Ancient Chinese legend. Nine hidden keyholders. The Guardian of the Conclave.

A group of sixth- and seventh-graders stamped their mark on Brunswick Junior High’s history Wednesday evening when the School Board approved their pitch to change the school’s mascot from the Huskies to the Dragons, bringing it into alignment with the high school.

The Student Council started pushing for the name change last year in order to build school spirit and eliminate the confusion of having two different mascots and color schemes in town. Little did they know that their work would echo the efforts of an alumnus who walked Brunswick’s halls 76 years ago – a man responsible not only for the Dragon name, but the secret mythology behind the symbol that some Brunswick residents still safeguard today.

An old farm boy

Early editions of the Brunswick Record refer to the local high school’s sports teams as the Orange & Black, but the school didn’t have an official mascot until May 21, 1946, when it shut down classes to hold a student vote, according to Patty Sparks, who keeps the Dragon mascot’s history as “Guardian of the Conclave.”

Finalists included a polar bear cub, a wolf and a hawk. But a senior named Emerson Zeitler lobbied for a less typical choice: a wingless Chinese dragon.


Even by the standards of the pre-internet era, Zeitler was an unlikely champion for the foreign symbol, Sparks said.

“He was an old farm boy,” she said. “I mean he got up early, collected eggs and went to school.”

Zeitler, a future professor, already had a love for foreign history and traditions. While he spent his days helping with chores around the farm, by night he was drawing early sketches of the first Brunswick Dragon and developing detailed plans for its legacy.


Unlike the winged dragon slain by St. George in Christian tradition, the wingless Chinese dragon is associated with power, strength and good luck to those who are worthy of it, according to BHS alumnus Claude Bonang, who detailed Zeitler’s campaign for the Dragon mascot in his booklet, “Stories Pertaining to Brunswick High School.”

More than 70 years after the Zeitler’s Dragon won the school vote, a secret society of nine keyholders continues to protect the stories behind the mascot, Sparks said. For instance, the five-toed Dragon (her name is a secret) has nine offspring, each representing a value associated with the school.


Only Sparks and they keyholders know more, but tracking them down won’t be easy – their identities are hidden even from each other.

“There’s some things I can tell you,” Sparks said. “There’s some things I’m not going to tell you.”

Practicing Democracy

While some of Zeitler’s mythology remains hidden from view, Sparks said she’s thrilled the junior high school students have followed in his footsteps by rallying their classmates to adopt the Dragon name.

Before bringing their proposal to the school board, the group spent months surveying their classmates and school staff so they could present data showing a preference for the new mascot. According to their January survey, 74% of students and 65% of staff preferred Dragons over Huskies.

Months of work went into the project before the School Board unanimously approved the change Wednesday evening. Regardless of the final result, that effort was valuable, according to Student Council Advisor Erinkate Morrison.

“It’s important for them to see like there’s a way there’s a proper way to go about seeking change in your environment, and I think the kids got a chance to live that,” she said. “They essentially practiced democracy.”

The Dragon legacy has changed over the years, as Zeitler’s Chinese dragon occasionally has given way to a winged mascot. But regardless of whether the original design persists, its spirit is poised to carry on in a new generation of junior high, as well as high school students.

“My hat’s off to them,” Town Councilor and BHS alum David Watson said. “It’s something that I’ve been saying for some time: We should all be Dragons.”

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