The Taylor Ducks have been proudly quacking for a number of years, ninety-five to be exact. It all started during a rainy season in 1924 when the Seventh Street Campus was in its second year. C.R. Drake was the head coach, beginning his second year in Taylor, and fans said the team looked like a flock of ducks on the wet field. They began calling the players Drake’s Ducks, and the popular Taylor mascot was born.
Drake and his wife moved to Taylor from Waxahachie in 1923 as the new high school on 7th Street was preparing to open. The August 13th issue of The Taylor Daily Press reported the new coach’s arrival:
The football star of A. & M. College of Texas and for three years All-Southwestern Tackle, a distinction that football players of the Southwest strive for, is coach of the Taylor High School football team this year as well as other athletic activities and also heads the Manual Training Department.
The Press also reported Drake’s plans to hold a training camp at the “old” high school while waiting for the new campus to open. That old school would have been the three story building on the site of the annex that currently houses Plowman’s Kitchen and twelve apartments.
During Drake’s first season, he made great gains against Taylor’s fiercest rival, Georgetown. THS had lost every previous game against the Eagles, but Drake’s team managed to hold their opponent to a 0-0 tie.
Drake’s popularity soared the following year as the team and school gained confidence for a win over what was referred to as a bitter opponent. It was during this time that the first mention of “Drake’s Ducks” appeared in “Spurts from the Sports Editor,” a column in the Taylor High School newspaper, The Cotton Boll.
Coach Drake’s Ducks may have webbed feet but their hands better be free when they go to fishing for that ball and the Eagles tail feathers.
Taylor beat Georgetown that year with a score of 3-0. The wins continued in 1925 with a score of 6-0, and 17 – 0 in 1926. Drake quickly rose to legendary status, known as the coach who tamed the Eagles.
T. H. Johnson came to Taylor in 1926 as assistant coach under Drake. During his forty year career in Taylor, including nineteen years as superintendent, Johnson became well known as a historian. He documented much of the history that is known about the local schools, including the story of how we became the Ducks. That story is included on a plaque with the duck statue at the entrance to the stadium.
Johnson became head coach upon Drake’s departure in 1930, leading the Ducks to seven district titles, six regional titles, four unbeaten seasons and a thirty game winning streak. That success, along with the unique Duck mascot, gained the attention of entertainment icon, Walt Disney. Disney sent an autograph to Johnson in the early 1940s, inscribed to The Taylor Ducks. As superintendent, Johnson kept that autograph in a frame on top of the filing cabinet in his office.
Through the years, the classic Taylor Duck became known as Drallam, which is Mallard spelled backwards. The live mascot appearing at games and pep rallies is Waddles. Stayci Burris took on the role of Waddles during the 1986 – 87 school year.
“I was so proud to be Waddles,” said Burris. “I would dance up and down the side lines at football games and go out on the field and dance during half time shows. Being The Duck is what I am still known for today.”
Prior to coming to Taylor, Drake received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in electrical engineering and returned to A&M during the summer to continue his studies. At Taylor High School he coached the boy’s athletic teams and served as instructor of the manual training classes.
When his son, Clarence Ray Drake, Jr., was born, the school newspaper humorously reported a change in the coaching staff:
Coach Clarence Ray Drake Junior arrived January the seventeenth to take complete charge of the coaching department. It is understood that Coach Drake Junior will not “oust” his father completely, but we are safe in saying that coach senior will do very much as the young gentleman says. Clarence Ray will gladly receive callers at the home of his parents, 711 Brown Street, at any time as he is very eager to make friends with the high school students.
In May of 1930, the Cotton Boll announced Coach Drake’s resignation after seven years in Taylor. During his time here, the Ducks won three championships and many athletic victories. The school newspaper reported that while Drake had not decided what occupation he would follow, his immediate plans were to begin working with the T. P. L.
If Drake had never come to Taylor, we might not have become the Ducks. But thanks to his brief time here, we have a mascot that the community has embraced with great pride. The phrase Once A Duck, Always A Duck was made popular by Naomi “Mama Duck” Pasemann, class of 1954, and resonates with so many who have called Taylor home.
Much of the history of the Ducks and the Taylor schools is preserved in the Webb Room, also known as the Duck Room, a museum created by the Taylor High School Ex Students Association.
“Being a Duck is so special and it makes me swell with pride,” said Pat Helbert, class of 1969 and coordinator of the Ex Students Association. “We are unique in every way, and the Ducks are known throughout the USA. It’s all about the green and white, and the long lasting traditions that I can honestly say will remain in my heart forever.”