Back in 1972, when I began teaching at Cordova High, I was surprised to discover that many students did not know the CHS Fight Song.
As a former Wolverine (CHS ’62), I just assumed it was a matter of pride and school spirit that everyone learned that famous tune, whose music is actually the U.S. Marine Corp song, and it’s words begin with “Come on CHS get out and fight, for your good old high school’s name ….”
The music was selected by legendary CHS teacher Winifred Kaiser before World War II began, and Virginia Nicholoff Lacey, CHS ’41, and composed the words.
A couple students challenged me to sing the song, and just as a joke, after belting it out, I tossed in the Oregon State Fight song for good measure.
The response was stunned disbelief.
Of such happenstance are traditions born.
Oregon State University, at that time a major Pac-8 college of over 20,000 students, was quite a change from 100 student CHS, which was still housed in the old building across from Dr. Gilbert Urata’s dental office when I graduated.
I happened to arrive in Corvallis just as the Beavers were peaking. School spirit was off the charts as OSU fielded top-ranked teams in both men’s basketball and football. The Beaver Fight song blasted often in their packed stadium as the Orange and Black went marching down the field.
In 1965, my junior year, OSU surprised everyone by making it to the Rose Bowl. I rode a bus packed with enthusiastic students from Corvallis to Pasadena, only to watch the Beavers be steamrolled by a massive Michigan team, whose quarterback was bigger than anyone on the OSU squad.
Oregon State has never been back. In fact, the Beavers have played in only three Rose Bowls, and their only victory came over heavily favored Duke on Jan. 1, 1942. That game was moved to Durham, North Carolina, because of fears of attacks on the coast of California immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The OSU football struggled after that defeat, with many losing seasons soon to follow.
None the less, respect for the spirit, passion, and loyalty from what was later known as Beaver Nation, plus the Beaver fight song, stuck with me.
Hence was born a campaign to teach school spirit by example, in a manner that befuddled even CHS Principal Chuck Taylor, who had coached the CHS boys to a pair of State Class B titles and was famous for his own unique methods of leadership and discipline.
Somewhere in my collection of college paraphernalia, I discovered two plastic cards filled with small round Benny the Beaver stickers. Benny was the furry OSU mascot that roamed the sidelines at all home games, cheering the Beavers faithful on.
To elicit similar support for the Cordova Wolverines, each time Oregon State won a Saturday football game, on the following Monday morning a Benny sticker appeared on the podium in Room 2.
When students came filing in, I had them all stand and help sing the OSU Fight Song.
The goal was to teach that through thick and thin, stick with your team, do your best, and always strive for better days.
The first Monday I did this Taylor happened to be wandering down the halls and stuck his head in to find out what the heck was going on.
He shook his head and left.
Of course, as bad as the Beavers became, two packets of 20 stickers lasted almost my entire 27 years at CHS. Some years the season ended with but one or two little Benny the Beavers on display.
But along the way, a funny thing happened. Students started peeking in early Monday morning to see if a new sticker was on the podium. And they started to learn the words, not only of the Beaver Fight Song, but also the CHS fight song.
When a pair of terrific young coaches names Bob Lenz and Virginia Anderson came along to establish decades of stability and success, Wolverine Fever and school spirit had a life of its own.
And even today, on rare occasions I find myself singing the Beaver Fight song.
Such was the case on November 27, 2020, when Oregon State upset the University of Oregon 41-38 in a cross-state rivalry that dates back to 1894. The Ducks from Eugene lead the series with 65 wins versus 48 for the Beavers. Ten games ended in ties.
There is no doubt that U of O out-recruits and out-spends Oregon State. After all, their godfather is Duck grad Phil Knight, of Nike fame and fortune, who recently financed a glitzy $68 million football center.
In contrast, Oregon State’s Reser Stadium is named after major donors Al and Pat Reser, OSU grads and owners of Reser’s Fine Foods, which incidentally provides taco shells available at Cordova grocery stores.
U of O has big decisions to make every week, including what color combinations of flashy Nike uniforms to wear. Their neon yellow outfits may have helped OSU keep track of the Ducks in the foggy conditions of their recent loss to the Beavers.
OSU proudly wears workmanlike black and orange uniforms, and their helmets do not look like something out of Star Wars.
The Beavers are perennial underdogs, but seem to have turned it around under new coach Jonathan Smith, who just happened to play quarterback on the OSU team that throttled mighty Notre Dame 41-9 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.
That victory inspired a certain loyal fan to don a Benny the Beaver outfit aboard a float in that year’s Iceworm Parade. With the OSU fight song blaring away, it won the coveted Most Creative Float ribbon.
It is the American way to root for the underdog, and their victories always inspire us.
As does the chance meeting with a former student, who will come up to me, say “Hi Mr. Shellhorn and start singing “OSU, our hats are off to you, Beavers, Beavers, fighters through and through …”