Old Bossie
Old Bossie wore many coats of paint — courtesy of Santa Barbara High Dons fans — while standing sentry on the roof of the old Live Oak Dairy Building at the corner of Milpas and Canon Perdido streets. (McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams photo)
Mark Patton

The “Once a Don, Always a Don” credo echoed throughout the halls of Santa Barbara High School during this weekend’s All Dons Reunion.

But they weren’t always the Dons.

Santa Barbara, California’s third-oldest high school with a founding date of 1875, was nicknamed the “Vaqueros” during its early years.

By the time it was making football news with new coach Clarence Schutte in the 1920s, the local newspapers would abbreviate the nickname to “Dons” to accommodate their narrow headline columns.

It didn’t matter that a Vaquero (defined as a “southwestern cowboy or herdsman”) and a Don (“a lord or gentleman in Spanish-speaking countries”) weren’t the same thing at all. In the composing rooms of the newspapers of yore, this credo usurped all others: “If a headline fits, it must be writ.”

Sportswriters played fast and loose with both nicknames, interchanging them indiscriminately during Santa Barbara’s breakout football season of 1929.

One of them added to the confusion when the team’s winning streak grew, noting how the Vaqueros/Dons offense would “whisk downfield like a golden tornado.”

The description became a third moniker, headline constrictions be damned. The nickname Golden Tornado became so popular that Schutte was forced to mothball the new white jerseys that he’d purchased for the 1929 playoffs. You don’t mess with a winning streak.

They whirled around in their old, golden ones throughout a postseason run that didn’t end until their 14-6 loss to Long Beach Poly in the CIF’s Southern California championship game.

The golden dye had been cast: They would forever become the Golden Tornado when they made the playoffs, which was often in those days. Santa Barbara made five trips to the CIF finals in a span of six seasons (1935-1940), winning three Southern California titles in the process.

All references to “Vaqueros” were dropped in the process. Santa Barbara City College, which ceased operations just a decade after its founding in 1909, recovered that fumbled nickname for itself after getting re-established in 1946.

But perhaps a new moniker is in order for Santa Barbara High now that an unofficial mascot called “Old Bossie” took center stage at this weekend’s All Dons Reunion.

Chew on the cud of this suggested nickname for a while: The Santa Barbara High Wow Cows.

How Now, Gold Cow?

It’s time for that hooved animal to get its due. Cows have received a bum rap ever since Mrs. O’Leary’s bovine was falsely accused of starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Even their flatulence has been wrongly blamed as a major cause of global warming.

Old Bossie

Bossie, the unofficial mascot of Santa Barbara High School, received a new coat of paint from a pair of teachers several years ago. (Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association photo)

But the docile beast has also been bathed in the milk of human kindness — as well as in olive and gold paint — for many years by the good folks at Santa Barbara High School.

“Bossie,” the plaster cow that stood atop the old Live Oak Dairy building at Milpas and Canon Perdido streets for more than 80 years, has found a new home. She was unveiled next to the “Walk of the Dons” entrance atop newly remodeled Peabody Stadium during Saturday’s All Dons Reunion.

The Live Oak Dairy paid sculptor Alfred Kuhn $1,000 in 1939 to create the statue they called “Old Bossie” and erect it on the roof above its front entrance. McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams kept the cow to promote its frozen confections after taking residence in the building during the 1960s.

The students at nearby Santa Barbara High also recognized her promotional value. Several undergraduates dressed her in a flower-trimmed poncho and sombrero while painting “Dons ’67” on her side during the fall of 1965. It was the first act of horseplay perpetuated on the old cow.

It soon became a tradition for the school’s seniors to paint Old Bossie in the school’s colors. That triggered a competitive response from rival San Marcos High, which would sneak into Dons’ territory to give the cow a coat of royal blue and scarlet.

Old Bossie wound up getting more paint jobs than Tammy Faye Bakker.

