Over the past few months, I have enjoyed doing research on Benny Beaver while working on my senior project. Benny was not the focus of the project, but as a rabid Beaver fan, he took up a fair amount of my time and interest anyways. Using materials from within the OSU Archives, I slowly began to piece together the untold history of Benny—how many versions of the costume were used and when, why the name “Benny,” and other details and anecdotes. After my project ended, my research continued, sometimes in work for patrons, and other times out of continued personal interest. Then, in a culmination of my research into Benny, I hit the jackpot.
I had heard rumors of a secret “Benny room” held by the Athletic Department. A member of the Marching Band staff saw the room once and vividly recalled the creepy sight of numerous Benny heads atop a shelf in the room. Karl, our archivist responsible for accessioning new collections, even recalled that the heads were offered to the OSU Archives a few years ago, but we had to decline them because we had no space for such large items. If the Athletics Department still had the Benny heads, why not ask to see them? At best, it might confirm some of my research, and at worst, I would add a big highlight to a rewarding year working at the OSU Archives. After calling around, I got in touch with the Athletic Marketing office, and after a few days, granted me special permission to enter the room, armed with my camera.
Since Karl had been largely responsible for getting the idea in my head, he came along for our trip. We were led through the basement of Gill Coliseum where we eventually found ourselves in Benny’s locker room, where numerous heads returned our stares. We took a copy of each head (there were two of each) out to the hallway and took pictures for posterity, though we got a few poses of ourselves while we had access, before capping it all off with a picture of a few of them sitting above some of Benny’s lockers—Benny has one locker for each sport at OSU.
As if the trip was not already fruitful enough, Karl and I next headed over to an office in the Memorial Union. Karl had to pick up some new materials in a storage area, but more importantly, he knew about a mysterious plastic mold stored near the new materials. Sure enough, it looked like a Beaver, but no one knew its origins, at least until our visit. Immediately upon my first glimpse of the mold, I easily identified it as Benny’s head from 1959-1969. It was the second head used for the Benny costume, and the first of a plastic material. Apparently, it was found stored away in the Memorial Union a few years ago, and thankfully its discoverer did not throw it away!
During our trip, I felt like a giddy schoolboy. Between the two locations, we saw each incarnation of Benny from 1959-1969 and the early 1980s to the present. For a “Beaver Believer” like me, it was a dream come true!
Check out the Flickr set from our trip “Ben & Karl visit with Benny.”