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Contrary to the belief of many local citizens, the origin of Red Arrows has nothing to do with Native American tradition or folklore.
For many years Lowell High School had no official nickname. The team was generally identified as the Red Devils until the early 1940s. From 1942 through ’46 newspaper stories intermittently referred to the athletes as the Maroons, Reds, Big Reds, Redbirds, Redskins, Red Wings, Red Demons and Red Devils.
During the 1946-47 school year, football coach Carrol Burch approached a group of students with the task of adopting an official mascot. There was a desire to establish permanency and tradition to Lowell’s identification. A committee was formed to present its choice to the student body, and the committee recommended that Red Devils be adopted. The students voted to accept their selection. Some former students recall that only the seniors voted in the election. T-shirts, uniforms, practice jerseys and stationary displaying the Red Devil logo were quickly ordered.
Meanwhile, concerned community leaders, church groups and citizens with no particular affiliation approached Superintendent Walter Gumser and Principal Ray Avery complaining of the anti-Christian implications of the name. Responding to the pressure, the following motion was recorded in the April 1947 Board of Education minutes:
A letter from the Student Athletic Association signed by Foster Bishop was read, relative to the name Red Devils for our football team. It is the recommendation of the Board that a more fitting name be chosen. Motion by Wingeier seconded by Warner. Carried. (1)
With the Board’s refusal to sanction the students’ choice, Gumser, Avery and Coach Burch called a meeting with student leaders and told them that the name must be changed. The more socially acceptable Red Arrows was soon agreed upon.
The exact reasoning is uncertain as to why Red Arrows was selected. The students were looking for a name which would accurately describe the abilities of the Lowell athletes. The arrow represented the speed, swiftness and accuracy with which the athletes competed. The color red has long been associated with Lowell’s athletic teams.
Historically, and more importantly, there was significance to the newly selected nickname. The 32nd “Red Arrow” Division of the United States Army had gained fame during World War I and II for their fighting heroism. The division included a number of men from western Michigan, including Lowell and the surrounding communities. The unit recorded more combat time than any other army division and received numerous commendations for bravery, courage and valor. No battleground territory defended by the 32nd was ever lost, and every attempt by the division to break through the enemy lines was successful. The words “never yield” from the original fight song accurately characterizes the spirit of the Red Arrow Division.
Gordon Marshall, LHS classof ’60, and former Commander of the Lowell VFW Post 8303, shared his pride in the selection by the athletic teams to choose Red Arrows as its moniker:
In November 1918 each division in the American Expeditionary Forces was instructed to choose a distinguishing mark. The Red Circle previously typified the character of the 32nd Division. But the division had demonstrated by their actions in France that they did not run in circles, but shot through all obstacles. The troops of the 32nd Division on many occasions had formed a flying wedge launched again German lines. Major General William G. Haan, commander of the division, stated that the Barred-Arrow was selected as the division symbol “because we pierced every line the Boche put before us.”
The same great tradition was continued during World War II in the South Pacific with the 32nd Division participating in some of the most vicious fighting in the worst jungle and swamp conditions known to man. However, this time their purpose was to pierce the lines placed in front of them by the Japanese Empire. The 3rd Battalion of the 126th Infantry, 32nd Division, the RED ARROW DIVISION, was comprised of many men who attended Lowell schools.
And least someone misunderstand, it is not war the name is meant to honor, but the men who fought those wars. These were men from our community with surnames of Acheson, Adrianse, Free, Fuller, Nummer, Raymor and Sherman, to name a few.
May the Lowell Red Arrows always overcome every obstacle piercing every line placed in front of them—academically, on the playing field, and in their private lives. But never again, God willing, on the Fields of War. Remember the words, DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY. We believe they are good words to live by, as are the mottos, Semper Paratus (always prepared), and Semper Fidelis (always faithful).
The Red Arrow logo was officially adopted in the fall of 1947. For the past 73 years Lowell High School has been proudly identified as the Red Arrows, a lasting and deserving tribute to a heroic group of west Michigan fighting men.
1 -- Much of this information was provided by Dick Korb, former high school principal, and the staff the Red Rush X-Press, upon interview with Fred Altaus, Norm Borgerson, Chris Burch, Rex Collins, Ron Collins, Bob Perry and Helene Waters.
2 -- Jenny Nolan, "The Red Arrow Division: Fierce Fighers of World War I." The Detroit News
Image of the 32nd Infantry Division at Buna, Papua, New Guinea title "Red Arrow at War" by Michael Gnatek. Find the image here.