Sam Church, 1914 Kewpie
Kewpie of the Month, September 2009
"Kewpie of the Century"
told the real story of how the "Kewpie" became
the mascot for Columbia/Hickman High School, December 16, 1913
Sam as a Kewpie - Sam's story - from Sam's great niece, Lucy - See video

1912 was the first edition of the school yearbook, the Cresset. The school mascot, the Kewpie, appeared for the first time in the 1914 Cresset associated with the basketball team "...whose loyalty to the school and to the Kewpie motto, ‘Keep Smiling,’ has won the State Championship."

 There are several stories making the tie between the Kewpie and the old Columbia High team. The one most generally thought of as authentic is about a game in which the Kewpies were playing against a school with much larger players, and were described by reporters as smiling Alike Kewpies, even though they were being outmanned.

These were the stories that I had always heard and have always seen in print as response to the question; how did Columbia/Hickman High School come to be known as the Home of the Kewpies?" The stories all non-specific and generic in nature without names of who, when, where, why or how, until now!

This year, ironically on the 100th anniversary of Rose O'Neill's creation of the "Kewpie" I acquired knowledge of how students of Columbia/Hickman came to be known as "Kewpies" passed down by the "Kewpie" who was there as witness to the "Kewpie" becoming the mascot. In addition to the story the Kewpie that is responsible for getting that story to me will now be honored as "Kewpie of the Century" on, Sam Church, Class of 1914, first Kewpie to letter in four sports and was there when the "Kewpies" officially became the "Kewpies."

I received an email on May 13, 2009 from Lucy Church, the great niece of Sam and we have been talking and emailing since. I met Lucy at her home in Kansas City on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 and made of video of the story that her Uncle Sam told here on a visit to her parents house in the 60s, five or six years before he passed away. I certainly wanted to preserve the story since this is the first evidence from a living person that actually had the story told to them by someone who was actually there when the "Kewpie" first became the mascot for Columbia High School almost one hundred years ago. 

Here is that most interesting email I received on May 13, 2009 from Lucy and the video from August 26, 2009.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dear Charley,

I happened upon your Kewpie web site somewhat by accident while trying to find some information about my great uncle, Sam Church.  It was my great fortune to locate him in the online Cresset of 1914, which I found through the Hickman High School web site.  I am quite amazed that you have managed to maintain such a thorough record of yearbooks. 

After reading some of the history of Hickman HS, I can't help noticing that the origin of the Kewpie as your mascot seems unclear.  Perhaps I can offer some background for you and other graduates before there is no one left to remember.

My great uncle was quite an athlete, who not only played basketball at Hickman but also at MU, and he was the first Kewpie to letter in four sports.  Although I did not know him too well because he lived in Florida, I do recall that he came to visit us once in the 1960s.  During that visit he told us about the Kewpie, which was quite significant to him.  Apparently, the school secretary owned a Kewpie doll, as they were popular figurines then, and she kept it on her desk.  At one of the basketball games, she placed the Kewpie in the center of the court (I guess for good luck), and the entire game was played around it without its being broken.  This was somewhat remarkable since the dolls were very fragile.  Because it survived the game and brought a victory, it was thereafter considered the good luck mascot.  You can see a picture of it underneath my great uncle's chair in the team photograph.  Also, the Kewpie does not appear prior to 1914 in any other Cresset.

Maybe you do know this story, but I did not see it described anywhere else.

I hope you find this interesting.  Thanks for the great resource!

Best wishes, 

See video and thanks Lucy!!!!

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Sam holding the "1914 State Champs" basketball with the 1st "Kewpie" at his feet

From the 1914 Cresset honoring the State Champs

Sam's Senior Picture from the 1914 Cresset

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Sam was born in Bethany, Missouri in July 1894, the youngest of three children. 

Sam - his sister, Eulalie - Nelson, Lucy's grandfather

His mother moved the family to Columbia so that his older brother, Nelson,  and sister, Eulalie, could attend the University of Missouri. Sam then started high school at Hickman (then Columbia High School, which is the current site of Jefferson Junior High School).

Sam in the midst of a group while he was attending Missouri University

He graduated from the University in 1918 with a degree in agriculture and was on the Tiger Basketball, but didn't receive a letter.

1916 Mizzou Tiger Basketball Team
Sam, second row, third from left

During his life he worked as a dairy inspector for the Department of Agriculture.  Sam’s first wife died and Sam remarried. 

Sam at his mother's house on Sanford Place in Columbia in the early 50s

After his retirement, he and his wife Helen moved to Englewood, Florida, where they lived until his death in 1968. Sam had no children.

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