While the district’s mascot costume may be new, the history behind its winning name dates back more than 75 years. Howland Local Schools unveiled Smokey the Tiger during its “All One” Student and Community Showcase on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Howland Middle School student Natalie Brom authored the winning essay, Smokey the Tiger, which paid tribute to the late Don Cunningham.
While Don Cunningham was his real name, everyone at Howland Schools affectionately referred to him as Smokey. Smokey was born with several birth defects back in 1915, a time when physicians routinely recommended institutionalizing those with his particular physical challenges. Interesting to note, however, is the fact that if he were born today, several surgeries could easily correct his defects. His mother knew that she couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. Because of her love, dedication, and maybe even her foresight, Howland Schools benefited for many decades.
During school, Smokey was a hard-worker, frequently helping out the janitors or anyone else who needed a hand. At night, he morphed into Howland High School’s number one fan, donning his signature sweater with a big block “H” sewn onto the chest, pants and tennis shoes. Regardless of the athletic event, Smokey was a fixture on the court or the field, always standing near the cheerleaders. Everyone, including visiting teams, loved Smokey, especially when he would lead cheers during breaks in play.
While Smokey passed away in 1986 at the age of 71, his legacy lives on in many Howland graduates. Those who know Smokey say he was extremely devoted and never said anything bad about anybody. He was always happy and served as a great example of how people should live their lives. Howland looked out for Smokey and Smokey proudly promoted Howland – just as the district looks forward to its new mascot carrying on that old school tradition!