An Alumni For the Ages

Dallastown Class of 1959 grad Bruce Rost played an important part in DAHS history, and related his experiences to The Beacon Staff.


Spectator Archives

Bruce Rost was very involved at Dallastown during high school. He was a member of several sports teams, several music groups, and The Beacon. He was also the first ever Willy the Wildcat.

On Friday, May 7, The Beacon Staff had quite the visitor.

Bruce Rost, a 1959 graduate of Dallastown, joined the staff by phone to talk about being in the first graduating class from our current building, his memories of DHS, and his time as the first-ever Willy the Wildcat. 

Rost participated in many things at Dallastown. He played football, basketball, and baseball. He was a member of The Beacon staff. But his role as Willy the Wildcat back in 1959 is a big part of DHS history. 

In a question and answer session, Beacon reporters listened to what Rost had to say not only about being Willy, but also on his high school experiences and how much they meant to him.

Junior Michaela Long was impressed with the Wildcat grad.

“Mr. Rost is very passionate person who cares for Dallastown and the community a lot. He became Willy for the student body and the opportunity to get the crowd excited at games, he did not care about the opportunity he could gain from being the school mascot,” Long said.

Background: The Man Outside the Suit

It wasn’t until the third grade that the Rost family finally settled into Dallastown. Rost’s family built a house on South Charles Street, very close to where the old high school building (the current Dallastown Elementary) was located. 

When Rost family first settled in Dallastown, the class size was very small and consisted of just the people that lived within the town limits. 

Rost explains that until his seventh grade year, the class essentially consisted of “townies” and a few new folks just outside the boro limits.

“In 7th grade we got a very positive infusion of students from Yoe. These folks were among the best and the brightest, and they assimilated well with the existing student body,” Rost said.

Dallastown continued to grow even more in the next few years with students from outside the town gradually added into the mix.

There was a big infusion of students from York Township, Springfield Township, Jacobus, Loganville, etc. in the fall of 1958 that basically tripled the student body as the new building opened.

The new school building built where our current building stands,  changed Dallastown forever. It brought new facilities, new class options, and was the foundation for what we know as DHS today.

Rost enjoyed his high school years. 

“I am so thankful for the experiences I had in school and with my teachers. It was really top notch,” Rost said. 

Rost also mentioned that friends made in high school are often the ones that you have for the rest of your life.

Senior Year: The Man Inside the Suit

This photo from a 1959 issue of The Beacon shows Bruce Rost on the sidelines at the first football game in the Dallastown stadium. Dallastown played Red Lion and the new Wildcat mascot suit was unveiled. (Beacon Archives )

Rost got banged up junior year of football, so he made the decision not play the sport his senior year.

That’s when an interesting opportunity came his way.

Mr. Campanella, an influential teacher as well as the high school band director, approached Rost one day with some secretive information.

Dallastown Area High School was getting a mascot.

Mr. Campanella asked Rost if he’d be interested in the job.

For Rost, the only possible answer was “Yes.”

He accepted the job, before having any idea of what this new mascot role would entail. 

While the school had the nickname “Wildcats” for several years, there was no actual mascot suit. When the new school opened, the local Optimist Club agreed to pay for the costume and “Willy the Wildcat” was born.

The rivalry game with Red Lion was one of the first held in the new stadium and it was preceded by a parade and pep rally. This was the first time the new school mascot was introduced to the public. 

The game ocurred the following day, and Rost entered the game in a strange and crazy way.

The Wildcat mascot was wheeled in on a wagon inside of a cage.

Before Rost entered, he was instructed to growl and paw when passing by the Red Lion Football team. Rost did it and the crowd loved it. 

Once wheeled around the track, and finally arriving at the Dallastown section. Rost was instructed to  break out of his cage and get the crowd excited. 

Rost was not trained and really didn’t know what to do. He just followed the cheerleaders in their chants and attempted to get the crowd as loud as possible 

During the halftime show, Red Lion had their majorettes and band perform on the field.

Rost, not knowing proper etiquette ran onto the field and got in the mix. This led to Rost getting called to the office Monday morning and having to give an apology to people at the Red Lion.

Rost continued to be the best mascot who could be, despite the halftime incident. In the end Dallastown did end up winning the game.

No one even knew it was him in the suit. Rost did not tell anyone, this includes his friends, his girlfriend, and even his own parents. 

Rost enjoyed being the Wildcat very much, and mentioned it was definitely one of his favorite high school moments.

Leaving the Suit

Dallastown grad Bruce Rost was the first Willy the Wildcat in 1959. Today, he has been married to his wife Marge for 58 years. (Photo Submitted )

After high school, Rost originally wanted to go into the Air Force, but ended up attending college to prepare for a career as a teacher and guidance counselor. At different times and for different degrees, he attended York Junior College, Millersville, Penn State, and Shippensburg.

Rost taught one year at York High, then transferred to Dover where he stayed for 34 years. He taught English, Social Studies, and Drivers Education. He then worked his last 10 years in a guidance office.

During the interview Rost gave The Beacon Staff some words of advice by saying.

“Enjoy high school, get involved, make the most of it because those four years go by fast.”