless Chinese “lung,” made its debut on the cover of the Class of 1937’s graduation yearbook.

After being absent from the yearbook for most of the 1940s, the Pekin dragon returned in 1948 — but that year the Pekin dragon, while still recognizably Chinese in style, grew a pair of small wings.

Shown is a detail from a large charcoal-sketched drawing from the 1949 Pekinian, presenting a landscape scene with a flying Chinese lung done in the style of traditional Chinese drawings. Smaller details cropped from the same drawing appeared throughout the 1949 Pekinian.

This page from the 1949 Pekinian shows the high school cheerleaders posing around the PCHS dragon logo on the floor of the old West Campus gymnasium. At the bottom left are the high school’s old racially insensitive “Chink” and “Chinklette” mascots.

The Pekin dragon on the cover of the 1950 Pekinian again sports wings and is drawn more in a cartoon style, resembling a European dragon more than a Chinese lung. The same image was used for the 1950 PCHS class ring.

This page from the 1950 Pekinian shows the old scoreboard at the Pekin high school stadium, featuring the wingless Chinese lung from the school’s official logo. The current scoreboard also features the school’s wingless Chinese dragon.

In the 1965 Pekinian, Pekin’s long established tradition of Chinese-themed fancy reached its apotheosis. On the cover, the high school’s traditional Chinese dragon logo reappeared after a long absence from the yearbook, but this time the cover drawing featured Chinese bamboo window blinds, and the sections of the yearbook were organized and titled according to traditional Confucian social classes. The yearbook staff perhaps had pulled out all stops that year to celebrate Pekin’s 1964 high school basketball state championship.

Shown is the cover of the 1969 Pekinian. Both that year and in 1970, and again in 1972, the yearbook cover sported a classic Chinese lung in a gold medallion.

In addition to the embossed golden Chinese dragon medallion on the cover of the 1970 Pekinian, the same image appears as a drawing on the title page.

The only time after 1972 that the Pekin dragon appeared on the yearbook cover during the 1970s was in 1975, when a photograph of the school’s logo painted on the side of one of the high school buildings was featured.

The 1981 Pekinian was the first PCHS yearbook after the school mascot was changed from “the Chink” to “the Dragon.” The yearbook cover sported a photograph of the new mascot.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Pekin dragon usually was drawn in a more cartoonish style, with no recognizable association with Chinese culture, as he is on the cover of the 1990 Pekinian.

Pekin’s dragon again appears in his old Chinese style on the cover of the 1995 Pekinian.

The 1998 Pekinian — the yearbook for the last year students attended West Campus — does not feature a dragon on the cover, but on the table of contents page a winged dragon silhouette leaves footprints and points ahead to the future as he “moves on” to the expanded East Campus facilities.

Naught but the Pekin dragon’s formidable claws appears on the cover of the 2000 Pekinian.

A fire-breathing red dragon appears on one of the pages of the 2010 Pekinian.

The Pekin dragon again shows signs of his Chinese-themed origin in the 2011 Pekinian.

The PCHS official dragon logo and old school motto appears on a page of the 2011 Pekinian.

On the cover of the 2012 Pekinian, the Pekin dragon appears as a European-style fire drake breathing multi-colored flames.

The cover of the 2017 Pekinian features a fiery European-style dragon rather than a classic Chinese “lung.”

#beijing, #pekin-chink-mascot, #pekin-dragon, #pekin-high-schools, #pekin-history, #pekins-racist-reputation, #pekinian-yearbooks, #racism

Pekin wasn’t always a welcoming place

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

Pekin wasn’t always a welcoming place

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is an extensive file on a dark period in Pekin’s history: the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The KKK attained prominence and prestige throughout the Midwest in the early 1920s, and was established in Pekin by a vaudevillian and respected community leader named Oscar Walter Friederich, owner of the Capitol Theater. Friederich was a Grand Titan in the Klan, supervising more than 40 Illinois counties, and Pekin was his regional headquarters.

In September 1923, Friederich and two other Klansmen, Silas Strickfaden and E. A. Messmer, partnered to buy the Pekin Daily Times, which thus became an organ of the KKK’s racist and nativist propaganda. Consequently, much of the Local History Room’s file on the KKK consists of copies of Pekin Daily Times articles and advertisements from the first half of the 1920s.

