Mystery of the Billie mascot revealed
By Carlin Wicker
Editor’s Note: The following column appeared in the Dec. 1, 2004 edition of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, written by former Fredericksburg Independent School District athletic director Carlin Wicker, who died in 2005.
This is what I have been told and what I think I understand to have happened in the naming of Fredericksburg High School’s mascot, the “Battlin’ Billies.” The mascot has always been a goat, only the name has changed.
FHS became the “Hill Billies” (two words) in or about 1928. FHS had played a powerhouse (state semi-finalist team of some type) in San Antonio named Main Street High School. (Fox Tech High School is now located at the same address.)
A San Antonio sportswriter, in his enthusiastic write-up used a statement such as, “Those boys from ‘up in the hills’ had butted Main Street High around for three quarters like a bunch of Billy goats before losing 0-6.”
The players and fans liked this statement and over a period of time adopted the nickname “Hill Billies” (two words) meaning “the Billy Goats of the Hills.”
Placing this all in time and context, the goat was a very important animal in the Hill Country around Gillespie County. About this time, one rancher was reputed to own over one million goats.
For the next 30-35 years, the nickname remained this way, more often than not, though and depicted by friends and opponents as the “Man of the Mountains” or “Hillbillie” (one word).
In the early 1960s, Ewell Sessom, then head football coach and athletic director at FHS, noted that some other schools were adding “Battlin’” or “Fighting” to their nickname. He started using “Battlin’ Billies” to energize the athletic program to remove the misnomer of “Hillbillies.”
In 1963, when I arrived in Fredericksburg, there was still general confusion among our opponents as to whether or not we were the “Billie Goats” or “Men of the Hills.”
Even the girls’ athletic teams has been called the “Billikens” since 1947, and that was hard to identify. After a short layoff in the 1960s when there were not girls’ athletics, the girls’ teams returned in the early-1970s and have been called the “Lady Billies” ever since.
In 1964, when I became head football coach, girls’ basketball coach and athletic director, we continued the use of the “Battlin’ Billie” terminology.
In ’64, ’65 and ’66, two important things happened in relation to this. We had good playoff runs in football, basketball and track, and FHS had a real, live mascot that traveled to most football games and some other contests. His name was “Alter Stolz” (German for “Old Pride”).
He was a magnificent Angora billy goat with a tremendous set of horns. He had been donated by Benno Eckert, a Willow City rancher.
The publicity that these teams received seemed to remove any doubt that the goat was the mascot of FHS. Even some of our opponents in neighboring towns were known to barbecue a goat on their homecoming bonfire.
Many people do not realize that the mounted goat head, that has been placed in many prominent positions around FHS, is the head of Alter Stolz, the original live mascot at FHS, who died about 1968.
The University Interscholastic League ruled about 1970 that schools could not have live mascots at high school games and Alter Stolz II was returned to Mr. Eckert.
The body of Alter Stolz I is buried under the live oak tree east of the weight room. The gravesite is marked with a granite marker.
Some people have thought that from this hilltop gravesite, his spirit guides and protects FHS athletic teams playing in the stadium, gym and other athletic fields.
Some interesting trivia related to this is that there are two other Texas high schools that use the goat as their mascot. They are the Groesbeck Goats and the Rocksprings Angoras.
It is also noted that all three schools use red and white as their school colors. Black is not an official school color at FHS and should be used only to trim and emphasize the beauty of the red and white of the FHS Battlin’ Billies.