Story of the 'Thunderbolts'
Opened on October 1, 1956 by Bishop Louis B. Kucera, Pius X High School was established as the central Catholic high school for the city of Lincoln and the Diocese of Lincoln. Since its earliest years, Pius has grown to more than 1,275 students in grades 9-12, with more than 120 faculty and staff made up of both religious and lay people. When the school was named after Pope St. Pius X, it took its patron’s motto, “To restore all things in Christ”, as its guiding mission. This mission is evident in the academic opportunities and the variety of activities (clubs, athletics, and organizations) offered to students.
The Birth of the ‘BOLT
By Msgr. Ivan Vap
Since I am the sole survivor of the foursome that was responsible for the naming of the Pius X identifying mascot, The Thunderbolts, I feel it necessary to put into writing that which I have shared over the years, but only verbally.
This happened early in September of 1956. The football team had already unanimously accepted the colors for this new school on East A Street in Lincoln. Green, Gold and White … and not just any green, it was “Forest” green … these identifying colors would adorn the athletic uniforms as well as band and academic teams.
A New School
Early on it was evident that the school construction would not allow beginning the new school year at the regularly appointed date. A decision was made by the administration that the official opening date (with only partial use of the building) would be October 1 of that year.
A New Season
The football team was revving up for the new school, the new field and some new opponents. Coach Aldrich had wisely not scheduled an opponent for the opening Friday. On that particular Friday, Father Dan Kealy, Coach Aldrich, Bill Inbody (volunteer coach) and I headed to Columbus to scout the St. Bonaventure (now Scotus High) team since they were on the schedule for the new football field. As we headed to the north-west it was very evident that we were in for a late summer/early fall thunderstorm with clouds beginning to grow to darken the sky.
The First Nickname
Our school still had not been given a proper “nickname” or mascot. Every creature under the sea, on the land or in the air was proposed by faculty, pep club officers, athletes and the general public. None had seemed appropriate for Pius X High School, so the search continued and that was the subject of our conversation in the car as we headed into what was surely to be a rainy evening.
Father Kealy was an accomplished pilot, among his many other abilities. I was in the process of working toward a pilot license and was in the “ground school” meteorological portion of those studies, so the turn of conversation to that stormy sky was just a normal thing to do. Father Kealy talked about the tremendous force of nature that was in a thunderhead, rising thousands of feet into the sky.
A New Era
All of a sudden all of us in the car focused in on a force of nature to properly let everybody know the force of the student body of this new school. No, not “thunderhead,” that just did not sound right – but, THUNDERBOLT – that had a great sound to it. And then the student newspaper could be THE FORECASTER, the annual THE THUNDERER, other aspects of the school life could carry through the theme from there.
True to our expectations we did spend the evening in the bleachers as the rain came down, not with a vengeance as in a thunderstorm, but just enough to get us well soaked.
We returned to Lincoln, coach Aldrich and Bill Inbody were all wrapped up in the coming game the next Friday. I returned to my residence, went directly to the bookshelf and found my copy of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. I thumbed through the pages until I came to page 1041 to find the word “Thunderbolt.” The first definition was “A single discharge of lightning with accompanying thunder.” What a great way to depict the Thunderbolts – that bolt of lightning! And then came the clincher: “A person or thing likened to lightning in suddenness, effectiveness, and destructive power.” What more could we possibly want?
I immediately phoned Fr. Kealy, read him the above, he in turn called coach Aldrich — and the next day it was official … we were to be the Thunderbolts! That first football team was the first to endorse the selection and that first game the public learned of our decision, the rest is history — and a very good history to be sure.
P.S. The first game was broadcast over KFOR by Dick Perry. During the first half he referred to our team as the “pea-ous ex thunderbolts.” By half time a number of people had called the station and asked that he be informed of the proper rendering of the name and from that moment we became the Pius Tenth Thunderbolts. Of course, it wasn’t long before the headlines referred to us as the ‘BOLTS! By the way, the ‘Bolts beat Syracuse by a score of 20 to 6 the next Friday. And, evidently the scouting was a success; we beat St. Bonaventure later in the year, 21 to 13.
About Pius X High School
Pius X High School serves the Lincoln community by providing an affordable, Catholic education in a positive environment. As part of the Pius X family, students deepen their faith and knowledge, and have opportunities to pursue their talents and passions.
Ranking among the top 5% of all Catholic high schools in the country, Lincoln Pius X Catholic High School provides an affordable, Catholic education in a positive environment.
As part of the Pius X family, students deepen their faith and knowledge and have opportunities to pursue their talents and passions. With its largest enrollment ever at 1,280 students, Pius X has served the Lincoln community for 60 years and works to instill six core values – excellence, service, purpose, faith, integrity and charity – into the next generation of leaders.
History of Pius X
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on a 21.7 acre plot on October 23, 1955, for Pius X High School 2013 a private, Catholic high school, to be owned and operated by the Lincoln Diocese. The school, originally built for 300 students, opened October 1, 1956, with 168 students in grades 10-12. Ninth grade students were not added until September of 1967.