This Week in Sapulpa History: Before the Chieftains, there were the Outlaws

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

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This week in history, football season for the Sapulpa High School began for the 1928-1929 school year on September 21, 1928. Against Jenks, the new season not only brought in new players, but new uniforms, too.

The team showcased their new attire on the gridiron with “new blue jerseys with white vertical stripes, headgear painted blue with a white star, with blue and white hose added to the khaki breeches.” At the afternoon game at Holmes Park, “the team trotted out on the field, they presented a picture of confidence which comes from being well trained but never disregarding the possible strength of their opposition.”

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The new jerseys were not the only signs of change in 1928. The school mascot had undergone a new look and new name. Prior to this season, Sapulpa High were the Outlaws. The logo was a face with a cowboy hat and a bandana tied around the lower portion of the “outlaws” face.

This game against Jenks was the first time the announcers called the football game for the Sapulpa Chieftains. In the first football game as Chieftains, Chieftains won the game with a score of 21 to 0.

The Sapulpan athletes had many names before 1928. With Coach Virgil Jones, in the mid-1910s to early 1920s, the athletic members were known as Sappers­—a military term for combat engineers who support the front-line infantry. The team members also had a special nickname, such as Jonesmen (named so because of their coach) and the “blue and white machine”.

By 1923, the name changed to the Outlaws. There are two stories or reasons why the name came around. A high school football, basketball, and baseball player from 1924 through 1928, Kermit Carter, recalled the name change. Carter stated, “the Sapulpa Sappers were kicked out of the conference because of recruiting violations. When Sapulpa came back into the conference their teams took the name ‘Outlaws.’”

1924-1925 Sapulpa Outlaws basketball team.

Either by retaliation and acceptance of being on one-year probation, the Sapulpans changed their name to Outlaws, or “perhaps a play on the frontier town’s early Territory history” when Sapulpa would be known as a “safe haven” for outlaws.

After a few years as the Outlaws, the seniors of the Class of 1928 had a chance to change that. In early 1927, the seniors were asked to keep the name or change it. If they chose to change it, what would they vote for as the new name. The contest kicked off and a name was finally accepted.

Senior, Pauline Page, had renamed the pep club on September 17, 1927*. The White Peppers were composed of seniors and juniors that wore white shirts, white skirts, blue ties and sash, with white sailor caps (for summer) and dark blue skirts (for winter). Page would also be the Vice-President Senior Class with Melbourne James as President.

1927-1928 White Peppers, pep club.

Kermit Carter recalled that the student body voted for Chieftains, a name submitted by Pauline Page.

*Note: Pauline Page would later become a nurse, marry Kermit Carter, and they would establish the Ranch Terrace Nursing Home.

The name change timeline is not exact. The vote and acceptance happened in the school year of 1927-1928. However, from the newspapers, the name change happened that same school year, too – before the first football game mentioned above in September 1928. Between April 4th, 1928 and April 13th, 1928, the newspapers had changed the name when announcing the athletics segment in their papers*.

*Note: An article that portrays the actual renaming of the school has not been found, yet. But there are two articles separated by just a few days that show the change from Outlaws to Chieftains.

On April 4th, 1928, the article about the baseball game against Tulsa High School Braves. “Outlaws played the Braves a good game, and came home with the bacon, 11 to 8.” This game was played at Tulsa University’s baseball diamond. At the time Tulsa High was undefeated, and Sapulpa was able to score enough runs to claim victory.

On April 12, 1928, the baseball game at home was against the Okmulgee Bulldogs. “The Sapulpa Chieftains had a hard day, losing to the Okmulgee High School Bulldogs by a count of 14 to 1.” The article stated that the Chieftains evened the score in the first inning, but “was not prepared for the onslaught that was to come.” The Chieftains fought the Bulldogs but were unable to win.

It is uncertain if the baseball team had new uniforms in time for the name change in early 1928. However, the school year of 1928-1929 was the first year that the whole student body was named Chieftains.