The University of Maine Used To Have a Real Black Bear Mascot
Believe it or not, there was a time long ago when the University of Maine in Orono had a real, live black bear as a mascot at sporting events.
Nancy Wright shared a photo in the Facebook group Old Pictures of Forgotten Maine of Bananas the mascot chained to a post on the sidelines of a U Maine game in Orono in 1932. Her dad is the one on the field.
Today, of course, Bananas T. Bear is played by a human in a bear suit because as a society, we've realize the cruelty of live animals as mascots.
So what's the origin of the real live bear? The University of Maine website describes how Bananas came to be:
A small black bear cub named Jeff, born on the northeast slope of Mount Katahdin, was presented to O.B. Fernandez, a former Old Town police chief and collector of wild animals, in 1914. Fernandez loaned the bear to the university, where Jeff was introduced at a football rally. As the tiny black bear entered the auditorium, the surprised crowd applauded enthusiastically. When Jeff stood on his head, the crowd went “bananas” — giving rise to the name of all future UMaine bear mascots.
At some point, the University of Maine switched to a bear costume, but it's interesting to see how far we've come in almost 100 years.