Spooner author creates activity book featuring Wisconsin mascots

Spooner author highlights the history and geography behind unusual high school mascots.
Teams from the Indianhead Conference are posted on the wall in the Solon Springs gymnasium featuring interesting mascots like the Mellen Granite Diggers, Bayfield Trollers, Washburn Castle Guards and Butternut Midgets. (Jed Carlson /

Spooner author Carlo Kumpula, a longtime educator and coach, has released a new activity book featuring Wisconsin’s high school mascots.

Targeted to students in grades four through eight, “Wisconsin’s Mighty Mascots” takes youngsters on a tour of the state while uncovering the back stories behind such mascots as the Rhinelander Hodags, Monticello Ponies, Washburn Castle Guards and Eau Claire Memorial Old Abes.

The book mixes geography, history and storytelling. It includes reading comprehension questions, word find puzzles, mazes, matching activities, a crossword puzzle, a map activity and a space where students can design their own mascot.

Sarah Skinner, a third grade teacher in Shell Lake, said she’s shared the book with her students and her own children.

“The research that was put into the book is very apparent,” Skinner said. “We learned so much about the interesting, quirky and unique mascots from around the state and also love the activities included in the book.”


A new activity book by Spooner author Carlo Kumpula reveals the stories behind Wisconsin mascot names, including a number from the northwestern part of the state. (Photo courtesy of Carlo Kumpula)

“Wisconsin’s Mighty Mascots” is based on a geography lesson plan Kumpula created in the 1980s for a National Geographic workshop. The idea was prompted in part by his high school experiences in northern Wisconsin.

“Growing up as a Mellen Granite Digger and competing against the Castle Guards, Trollers, Oredockers, and others, I’ve always been fascinated by unique mascots,” Kumpula said.

His knowledge covers current high schools and those that have folded.

The Cable Eskimos, for instance, got their name because the boys basketball team practiced outside all winter for two years while the school gymnasium was being built in the 1940s. Glidden was the Vikings until the world record black bear was shot a few miles outside the town around 1966.

“About the time I was getting out of high school, Glidden switched from being the Vikings to the Black Bears,” Kumpula said. “That would have been a story I would have put in here, but they don’t even have a high school anymore.”

His workshop has been presented throughout the state and at national venues in Portland, Oregon, and St. Louis, Missouri. Now retired, Kumpula has taken his curriculum, which includes a component on controversial mascots, on the road at the request of teachers throughout the area.


Carlo Kumpula of Spooner, author of the new activity book, "Wisconsin's Mighty Mascots." (Photo courtesy of Carlo Kumpula)

He’s hoping the activity book will fill a need during the pandemic.

“Teachers, including parents who have to do some teaching at home, have permission to make copies of activities from the book,” Kumpula said. “It’s another tool for learning about the geography and history of Wisconsin.”

The Spooner man’s knowledge of mascots doesn’t stop at the state line. He’s currently working on another activity book featuring high school mascots from throughout the nation.

Every state has at least a dozen great mascot stories, he said, like the famous hippo from Hutto, Texas. The town adopted the hippo as its mascot based off a local legend about a hippo that escaped from a 1900s circus train and initially refused to let workers evict it from an area creek. Today, more than a thousand hippo statues can be found in Hutto, each painted with a different business or civic theme.

This is Kumpula’s second book. His first, “When All Roads Led to Spooner,” chronicles the history of the sectional basketball tournament held annually from 1943-1971 when all schools, regardless of enrollment, competed in a single class.

Both books are available at Globe News in Superior and at .

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What To Read Next
Get Local