Almost as rapid as its rise was the Klan’s fall in the mid-1920s, due not only to organized social opposition to the KKK across the country but also to several public scandals that made national headlines. The Klan’s local fortunes in Pekin followed its national fortunes, and when the Klan fell into disrepute, the Pekin Daily Times nearly went out of business and Friederich had to sell the paper in June 1925.

An image from a darker time, this illustration appeared in a Pekin Daily Times advertisement for a major Ku Klux Klan gathering in Pekin — the “Klantauqua” — that took place in late August 1924.

A few other articles in the Local History Room’s KKK file touch on the related subject of Pekin’s reputation as a racist community unwelcoming to non-whites. Given Pekin’s past and reputation, sociologist James Loewen included Pekin in his 2005 study, “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” which explores the phenomenon of U.S. communities that made it known to blacks that they had better be out of town by nightfall.

Obviously, the history of the KKK in Pekin had a lot to do with that reputation, but a closer look at Pekin’s history reveals that the reputation predates the Klan’s arrival in Pekin. For example, on July 24, 1933, the Pekin Daily Times printed a curious story at the bottom left corner of the front page, with the headline, “Now it is Explained: Why Negroes Don’t Light in Pekin; Once Upon A Time There Were Balls and Chains.”

This story followed a news report of the preceding week, published at the bottom right corner of the Daily Times’ front page on July 21, 1933, about a black man from Chicago Heights named James Davis, one of two blacks who had been arrested in Pekin as stowaways atop a C. & I. M. box car. The news report, which utilizes the racially derogatory language common in those days (which we will not quote here), says Davis’ companion went quietly, but Davis allegedly resisted arrest and attempted to escape.

Davis was brought to court the next day, and the judge told him, “The court after carefully considering the case fixes your fine at $25 and costs, but fine and costs will be remitted if you get out of town. The court will give you one hour to get out of the best city in the state.” Davis replied that he thought he could make it out of Pekin in five minutes.

The follow-up story, which again uses racially derogatory language, shows an awareness of Pekin’s reputation, observing, “There have been other stories about Negroes getting out of town in a hurry – one about a man that left the city hall in such a rush that he even forgot to eat his dinner, other talks of Negro families moving in town one day and out the next – until it seems that there must be that indefinable something about Pekin that keeps her population almost wholly white.

“Illinois population bulletins show that there are few other cities the size of Pekin that have no Negro population.

“William Gaines, one of our two black men, who is porter at the Tazewell hotel and who has been here for 30 years, explains the non-existence here of others of his race by the fact that Peoria is so near, and that Negroes in general prefer to live in larger cities.”

The story then relates a personal recollection of Emil Schilling, “one of Pekin’s lifetime residents who remembers everything that has gone on here for the past 50 or 60 years.” Schilling attributed the absence of blacks in Pekin to an incident that older men of the town had told him when he was a boy.

“He was told that there had been a gang of levee Negroes working as the crew on a river boat back in the days before the Civil war, 30 or 40 of them, that had gotten too much whisky at 20c a gallon and had begun to carouse.” According to this tale, the blacks were arrested and clapped in iron, and were sentenced to six weeks of labor on the city streets dragging a ball and chain.

Schilling said word of that incident spread up and down the Illinois River. On a trip to St. Louis during the 1880s, Schilling encountered a group of black dockworkers, and he asked one of them if he would like to live in Pekin. According to Schilling, the man replied, “No, suh, boss, no suh, that town ain’t no place for a n—–.”

One of the most remarkable features of this 1933 Pekin Daily Times story is the complete absence of any reference to the Ku Klux Klan, even though the KKK’s popularity in Pekin during the first half of the 1920s is obviously relevant to this question. This is a glaring omission that was probably intentional on the writer’s part.

While it’s unclear how much weight should be placed on Schilling’s recollections, his tale would suggest that Pekin’s reputation as a community unwelcoming to blacks predates the Civil War. That would not be surprising, given the fact that until the Civil War Pekin was a Democratic, pro-slavery political stronghold. One of the important factors in shifting Pekin to an anti-slavery Republican stronghold was the influx of German immigrants around the mid-1800s.

