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The Lion: UNCOVERED

by Jennifer Post Stoudt

With a mane of reddish brown locks circling his cherubic face, he proudly struts over to the crowd, tail bouncing to the cadence of his steps as the hoots and hollers from the crowd confirm how much he is loved.

Football and basketball games just wouldn’t be the same without the loveable Albright Lion cheering the teams on to victory.

Though his look has changed a bit through the years (for the better!), dozens of Albright students have donned the costume and made the furry creature come alive. When Jim Sweeney ’98 began his freshman year at Albright, he didn’t expect to end up as the lion for the next four years. “I went to every game and one day I walked by the Cage and saw the costume just laying there. The next thing I knew I was wearing it.” He even played the female lion on occasion, although he says, “that costume was a little bit tighter.”

At 5 feet, 2 inches tall, Janet (Snelbaker) Clark ’71 says she was recruited to play the lion because she could fit into the costume, which “was a little short in the legs.”

Armed with a peppy personality and a lot of energy, Clark says making the lion come alive was some of the most fun times she had at Albright. “I loved being at the games and having a sense of total anonymity. Not many people knew who I was. I kept the costume hidden under my bed.” But Clark, a self-proclaimed frustrated actress, enjoyed her role as the lion not just because of the school spirit. “It gave me an opportunity to be in front of an audience. I could be crazy and dance around, plus, I would go by the football players and pat them on the head and they didn’t know who I was. That was the closest I ever got to the football players!”

Susan (Hassel) Swavely ’88 also liked being able to dance around and act crazy. Unfortunately though, anonymity wasn’t as much a part of Swavely’s lion mascot experience as it was for Clark. “I was doing a cheer at a game during basketball season,” she says, “and when I twisted and bent down at the end, my head fell off. It was the official unveiling of the lion.”

While the current lion suit, donated by the Class of 1999, is in pretty good condition, previous suits weren’t always in the best of shape. “When I wore the costume,” Clark says, “stuff would fall in my eyes because the head was deteriorating.”

Heat is also a major factor, says Swavely. “It was a challenge sometimes because it would get so hot in there you could easily dehydrate.” But, she says, “Maurice and Shirley (Stahl),” who worked in the Cage, “were like my best friends. They would hook me up with water during half-time.”

For Sweeney, visibility, or the lack there of, was the biggest obstacle. He recalls an especially embarrassing football game: “I got there late because I had a soccer game. We were losing when I got there so I started running down the field trying to get the crowd revved up. As I was running I was watching the crowd and didn’t see the light pole…I crashed right into it.”

Tail pullers were yet another challenge. While all three agree that engaging the children was an exciting part of the job, there would always be “that one smart allecky kid who would start pulling on your tail,” says Swavely. Clark says she dealt with tail pullers by snarling through the costume. “It was just enough to intimidate them, but not scare them to death. We didn’t want to do that. We were there to have fun.”

Carrying on the tradition, several current students don the lion costume for athletic and other college events. Some administrators have even been known to suit up. But who they are, well, that must remain a mystery.

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photos courtesy of Cue.

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reporter contents :: albright college