Way Back Wednesday: Channel 2 and Suzie Q

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MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCBD) – It is Wednesday and that means it is time to explore history that surrounds the Lowcountry.

This week we are at a familiar place in Mount Pleasant, WCBD-TV. Can you believe we have been on the air for 65 years?

There’s a historical marker right next to the studio on Magrath Darby Blvd. describing the time when Channel 2 had a pet elephant.

Channel 2 hit the airwaves as WUSN on September 25, 1954.

FUN FACT: WUSN call letters stood for U.S. Navy in order to gain a strong following from Charleston Navy Yard personnel.

WUSN eventually changed to WCBD. The call letters stand for C=Charleston, B=Berkeley, D=Dorchester — the three main counties it serves.

In 1954, the television station’s owner, Drayton Hastie, decided to buy an elephant in New York for $2,700. It was named Suzie Q and became the station’s mascot.

Suzie Q

Suzie Q lived on the station grounds and shared it with “an alligator, kangaroo, donkey, exotic birds, and other animals,” according to the Mount Pleasant Historical Commission.

The mascot became quite popular around the Lowcountry. In fact, many people would bring their children to the station to ride on the back of Suzie Q.

In the News 2 Media vault, we found a story by anchor Brad Franko when Channel 2 celebrated 50 years. He featured the legend of Suzie Q and when the station’s mascot became part of a prank at the Citadel.

The Legend of Suzie Q

By Brad Franko:
Suzie Q was about to become part of Citadel History. In the center of it was two Citadel cadets at the time…

Bobby Schwarze, Citadel class of 1959, was inducted into the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Schwarze was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers but opted for marriage and the US Marine Corps.

Jim “Wheatie” Jeffrey, Citadel class of 1959′ was a member of the Citadel tennis team and was a South Carolina State Doubles Champion (1958 & ’59). He was the teams co-captain and MVP in 1959′. After college Jeffrey went on to be the Vice President of the Allstate Insurance Company.

Great friends in college, but their paths went separate ways. However, as it seems for most people that spend any amount of time here. All roads lead back to Charleston, but the real funny story, which brings us back to Susie Q, took place 42 years ago, in the fall of 1958.

“We were trying to think of something that we could do to get the corps fired up for the VMI game.” – Bobby Schwarze

They needed to because the Citadel Bulldogs football team was struggling through a 2-4 season. Plus the Keydets were riding a 17-game winning streak.

“What I remember is VMI had come down a year before and stole General Mark Clark’s jeep and took it back to VMI and painted it red and yellow.” – Jim Jeffrey

So in an effort to get the corps stirred up, and thereby creating a rowdy atmosphere come gameday, the three stars of our story come together…

“We were trying to think of something we could do to get the corps fired up for the VMI (Virginia Military Institute) game.” – Bobby Schwarze

“And Susie Q popped into our minds as the most ridiculous thing that we could do” – Jim Jeffrey

On November 13, 1958, Suzie Q, was minding her own business. Just hanging out like all good mascots do, totally unaware of what was about to happen.

“We proceeded to go to the pen that was out front of the station, and it was unlocked, and that was unusual.” – Jim Jeffrey

The duo proceeded to load Susie Q on to the trailer that was already there and hook her to the back end of a 1950 Ford Car.

“I guess the thing that made me most weary was the way the car sat with the trailer on it… I knew we would have to drive across the grace with the car at this angle.” – Jim Jeffrey

Oh yeah, he’s talking about the Grace Memorial Bridge; the one we affectionately call the “Old Cooper River Bridge”. And remember now, in 1958, this thing accommodated two-way traffic. So picture it, a car with a trailer on the backhauling an elephant.

“The fear of God took over, if the wheels of that car were touching, then it was just barely… And this trailer was going back and forth… And we said, oh my god what have we done.” – Bobby Schwarze

Having dodged that bullet, they had one more hurdle to jump. Not having any special permission to be off campus, they had to get back on without being seen.

“I still remember the night watchmen as we came in the front gate, the trailer was open and you could see Susie Q… He took one look at us and he hopped on his bicycle and he was peddling faster than I’ve seen him pedal in all my life.” – Bobby Schwarze

News 2 asked if he was to stop you, what would have happened?

“He wasn’t going to stop us, that was never a question… That was the plan to keep going.” – Jim Jeffrey

They did it, safely making it to the barracks. Suzie Q was chained up outside to await her trip to the football game on Saturday afternoon; where she made her first public appearance since the incident. Avoiding punishment, the two look back on the events of 46 years ago with a certain amount of pride.

“It was kind of gutsy to do that your senior year… Because a lot could have gone down the drain on that dark night.” – Jim Jeffrey

“I think it accomplished exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Everybody was excited, and to make a long story short… We beat VMI.” – Bobby Schwarze

“We sure as hell aren’t going to tell you what we have planned for Channel 2!! We’ll try to get your next 50 started off right.” – Bobby Schwarze

Now in case you were wondering; the management of Channel 2 were good sports and once they found out Suzie Q wasn’t in jeopardy, they allowed her to stay on campus until the game was over.

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