However, while the German influence was crucial in the shift of Pekin’s politics, it also helped make Pekin less desirable as a place to live for non-German-speakers, both white and black. As a result, “The small black population and many of the older white families moved to Peoria,” according to an April 13, 1989 Peoria Journal Star column by retired Peoria Journal Star editor Charles Dancey of Pekin.

The practical results of these cultural and demographic trends can be tracked in the U.S. Census: in 1900, only four blacks lived in Pekin, in 1910 only eight, in 1920 (just before the KKK arrived) a total of 31, in 1930 only one – and in 1940 not a single black person was left in Pekin.

#e-a-messmer, #emil-schilling, #kkk, #oscar-walter-friederich, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-history, #pekins-first-riot, #pekins-racist-reputation, #racism, #silas-strickfaden, #sundown-towns, #william-gaines

Kiwanis trip to D.C.: ‘Here we are, home again’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton used his daily “Editor’s Letter” newspaper column to chronicle the weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., that the Pekin Kiwanis Club and a party of Peoria teachers took in June 1932. The sixth and last of his daily log entries, written in Pekin after their return, was printed on the front page of the June 18 issue.

McNaughton’s trip log entries which we’ve reviewed over the past few weeks can help bring to life what life was like in America during the 1930s, when passenger travel by train was common. In the case of McNaughton’s final log, however, a couple passages in which he makes racially-charged if not racist remarks about African-Americans living in Washington, D.C., also help to remind us of the great changes and progress in attitudes regarding race since those days.

This final log entry here follows:



Well, here we are, home again. Two autoloads of friends met the boys and me at Bloomington, the grandparents from Texas having arrived while we were away. They had the best linen out at home and a three-course dinner waiting so the comedown from those dining car meals would not be too great, but at that we missed the finger bowls! However, we didn’t miss a swim in the greatest little pool this side of that one at the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

And did we need that swim, after two days and a night on a train, taking the dust and cinders as they came. I could lean over and shake my head and hear the cinders fall.

If you insist on the truth, I slept better on those improvised beds Thursday night than I did last night at home in my own bed. Why? Because of that gale. Wasn’t that some blow at 12:20 last night?

Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton in 1979. PHOTO FROM LOCAL HISTORY ROOM COLLECTION

Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton in 1979. PHOTO FROM LOCAL HISTORY ROOM COLLECTION

Speaking of blows, we had one plan blow up. Our special was making such a good time westward bound that at Garrett, Ind., we got the consent of the dispatcher to roll right into the Grand Central station at Chicago 15 minutes early. We were to leave Chicago at 3 o’clock from the Union Depot, hooked onto the rear of the Lincoln Limited.

So we decided to parade up State street in Chicago during the 1 ¾ hours we had to wait. We found a piece of carboard (sic), and with a red lipstick and some blue ink we made a red, white, and blue banner. Art Kriegsman had furnished us a clan call the first night out – a loud, long drawn out “Yoo-Hoo,” pronounced, “You-Who.” Wherever a Tazewellite saw another in Washington, even if it was clean across the Capitol grounds, he would shout “Yoo-Hoo,” and the “Yoo-Hoos” that came from the hotel windows at 2 a. m. made the nights merry. So for the Chicago parade, we arranged that if anybody got lost, he was to start shouting “Yoo-Hoo” at the top of his lungs, which was to be the signal for all the rest of the Yoo-Hoos to rush to his rescue.

The minute we reached Chicago, we swung from the coaches to start our parade, when trainmen ran to halt us, telling us that instead of trailing us home on the Lincoln Limited, they were sending us along in a few minutes as a special. So Chicago missed a bigger parade than they had all during the G. O. P. convention – not to mention the “Yoo-Hoos” they missed.

Speaking of Art Kriegsman, there were 184 on the train besides Art and they are all for Art. He made the beds for the ladies, he carried drinks to the aged, he Yoo-Hooed for the weak lunged, and he made fun for everybody.

The most hilarious moment of the trip came at 3 o’clock yesterday morning. Art, sitting two seats away, saw Mrs. Arends rousing from a troubled sleep. Quickly Art put on some ugly spectacles and slipped into his mouth some hideous protruding teeth. Mrs. Arends, half awake, saw Art and thought she was having a nightmare. Shaking herself, she looked again and thought it was somebody whose false teeth were falling out; or maybe a fiend had gotten onto the train. At this moment, Art drew a cup of water and started toward Mrs. Arends with it.

