The town of Chinook along Montana's Hi-Line takes great pride in its high school mascot: the Sugarbeeters. Athletes are the star in any sport. At a close second is a team’s mascot. The identity in the foundations and traditions of a franchise. If you look to Minor League Baseball, they are home to some of the best mascot names and logos in the business. Names and logos like the Hillsboro Hops, Everett AquaSox, and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
In the heart of the Hi-Line of Montana, the Chinook High School Sugarbeeters are in the ballpark as one of the most unique mascots and logos in the business of athletics.
What is a Sugar beet? It’s a plant whose root has a high concentration of sucrose, grown for commercial sugar production.
“The sugar beet industry and Chinook lasted for about a 30-year period. It began in the 1920s.” said Samantha French, Blaine County Museum Director.
The short stint in Chinook left a legacy in the area. The Utah-Idaho Sugar Company built a plant in 1925, a campaign that farmers started in 1906. An effort that brought over 500 Mexican migrant workers, along with Japanese American citizens to work in the Sugar beet fields and factory. The Japanese immigrants made their footprint on the area after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and they were forced off the western coast of the United States.
The Great Falls Tribune wrote in an article in 2017, “On Friday, Jan. 25, 1929, the boys’ basketball team came on court in their new uniforms they just received. On it was a large sugar beet on a black background. The emblem was donated by the sugar beet factory, and it was only the boys’ basketball jerseys. A full article on the jerseys appeared in the Jan. 31, 1929, Chinook Opinion. From then on, when the Chinook team was on another court, they were call the ‘Sugar Beeters.’”
“Here's an image of the 1930 sugar beet basketball team. The basketball team was the first team at Chinook High School to be known as the Beeters, to be called that. The Utah and Idaho Sugar Company here in Chinook. They gave these little sugar beet logos to be attached to the team jerseys.” Shared French.
That 1930 Chinook boys’ basketball team won the Montana State Championship that year. Starting a tradition of excellence in the athletic community.
Over the years, the Chinook High School mascot has seen a variation of designs, some of which are hard to come by. The Blaine County Museum only has so many images of the variations. Yet, when it comes to the modern version of the mascot, its unique qualities are what make it one of Montana’s finest.
“…it’s a novelty, and especially in its current iteration, with its little beater legs and its angry little face. It's this menacing little root, really, and it's kind of its kind of funny. So, I think that people can appreciate the humor in it.”
Humor is one of the many emotions that can be sprung from the mascot, more importantly, school spirit. Drive through downtown Chinook and walk the main drag and find Sugar beets that look like angry carrots painted on the sidewalk, light post Chamber of Commerce signs that read, “Chinook, Home of the Sugarbeeters”, and walk into any business and find that it’s hard not to find a Beeter logo. A community, rallied behind an industry that thrived over 100 years ago.
That’s where E.L. Luckett comes into the story. A Chinook High School graduate, Class of 1955. He was once a monster on the gridiron lettering in multiple sports throughout his four years including a Class B Montana State Championship in Football. E.L. holds state tackle records to this day. He says the old logo was generic.
“The old sugar beet was just the beet, you know, some of them were white and some of them were orange.”
When interviewing E.L., he said that rarely was a logo on one of their high school uniforms. It wasn’t until the mid to late 70’s the modern iteration of the Sugarbeeter logo came to life, ironically, the modern version was created by Luckett’s daughter, Andrea. Her version still hangs in the halls of the High School today.
“That was probably that's based off the off our original seventies drawing and late seventies, I would say. But of course, as you're trying to find an actual old school set of eggbeaters. Right, that grandma used to use, and our mom used to use in the kitchen to bake a cake, things like that. And you have the little arms on it, and then you have the legs on the bottom of it, the actual beater part.” Matt Molyneux, Principal of Chinook Junior-Senior High said.
Luckett’s daughter may have brought to life the current logo for the school’s mascot, his humility won’t allow his family to take credit for the over 100 years of Sugarbeeter tradition.
“…there's been a lot of people play a vital role. We had a lot of athletes go through here and a lot of scholars that have gone road scholars and whatnot like that. So, it's you're just proud of your school is what it is.”
Being proud of his school, is an understatement.
“Real proud. I mean, like I say, all our class have done well. We've Chinook seems to be a real close-knit community.”
Once a Beeter, always a Beeter.
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