The playful tit for tat took a nasty turn in 1971 when a ripsaw was used to decapitate the plaster cow. She was soon repaired, however, and returned to her lofty perch.

Waiting Until The Cows Come Home

The old dairy’s building, occupied by several eateries since McConnell’s moved out, is now the home of Bossie’s Kitchen — a restaurant that embraced its bovine sentry. But it lost its grip on the famous cow when eight decades of wear and tear and high-school hijinks finally took their toll.

A worn-out Old Bossie toppled off its decaying base in August 2020 and broke into too many pieces to repair.

The Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association, however, was quick to ring the cowbell of revival.

“Through the generosity of alumni, friends and community members, we raised enough to purchase a new cow,” the association reported on its website. “However, Bossie cannot return to the roof of the business due to liability.

“Instead, she will find a home near the Alumni Garden where she will watch future generations as they walk down the hill to graduation.”

At least the New Bossie, as she’s now known, is no longer a stationary target. The alumni association had her placed on a movable platform made from the old floorboards of J.R. Richards Gym.

She is, they reported, “to be used at pep rallies and other events.”

They’re back to milking her for all she’s worth.

Oh Danny Boy, The Pipes Are Calling

The All Dons Reunion became a memorial of sorts, with several Santa Barbara High sporting greats having died within the last year. They included football stars Sam Cunningham, Booker Brown, Ernie Zampese and Alton Hayes, along with basketball and tennis coach Jack Trigueiro.

But the death of Danny Paulin on Sept. 14 — just two days after his 74th birthday — hit just as hard. No one in the Dons’ circle of alumni was more beloved than the football team’s star kicker from the Class of 1967.

Sam Cathcart and Mike Moropoulos

Former Santa Barbara High School football coaches Sam Cathcart, top left, and Mike Moropoulos, second from left at top, were feted at a party arranged by former Don player and long-time booster Danny Paulin, standing in the center of it all in a white T-shirt. (Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association photo)

A memorial service will be held at Calvary Baptist Church, 736 W. Islay St. in Santa Barbara, at 11 a.m. Oct. 29. A paddle-out at Leadbetter Beach will follow at 3 p.m. Paulin, a retired firefighter, was also a lifelong surfer.

But above all, he was an actively loyal Don who made a point of keeping the old gang together. He threw a party in 2014 to honor his former coaches, Sam Cathcart and Mike Moropoulos, in the latter years of their lives. The event drew more than 60 former Dons.

Michael Meyers, Paulin’s nephew and a fellow firefighter, said his uncle “may have been the most well-known and beloved human to ever walk the streets of Santa Barbara.”

Paulin spoke with love and emotion during the recent memorial service for Booker Brown. It was held at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium just 12 days before his own death.

Although Brown was four years his junior, they became close friends when they played together in the first Santa Barbara-San Marcos alumni football game.

“Growing up in Santa Barbara, we all wanted to play football, and we all wanted to play sports, and we lived our whole lives for that,” Paulin said at Brown’s service. “The little kids heard all about the big kids and we all knew each other.

“These guys were such inspirations. Booker and (his wife) Jackie used to come and stay with me a lot, and we would visit, and it would get on a roll.”

He got wistful while recalling how Brown would break out in song whenever he played one of his oldies-but-goodies tapes.

“Booker had a beautiful singing voice to go with many other talents,” Paulin said. “And he had a heart of gold.”

It’s been the color of choice, after all, at the corner of Milpas and Canon Perdido.

Noozhawk sports columnist Mark Patton is a longtime local sports writer. Contact him at sports@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook. The opinions expressed are his own.

Santa Barbara High School’s 1940 football team

Santa Barbara High School’s 1940 football team, wearing its Golden Tornado uniforms, won the CIF’s Southern California football title with a 26-0 victory over Whittier in the championship game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Santa Barbara High School photo)

Mark Patton

Mark Patton, Noozhawk Sports Columnist

Noozhawk sports columnist Mark Patton is a longtime local sports writer. Contact him at sports@noozhawk.com. The opinions expressed are his own.