Photo: Suzie Q being led on the football field, from The Citadel’s 1959 yearbook
In 1954, the television station’s owner, Drayton Hastie, decided to buy an elephant in New York for $2,700. It was named Suzie Q and became the station’s mascot.
Suzie Q lived on the station grounds and shared it with “an alligator, kangaroo, donkey, exotic birds, and other animals,” according to the Mount Pleasant Historical Commission.
The mascot became quite popular around the Lowcountry. In fact, many people would bring their children to the station to ride on the back of Suzie Q.
The Legend of Suzie Q
By Brad Franko:
Suzie Q was about to become part of Citadel History. In the center of it were two Citadel cadets at the time.
Bobby Schwarze, Citadel Class of 1959, was inducted into the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Schwarze was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers but opted for marriage and the US Marine Corps.
Jim “Wheatie” Jeffrey, Citadel Class of 1959, was a member of the Citadel tennis team and was a South Carolina State Doubles Champion (’58 & ’59). He was the team’s co-captain and MVP in 1959. After college, Jeffrey went on to be the vice president of the Allstate Insurance Company.
They were great friends in college, but their paths went separate ways. Which brings us back to the story of Suzie Q, which took place in the fall of 1958.
“We were trying to think of something that we could do to get the corps fired up for the VMI game,” said Schwarze.
They needed to because the Citadel Bulldogs football team was struggling through a 2-4 season. Plus the Keydets were riding a 17-game winning streak.
“What I remember is VMI had come down a year before and stole General Mark Clark’s jeep and took it back to VMI and painted it red and yellow,” said Jeffrey.
So in an effort to get the corps stirred up, and thereby creating a rowdy atmosphere come gameday, the three stars of our story come together…
“And Suzie Q popped into our minds as the most ridiculous thing that we could do,” said Jeffrey.
On November 13, 1958, Suzie Q, was minding her own business. Just hanging out like all good mascots do, totally unaware of what was about to happen.
“We proceeded to go to the pen that was out front of the station, and it was unlocked, and that was unusual,” said Jeffrey.
The duo proceeded to load Suzie Q on to the trailer that was already there and hook her to the back end of a 1950 Ford car.
“I guess the thing that made me most weary was the way the car sat with the trailer on it… I knew we would have to drive across the grace with the car at this angle,” said Jeffrey.
Oh yeah, he’s talking about the Grace Memorial Bridge; the one we affectionately call the “Old Cooper River Bridge”. And remember now, in 1958, this thing accommodated two-way traffic. So picture it, a car with a trailer on the back, hauling an elephant.
“The fear of God took over, if the wheels of that car were touching, then it was just barely… And this trailer was going back and forth… And we said, oh my god what have we done,” said Schwarze.
Having dodged that bullet, they had one more hurdle to jump. Not having any special permission to be off campus, they had to get back on without being seen.
“I still remember the night watchmen as we came in the front gate, the trailer was open and you could see Suzie Q… He took one look at us and he hopped on his bicycle and he was peddling faster than I’ve seen him pedal in all my life,” said Schwarze.
News 2 asked if he was to stop you, what would have happened?
“He wasn’t going to stop us, that was never a question… That was the plan to keep going,” said Jeffrey.
They did it, safely making it to the barracks. Suzie Q was chained up outside to await her trip to the football game on Saturday afternoon; where she made her first public appearance since the incident. Avoiding punishment, the two look back on the events with a certain amount of pride.
“It was kind of gutsy to do that your senior year… Because a lot could have gone down the drain on that dark night,” said Jeffrey.
“I think it accomplished exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Everybody was excited, and to make a long story short… We beat VMI,” said Schwarze. “We sure as hell aren’t going to tell you what we have planned for Channel 2!! We’ll try to get your next 50 started off right.”
Now in case you were wondering; the management of Channel 2 were good sports and once they found out Suzie Q wasn’t in jeopardy, they allowed her to stay on campus until the game was over.