The True Story of How the Pickles Got Their Name

The original story of the Pickle mascot is alive and well in the University archives to enlighten and entertain. Presented to the archives in 1992 on the 20th anniversary of the second Homecoming weekend, the story tells of two humble music students who delighted their mates with a story of the best pickles in town and yielded up a now famous mascot for the young school. Enjoy! 


The True Story of


by Francis Perry

The NCSA Pickles football team has achieved near-legendary status in the annals of collegiate athletics. Pickles have come and pickles have gone, but who among us has not asked that most fundamental of questions: “Whence Pickles?” This year’s homecoming game marks the 20thanniversary—as this is being written in 1992—of the inaugural NCSA Pickles team. Let the true story of the original Pickles be told now, before Father Time clouds the facts with the inevitable mythology surrounding tribal folklore. Because, as we all know, especially those of us at NCSA in the early years—fact is stranger than fiction.

I know how the Pickles got their name. I was there when it happened:

The Superficial Account

One could say that in the Fall of 1972, The Office of Student Affairs announced that there would be a contest to name the football team and create a corresponding slogan, perhaps something with a militaristic bent, to instill the fighting spirit in our players. One could say that I, along with my housemates Mark Stadler and Robert Severini, found this proposition so unspeakably absurd that we immediately sat down and composed a list of 63 different team names and slogans.

One could say that from the entire remaining NCSA student body there was but ONE other entry, so utterly feeble that the judges would more likely have used one of our most scatological entries, than to saddle our poor team with the name “Roosters”. One could say that it was therefore virtually inevitable that ONE of our names, to wit, “The Pickles” and its corresponding slogan, “SLING ‘EM BY THE WARTS!!!” would be selected by the distinguished panel of judges as the winning entry. One could say the above things, all of which are most certainly true, but one’s thirst for knowledge and understanding would be left unquenched. One would still be begging the philosophical question: “Whence Pickles?”

Getting Down to the Heart of the Matter

The fact is, when Mark, Robert and I came up with the name “Pickles,” we weren’t just pulling it out of thin air, so to speak. On the contrary, essence of pickles so permeated the psychic atmosphere of that house we shared at 139 Acadia Street, that we fervently intoned the word “Pickles” as if it were being dictated from some powerful, yet unseen source outside ourselves. In actuality, we were still recovering from the aftershock of “He Who Had Gone Before,” he with whom I had shared that same house a mere 18 months earlier, he who had transcended the usual borders of Humanness and had crossed the line into what I can only call (if I dare give it a name): Pickleness.

To truly comprehend Apicklypse Now or How The Pickles Got Their Name, one must go back in time to:

  • 1971 – the year that Spring never arrived in Winston-Salem. Overcast and rainy for weeks on end. A potent, volatile meteorological brine enveloping the city, intensifying emotions, heightening those senses tough enough to have beat back the overbearing malaise.
  • 1971 – Although the Sixties had already suffered a violent death, hardly anyone was yet willing to admit it. Richard Nixon was President. Vietnamese monks were setting themselves on fire in protest against the war…

There was no place in Winston-Salem to get a decent pickle. The horror.

The horror. 

Plunging Headlong into the Belly of the Beast

Call it the last attempt of a desperate young man to halt his eerie slide into the heart of darkness. Call it a young man heeding the inner voice of a higher power and reaching out, groping for the means to make the unseen manifest. Call it whatever you might, but when my housemate, NCSA oboe student Larry Glickman, pleaded with me to make a special trip to the lower East Side of Manhattan, a.k.a. Pickle Mecca, in order to bring some dills back to 139 Acadia Street, something within me responded to the urgency of the request. I figured he was a man on a mission, not to be denied, and, as it turned out, I was right.

139 Acadia: Any numerologist will tell you that 1 + 3 + 9 = 13, and further reduced, 1 + 3 = 4, and the number 4, in its positive aspects connotes Patriotism, Dignity, Devotion and Loyalty. But in its negative aspects, you’re flirting with Repression, Vulgarity, Destruction, and (shudder)…Animalism (we don’t even want to know what that is). All of this and more came into play when the Pickle Quest was reenacted, as no doubt it had been countless times down through the ages.

Larry “The Pickle” Glickman: The Most High King of Pickles. Pickle Di Tutti Pickles. Disguised as a humble, yet proud oboe student, not even those closest to him might ever have suspected that he was a Man of Destiny, a man upon whose brow God had lain a finger and said, “Go forth and lead the downtrodden Tribe of Pickles out of the wilderness and into their immortal glory. Do this and someday a prominent arts school will name their football team in honor of your efforts.”

A daunting task indeed. Larry might have asked, “Why me? I’ve come to NCSA to be the best oboist I can be, and now I’ve been given this Cosmic Mission, this Pickle Quest.” Yet, having lived in the same house during those crucial few months of his ascendency to power, I never once heard him utter a word of protest, nor did I ever witness a weakening of his resolve. For this, we of NCSA, cheering our mighty and beloved Pickles on to victory each Autumn, owe Larry The Pickle an eternal debt of gratitude.

The Iconography of Pickledom

Blue Devils? Huskies?? Trojans???!!! The landscape of this country is littered with meaningless and – worse – unimaginative team names reflecting who knows what about their schools. But…..Pickles….A name to be proud of – a name born of an existential psychodrama worthy of what each of us knows as “The NCSA Experience.”

What kind of pickle are you?