“I don’t want anything. I don’t want ANYTHING! I DON’T WANT ANYTHING!” Mrs. Arends screamed till everybody in the car were sitting up, sharing her terror. Whereupon Art took his teeth out, emitted a loud “Yoo-Hoo” and moved on to the next car. There he found the crowd was trying to locate a dying calf which was bawling piteously. It turned out to be a hidden device that Bill Janssen had found in an oddity shop in Washington. You must hear that calf bawl; and if you’ll drop a penny in the tin cup, Art will Yoo-Hoo for you.

The crowd insisted on signing a Round Robin to be presented to the Kiwanis club, thanking them for the trip and expressing their amazement that so much could be given for $36. Really, everybody seemed to feel that they got their money’s worth.

At the end of this column, is a vote that I took on the homeward train of the things that folks liked best on the trip. Frances Towle followed me up with a vote on what folks were most disappointed in.

You will notice that the White House was an easy winner in the disappointment vote. This was, I think, because the President did not shake hands with us. They have had to tighten down on many things in Washington the last week because of the thousands of bonus marchers in the city. They were everywhere – hundreds upon hundreds of them. We even had to get a special permit thru Mr. Hull’s office to get into the bureau of engraving. So Mr. Hoover is not shaking hands just now. In fact, he and Mrs. Hoover were listening over the radio to his renomination at Chicago while we were wandering thru the famous east room, green, blue and red rooms, etc.

From the number of things that somebody gave first place, you will realize how different are human interests. Evidently the boys and I missed the second most interesting thing on the trip – the Annapolis Naval Academy. I wanted, too, to see the Cathedral where Wilson is buried. Of one thing I am glad – that is that Attorney Prettyman decided to extend the trip the extra day. The crowd wants the Kiwanis club to get up another such trip.

Here’s the vote on what the folk liked best:

Mt. Vernon … 43
Naval Academy … 36
Lincoln Memorial … 19
Capitol building … 12
Congress in action … 10
New museum … 6
Washington’s monument … 5
Bureau of engraving … 1
Old museum … 3
Pan-American building … 2
Congressional library … 2
White House … 2
Robert E. Lee’s home … 3
Arlington cemetery … 4
Flag parade … 1
Art gallery … 2
Allegheny mountains … 1
Eats … 1
Cathedral … 1
Zoo … 1
Monastery … 1
Ford theater … 1
Associations on train … 1

Quite a few could not make up their minds, and some of them (women) wanted to change their minds after they had first voted. They would!

Now here is Miss Towle’s list of disappointments:

White House … 42
Hotel … 15
Not seeing President … 6
Beds on train … 6
Pan-American building … 5
Ford theater … 5
Congressional library … 4
Bureau of engraving … 3
Harper’s Ferry … 3
Ladies’ clothes (museum) … 1
Pittsburgh … 1
Lighting on train … 1
Shopping district … 1
Too many Negroes … 1
Foreign legations … 1
Location of hotel … 1
G. A. R. building … 1
Red Cross building … 1
Not seeing cherry trees … 1
Train sickness … 1
Poor Annapolis guide … 1
Narrow streets … 1
Mountains … 1
Switching at Chicago … 1
Mt. Vernon … 1
Not seeing Old Ironsides … 1
Monument … 1
Free afternoon … 1
Not seeing mint … 1

It might be explained that there is no mint in Washington; and that Ironsides could be seen from the top of the Washington monument. Concerning the Negroes, I really wonder if they are going to take Washington over. It is a shame they ever started Washington so far to one edge of the nation. It ought to be out closer to the common run of folk. But it looks like it is there to stay. They are building constantly – are building now. There is vastly more to see now than there was 10 years ago. There will be more 10 years later; and if the Kiwanis club decides to put on another tour to Washington 10 years from now, I believe every person who was on this trip will advise you to take it in. Certainly I do.

#art-kriegsman, #f-f-mcnaughton, #frances-towle, #herbert-hoover, #kiwanis-trip-to-washington, #mrs-arends, #pekin-kiwanis-club, #racism