[caption id="attachment_6345" align="alignleft" width="300"] A resident poses with the current WuShock mascot.[/caption]
With the college basketball season starting, what better way to kick it off than with a Wichita State-themed happy hour party! The Westerly residents were treated to a festive get-together with a special guest: WuShock, the mascot of WSU.
Resident Emily Rude, a WSU alum, remembers the time before WuShock was created. Emily was a member of the Wheaties, the Women’s Pep Club of Wichita University, as it was known then. Before they had a mascot to inspire the fans, the loudest cheers of the crowd came from the women
dressed in black and gold. They cheered together at football and basketball games, named both the “Jack Armstrong” and “Wheaties’ Sweetie” during the basketball season, participated in the marching band’s halftime shows and helped with skits for pep assemblies.
Emily recalls those days with the fondest of memories. In 1954, she was a Wheaties Girl. That fall, the basketball team was ranked third in the nation and included such players as Cleo Littleton and Jim McNerney. They were invited to play in the National Invitational Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Wheaties Girls, along with six male and six female cheerleaders and chaperones, were all able to attend. They took a train from Wichita to Chicago, then on to the Big Apple. Highlights of the trip included a stop at a chocolate factory in Chicago, a trip to Central Park and a guest spot on “Toast of the Town,” the forerunner of “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Emily has stayed in touch with Dave Johnson, one of the cheerleaders from that time who created the original WuShock costume. After their trip to NYC, Dave felt that WSU needed a mascot. Inspired by the artwork of Wilbur Estes (who created the first images of WuShock for the yearbook in 1948), Dave sketched out a plan and recruited his mother to help him sew a costume. WuShock has been reimagined over the years, but it remains a symbol of pride for Wichita State. Emily was excited for the opportunity to get a photo with Wu at the party. She remains a huge WSU fan and will always be a Wheaties Girl at heart.