By Savannah Wilson, Archival Intern
Saint Gertrude’s official mascot may be a Gator, but the school also has hosted several unofficial mascots throughout the years. Here are the stories of some of the most famous four-legged companions to have graced the school with their presence.
Tim, The Original
What we know of Tim, possibly the first dog to have been a member of Saint Gertrude High School, comes from a history of the school’s first five years written by the first principal, Sister Gertrude Head. Much of Sister Gertrude’s history focused on the school’s progress and major events such as graduation, but she dedicated a full eight sentences to talking about Tim when she noted the “cloud of sadness” that had come over the school when he had died in February 1927. Sister Gertrude’s adoration for Tim is clear as she remembers the bull dog who seemed to fill all roles, serving as “both member of faculty and student body” (a position that included “attending all classes”), protector of the home, and “the Czar of Stuart Ave.,” who evoked terror in other dogs, cats, and, of course, Richmond’s delivery men. Although Tim, or Timmie, may have been fierce to outsiders, he seems to have felt at home at Saint Gertrude. “He possessed the freedom of the house and was its vigorous protector,” Sister Gertrude wrote. “He knew and loved each of the school children and courted their affection.” Even in death, Tim remained in the place he loved; he was buried, Sister Gertrude says, under an umbrella tree on the property’s lower lawn.
Queenie, The Celebrity
It seems that whoever named Queenie, a German Shepherd who lived at the convent in the 1950s and 1960s, knew she was destined for greatness. True to her royal name, Queenie became known not only to the SGHS student body, but also to people across Richmond and around the country. After Queenie suffered a bad cut on her paw on one of her journeys, she walked herself to a human hospital, the Retreat for the Sick, according to a 1963 obituary (yes, there was an obit printed for the pup!). She wandered the hallways until somebody found her, and a veterinarian later stitched her cut. The Richmond News Leader ran an article about Queenie’s self-admittance to the hospital, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not soon picked up and publicized the story, giving Queenie widespread fame. Queenie wrote her own news stories, too. The school newspaper, The Green Shield, ran a column called “Queenie Was Here” (later changed to “Queenie Is Here”), in which she commented on school happenings. Despite her regal nature, though, Queenie still proved loving and loyal both to neighborhood children and the girls of Saint Gertrude. As her obituary states: “Dogs will come and dogs will go! But it is hard to think of Saint Gertrude’s without ‘Queenie,’ a faithful and well-loved friend.”
Tipper, The Advice Giver
Tipper the dog authored the advice column “Tips from Tipper” that ran in The Green Shield in the late 1960s and mid-1970s, and perhaps between these two periods as well. In the late 1960s, “Tips from Tipper” included musings on Tipper’s life as a dog – “while the girls have been busy studying, I have been out with my friends enjoying these beautiful spring days” –, commentary on school happenings – “The annual staff can finally breathe a sigh of relief” –, and gossip – “Last week I almost had my tail run over by a hot-rod Sophomore in a white station wagon.”
The column also included some actual tips from Tipper in the form of admonishments to misbehaving students and an advice column portion. Tipper told one letter-writer, who said her boyfriend treated her like a dog, that “Really a dog’s life isn’t really so bad; but if you have tried everything then I advise you to join a convent – there you won’t have any boyfriend problems.” In the mid-1970s, “Tips from Tipper” continued to talk about campus life but focused more on Tipper’s personal life, mentioning stories he had heard about his great-great grandfather as a puppy, his time as a member of Bone Scouts, and his girlfriend, Spot.
Beyond the column, we know Saint Gertrude has been the home of three Tippers, each owned by Sister Damien, who had a deep love for dogs and who also had owned Queenie, according to Saint Gertrude’s January 1990 newsletter. At the time the newsletter was written, Tipper III lived at the convent in Bristow, and Sister Damien visited him when she went there. A number of pictures of at least one of the Tippers, including some particularly heartwarming ones with Sister Damien and the dog together, are among the school’s old photographs.
And for all cat lovers, Thomas
In case felines are more your forte, we’ll end with Thomas the orange “cafeteria cat,” who was the subject of a December 1986 article in The Green Shield. Thomas was sneaky, managing to slip past Sister Charlotte’s watchful eye into the cafeteria on numerous occasions and entering by walking through the school’s front doors and past the office when the cafeteria doors were closed. Once Thomas entered the lunchroom, he may have stolen students’ lunches, according to the article. Despite the cat’s criminal nature, he, like the dogs of Saint Gertrude, cared for the students. “Thomas is friendly with all the students at Saint Gertrude,” the article stated. “He enjoys visiting the sophomores in the gym during their class meetings as well as waiting for the seniors to get out of school at the senior hall doors.”
Today, our students enjoy the company of a bunny and a hive of bees, both located in Liz Czaja’s biology classroom, but nothing like the Tippers of yore. If you are an alumna, do you remember any of the Saint Gertrude pets? Share your stories on our Facebook page.
Saint Gertrude High School is currently organizing its archives in preparation for its centennial anniversary in 2022. This blog post came out of archival research that took place in the summer of 2018. We’ll share more archival blog posts throughout the year.