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"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

Alter Stolz
Solves an Image Problem
at FHS

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

There is no delicate way to put this. Fredericksburg High School once had an image problem. Many people outside Gillespie County mistakenly thought the school's mascot was a Hillbilly, not a Battlin' Billie. It took a little PR work and a legendary billy goat named Alter Stolz to clear up the confusion.

In an article in the Fredericksburg Standard some years ago, long-time Fredericksburg head football coach and athletic director Carlin Wicker traced the origins of the FHS mascot controversy to an early 20th century athletic contest between Fredericksburg High School and Main Avenue High School in San Antonio (later Fox Tech). Although Fredericksburg lost a close game, a San Antonio sportswriter wrote "Those boys from up in the hills" battled Main Avenue "like a bunch of billy goats."

The Fredericksburg athletes, students and fans liked what the sportswriter had written and informally adopted the nickname "Hill Billies" (two words) meaning "Billie Goats of the Hills."

As it turned out a billy goat was the ideal mascot for Fredericksburg High School. Goats were very important to the economy of the Hill Country. The Goat King, Adolph Stieler, raised more goats on his ranch between Fredericksburg and Comfort than any rancher in the world.

The problem with the mascot was that the rest of the world didn't get it. Outsiders, through ignorance or otherwise, thought the FHS mascot was a "Hillbilly," (one word) - a person from a hilly or mountainous region that is out of touch with the modern world. San Antonio newspapers regularly called the Fredericksburg athletic teams the "Hillbillies."

The controversy raged for 30 years. FHS head football coach Ewell Sessom made some progress when he began referring to his athletic teams as the "Battlin' Billies," but outside Gillespie County the new name was slow catching on.


When Carlin Wicker arrived in Fredericksburg in 1963 there was still confusion over whether or not FHS was the "Battlin' Billies" or the Hillbillies. Then Alter Stolz made his historic debut as FHS mascot at a pep rally on October 21, 1966, prior to the Fredericksburg/Uvalde football game.

The story goes that Billie Booster Glenn Quinn came up with the idea of using a live goat as the team mascot. Quinn chose a magnificent angora with a spectacular set of horns from Benno Eckert's herd in Willow City. The animal was Benno's bell goat and family pet.

His name was Alter Stolz. It means "Old Pride."


That day at the pep rally, in front of a roaring crowd, Alter Stolz pranced in, nose in the air - looking like he wanted to butt something. He wore a flashy read and white blanket that read "Alter Stolz, FHS, Battlin' Billies." It was a pivotal moment in the history Fredericksburg High School athletics.

Well, Fredericksburg won the game against Uvalde that night and went on to win the district championship. Whether he deserved it or not Ol' Alter Stolz got a lion's share of the credit. "Billie Pride, Uber Alles" became the battle cry that carried the FHS Battlin' Billies to athletic glory.

Glenn Quinn and Sonny Bonn were the goat keepers, and they treated Alter Stolz like a king. His majesty got a royal shearing each year at the Pioneer Museum. Dr. Curtis Eckhardt gave him his yearly checkups. And Alter Stolz, never camera shy, always got a wash and a rinse before having his picture taken for the Mesa.


For several years Alter Stolz traveled with the football team, and he appeared at many special events. He became a part of the culture. He logged close to 7,000 travel miles in his illustrious career. The publicity he received cleared up the mascot question once and for all.

Alter Stolz died in 1973, but in a way he's still around. His mounted head is on display at Fredericksburg High School. The rest of him is buried on a hill overlooking the football stadium where people say his spirit, like a foggy apparition, is sometimes seen, hanging over the field, urging the Battlin' Billies on to victory.

Or maybe it's just smoke from the concession stand.

Fredericksburg TX - Alter Stolz, billy goat, Fredericksburg High School Mascot tombstone
Alter Stolz, FHS Mascot, Tombstone
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, November 2020

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" December 18, 2020 Column


Sources:

"Alter Stolz, School Mascot, Died Last Week," Fredericksburg Standard, January 24, 1973

"FHS Campus Comet," Fredericksburg Standard, September 30, 1970.



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