CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR
With Whittier College set to turn 132 years old this year, the oldest and smallest Poet on Campus, Friday the Squirrel, turned 135 this past Monday. Nestled safely in a display case on the first floor of the Wardman Library, Friday is often overlooked by most students, yet he holds a great significance to the history of the College.
Friday once belonged to John Greenleaf Whittier (JGW), the namesake of the College, and served as his pet and friend in both life and death. As a young squirrel, Friday suffered serious injuries, but an unnamed, kind individual rescued him and nursed the small creature back to health. Following Friday’s recovery, the young squirrel was given to JGW; from there, a lifelong companionship between man and squirrel began. In the article, “Friday’s Tale,” published in the campus magazine, The Rock, Friday’s life is described as filled with squirrel fun. Friday was known to, “entertain himself [by] storing nuts in all kinds of secret places: behind picture frames, between books and loose papers, in the library, and even under JGW’s coat collar.” Although Friday may have been mischievous at times, JGW’s love for the small squirrel was so great that, following Friday’s passing, JGW had Friday taxidermied, where he remained on JGW’s desk throughout the poet’s life.
In 1980, Whittier College began to attempt to preserve JGW’s possessions and started collecting items belonging to the poet. According to former librarian Philip O’Brien, “virtually the entire contents of the poet’s Oak Knoll Library” were acquired, including the legendary Friday. In a short documentary titled Hidden Gems, former Whittier College President Sharon Herzberger detailed Friday’s former home in the library, where he was greeted by students daily. Herzberger described W.C., when in the early 1980s, a “mischievous group of students” stole Friday. In this kidnapping, Friday also sustained injuries to his head, and one of his ears fell off, which was soon repaired. Following this crime, Friday was safely reincluded as a part of the John Greenleaf Whittier collection, an exhibit not on display for the general student population to see.
Many rumors surround the tale of Friday, with each growing in grandeur and extremity. One popular rumor is that the official mascot of Whittier College used to be the Squirrels, and in one act of athletic struggle, the Occidental football team gathered squirrels and killed them to show the dominance of the Tigers over the Squirrels. Rumor says that, following this atrocity, the College officially changed its mascot to the Poets — a far fiercer opponent. Another rumor claims that there were in fact multiple Fridays and that upon each death of a squirrel, JGW would actually get a new Friday. Although these rumors are nothing more than tales, they add to the mystery and allure of Friday.
A little known fact among students is that before the iconic Johnny Poet graced athletic games on campus, Friday the Squirrel was the honorary mascot of the College. In a furry squirrel costume, select students would assume the title of Friday and rally Poet crowds from the football field to the basketball court. Friday was so important to the College that, in 1983, a College-owned coffee shop was opened and named “Friday’s” in honor of the little guy.
From being the mascot of the College to becoming the inspiration for a student-created coffee bar, Friday has graced the Whittier community for over a century. In a recent change of scenery, Friday has been restored to his rightful place in the library as the unofficial mascot and official squirrel of Whittier College.