What's in a name? How the Rockets came to be

Henry Ott, a former student of Slippery Rock schools, became the head football and basketball coach at Colestock High School, in Titusville, in 1933. He is entered into local history as the man who brought the name, 'Rockets,' to the city.

The general history of public schools in Titusville is a deep and rich one.

The history of the team name and the brown and gold colors that represent what is now called Titusville High School is somewhat a mysterious one.

The public interest in that mystery has been increasingly voiced by readers of The Herald, particularly over the past couple weeks, as the newspaper office has received numerous phone calls and emails on the subject. The interest was sparked by a recent post on the Facebook page, "You Might Be From Titusville PA If…"

Reaching out to local historian David Weber brought closure to one part of the mystery, the team name.

"The Rockets came from Henry Ott," said Weber. "He was a football coach in the 1930s, and a Slippery Rock graduate."

While Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania does not have an official mascot, Slippery Rock High School has the Rockets nickname. Additionally, the university's campus newspaper is called The Rocket.

In an age when the city had two high school's, Ott came to Titusville and became the coach of the basketball and football teams at Colestock High School, in 1933, bringing with him the name, Rockets.

"That's how the Titusville Rockets came to be," Weber said, adding that it is fairly strange that the team that represents the city does not have a nickname at all representative of Titusville.

"It still amazes me that nobody ever thought of naming the team after drillers or steelmakers or anything like that."

For a history of the color scheme that represents the school and its athletic teams, attention would turn from 1933 Colestock High School to 1930 Titusville High School.

In 1930, the building that is now Main Street Elementary School, on the corner of Main and Washington streets, was Titusville High School.

According to THS Athletic Director Jim Come, the meaning of the colors "has been an ongoing mystery," but said he recalled some mention of the colors in early school yearbooks.

Lo and behold, in the 1930 Optimist, the "School Song" appears on a page opposite a photo of what is now Main Street Elementary.

The lyrics include the earliest mention of the team's colors this reporter could find, and are reproduced below:

"Here's to you, here's to you, dear old THS. Alma Mater.

"Fairgiver of happiness, the high standards you set we can never forget. They shall live in our memory for aye.

"We are leal, we are loyal to the Brown and Gold. Her glory how great, never shall grow old. All our lives, we shall sing praises to her and bring to her name honor and tame for aye."

Decades later, when the city's two high school's combined — the Colestock High School becoming Titusville High School, as classes and schools were shifted to suit changing demands — The Titusville High School team nickname and colors were combined from the two previous schools to create the iconic pattern we recognize today.

But, just what those colors represent, or how and why they were chosen, remains a mystery.

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