Brenda Velasco ’96 asks Abe: "I’m writing this on behalf of my students. In an effort to showcase my alma mater during our state study of Wisconsin, I was showing my fourth-grade students photos of the UW campus and the history of Bucky Badger. I showed them photos of Bucky past and present. Among them was a black-and-white photo from 1949 of a Bucky Badger papier-mâché headpiece.
Needless to say, my students thought it was quite frightening (imagine that!) and have since called it “Scary Bucky.” They wanted to know if this papier-mâché, “scary” Bucky head still exists somewhere on campus or if it has been discarded due to wear and tear.
By the way, they think the current Bucky is adorable and hope the “scary Bucky” never returns. A few are even inspired to become future Badgers one day. Thank you for your time!"
Tell your students not to fear: “scary Bucky” hasn’t been seen in decades and will likely never return.
That papier-mâché head was the creation of Carolyn “Connie” Conrad, an art student and friend of 1949 Homecoming chair Bill Sachse ’50. Sachse largely cooked up the idea of a live Bucky (he’s also the driving force behind giving our mascot that name, but that’s a different story) with another friend, cheerleader Bill Sagal ’51. Sachse asked Conrad to make the head, and Sagal wore it, debuting at 1949’s Homecoming game. (For what it’s worth, the Badgers beat Iowa 35-13.)
After Sagal graduated, other students played the big, fuzzy role. But what happened to the original head is unknown. Author Gwen Schultz went looking for it when she wrote The Bucky Badger Story
in 1981, but could find no sign of it. Sagal died in 2000, and Sachse in 2012. It’s probable that the original head is gone forever.
Other iterations of Bucky have appeared through the years: boxing-glove Bucky in the 1960s; a friendly, smiling version in the 1970s; and eventually Bucky with the modern Motion W design today.
There are currently seven students who portray Bucky, and thus seven costumes. According to one of those students, the Spirit Squad is slowly modernizing the suits to a carbon-fiber construction, which reduces Bucky’s weight by five pounds — “and that’s a lot, when you think of all we do,” he says.
Neither the Spirit Squad nor the UW Archives maintains a collection of old Bucky heads or parts. Your students need not be afraid.