A Mascot for the Ages
Schools of every type have followed the tradition of choosing a mascot to represent them. The frightening reincarnations of Vikings, leopards, bears and eagles are emblazoned on sports uniforms and proudly displayed at places of prominence on and in the schools. Even professional sports teams are known by their bold symbols. They are revered, sung about and recognized as the standard bearer for the team or school they represent. Among all these valiant symbols we discover the Jordan High Beetdiggers. Where did that come from, what are they, and why are they to be feared?
Jordan High School first began its storied tenure in 1907 when Weston Morley began holding classes in the basement of a church in Midvale. The school grew to a student body of 2,000 and became known as The People’s College. By 1914, a new high school was built at 9351 South State Street in Sandy. It was named Jordan High School, in honor of the Jordan River which ran just west of it. Now, what to select as that all important mascot?
In the early 20th century, most of the communities south of Midvale were farming communities. With irrigation water from those majestic mountains to the east, and canal water diverted from the Jordan River, the land was fertile. It was ideal for growing the product from which the much of the nation’s sugar was processed–sugar beets. Sugar beets are large, white-root plants and were planted in long rows.
Sugar beets were labor intensive at harvest time. Each five-pound beet was pulled from the ground, lopped of its leafy top, and loaded into trucks for delivery from farm to sugar processing plants. This all happened within a two week period of time in the month of October, usually after the first frost which increased the sugar content.
Armies of strong young backs were needed to harvest this all important crop, so the solution was to call a “beet holiday” for two weeks every October to enable the farmers to hire young people to dig the beets. Students were typically hired in teams and moved from field to field working for several different farmers.
The tool used during the harvest was the sugar beet knife. You want to face something that could make your heart stop, face a beet knife, which could be a lethal weapon with its sharp hook for stabbing and lifting the beet from the ground and its keen cutting edge used for topping off the leafy tops.
Every possible type of fearsome creature from giants to tigers was considered as a possible mascot for the proud new high school. But when they looked at the sugar beet knife and partnered it with the strong and fearless young people growing up in the south valley communities, it was decided that the most appropriate mascot for Jordan High would be “The Beetdiggers.” Sure enough, the sugar beet knife became well known as the symbol of a successfully competitive and much “feared” high school.
The Jordan High Beetdiggers became state champions in every sport over the years, and still remain strong contenders for All-State titles today. The Beetdiggers have launched nationally acclaimed athletes, including:
Dee Benson – Professional soccer player and federal judge
Gene Fullmer – World Middleweight Boxing Champion
Don Lind – NASA Astronaut
Andy Jones – Professional acrobat; Member of USA High Diving Team, 2014
Don Fullmer – contender for the World Middleweight Boxing Championship
In the early 1990s, because of dramatic growth and limited space, the decision was made to move the school to a new site at 9800 South State. A public discussion was held and the students were given the choice of changing the traditional colors of maroon and grey, the mascot, Beetdiggers and the school logo. They overwhelmingly voted to keep all of them the same, and moved into a beautiful new school while simultaneously honoring their past history.
The Jordan High Beetdiggers continue to feed college teams with highly skilled athletes and universities with academically superior and talented students. So, if you are or ever were a Beetdigger, hold your head high, for your heritage is rich, full of meaning and purpose, and fearsomely competitive on every level. Go Beetdiggers!