A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Yell "Ki-Yi! Ki-Yi!"

Another rerun...

It is, as every Waldron High School graduate knows, our assigned task.  Upon leaving those hallowed halls and going out to make our mark in the world, we make a solemn promise to our beloved institution to, in the midst of our various pursuits, accomplish two significant things:

"We'll sing your praise, o'er all the earth,
And yell, "Ki-Yi! Ki-Yi!"

I am sorry to admit to all today that I have been remiss.  Singing, yes.  Praising, yes.  Perhaps not o'er all the earth, but there are people from other countries who have read this blog, and hopefully read some various posting about Waldron High School.  But, and it saddens me deeply to say this, I can not recall even a single "Ki-Yi!" emanating from my bashful persona. 

If memory serves me, it was the WHS class of 1929 that created our Alma Mater.  Not that I was there, mind you, but I've heard the story.  Lorene May was a graduate that year, and she has not missed a single reunion event.  They also gave us our school colors, orange and black.  The complete song is:

Oh Waldron High, Oh Waldron High
We sing your praise tonight.
We'll let you know, where e'er we go
That the orange and black will fight.
We'll sing your praise o'er all the earth
And yell, "Ki-Yi! Ki'Yi!"
In books of fame, we'll write your name
Oh Waldron High.

So, where did our beloved little ditty originate?  Who penned those immortal words?  Who unleashed a bunch of ki-ying country kids upon an unsuspecting world?  Why, H.G. "Seldy" Seldombridge of course.

Who, you may ask, is H.G. "Seldy" Seldombridge?  Seldy was a speech instructor at Oklahoma A & M College, later to become Oklahoma State University.  In 1908, Seldy tooled on up to New York City, to Columbia University to be specific, in search of an idea for a senior class play.  There, he saw a performance of the runaway Broadway smash The Red Mill.  He was particularly taken by one song from the operetta, "The Streets of New York (Old New York)". 

When he got back to Stillwater, he incorporated the song "Old New York" into a college production there.  Looking at the stage decorated in orange and black while the song was being performed, Seldy was struck by inspiration.  He told the choir to take a break, grabbed a pencil and paper, and soon had adapted the lyrics to "Old New York" into a song more appropriate for Oklahoma A & M College.  His new lyrics were:

We'll sing your praise tonight;
To let you know where e'er we go,
For the Orange and Black we'll fight
We'll sing your worth o'er all the Earth
And shout: Ki Yi! Ki Ye!
In books of fame we'll write your name,

For the truly intellectually curious, here is a performance of the original tune, "Old New York."  Stay with it until the chorus, there you'll recognize the familiar tune.

The night the song was performed, lettermen from the various sports joined the stage, waving in unison to the song, which had to be repeated several times.  The enthusiastic audience waved back; the response was so exuberant that a near-riot erupted.  From that point on, The Waving Song, as it became known, has been a staple at Oklahoma State University sporting events.

Click here for the full story of the OSU Waving Song. 

Was a WHS faculty member perhaps a graduate of Oklahoma State in 1929?  Did they provide the impetus for the creation of our own Alma Mater?  Interesting question.

So, what about one particular component of the song, those curious "Ki-Yis"?  At OSU, the second one was actually Ki-Ye, probably to rhyme with the "C" in OAMC (Oklahoma A&M College).  Let us now research the historical literature in search of the elusive expression.

There are those who feel that "Ki-Yi" was perhaps one part of the fabled Rebel Yell of Civil War lore.  The Rebel Yell battle cry was never specifically described, but there is a clip on YouTube of some Confederate veterans demonstrating the yell.  It doesn't sound like Ki-Yi to me, but there are some references to "Ki-Yi" being a part of the yell in other writings.   

Another historical reference to "Ki-Yi" comes from Jack London's classic book White Fang.  Here's an excerpt:

The next moment he received a clout alongside the head that knocked him over on his side. Then all fight fled out of him. His puppyhood and the instinct of submission took charge of him. He sat up on his haunches and ki-yi'd. But the man whose hand he had bitten was angry. The cub received a clout on the other side of his head. Whereupon he sat up and ki-yi'd louder than ever.

For the sake of our own pride, let's just skip over the reference of "Ki-Yi' as the sound made by a wounded puppy.  We are The Bulldogs.  Case Closed.
So, who will join me?  I am pledging that before another week is past, I will yell Ki-Yi somewhere, sometime.  And I'll continue to let them know, where e'er I go, that the Orange and Black will fight.  That is, if a reasonable agreement can't be reached.  Then, we'll fight. 
And, in books of fame, I'll write her name.  Oh Waldron High.

UPDATE:  Carolyn Terrill with the Scott County Historical and Geneological Society has tracked down the source of the WHS Alma Mater!  She found an article by Virgil Bethel, who came to Waldron in 1929 to teach and ended up starting our first football team.  With used equipment donated by the Arkansas Razorbacks, the team played seven games and lost all of them.  In the article, Virgil says:

"During that year (1929) I taught the Waldron School their Alma Mater.  After that first year, I went to Oklahoma to teach.  I returned to Waldron School  in 1950 and I was so overjoyed to learn they had kept their Alma Mater I had taught them.  It was to the tune of the Alma Mater of Oklahoma A&M College at Stillwater (now called Oklahoma State) but there is a little variation of words.  I learned the song at Stillwater in 1916."

Thanks Carolyn!


  1. Since I attended two high schools, I am entitled to two songs. I remember the first two lines of the Boston Latin song...

    On the field of many colors
    Latin's banner flies

    ... but that's about it. I hated that school, anyway.

    Boston Technical, so far as I know, didn't even have a song. It is now known as the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science, which wouldn't seem to rhyme with much of anything. However, I'll make up my own Boston Tech song, if you don't mind...

    Boston Tech, What The Heck
    I graduated from there!
    Even more, it was '74
    And I still had my hair!
    I went to work, as a clerk,
    In a Boston shoe store
    Boston Tech, What The Heck
    You aren't even there anymore

    It needs some work, but it's better than what they had!

  2. Sully, throw in a couple of Ki-Yis and I think you've got yourself a winner.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. To make a long story short, I'm an Oklahoma State University alumnus and very much interested in the history of my Alma Mater - particularly in matter pertaining to the days when OSU was still Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College.

    I happened across this blog by accident and find it pretty interesting for a number of reasons.

    First and foremost, I'd never heard that any of OSU's fight songs were in use by any school other than Oklahoma State, so that alone is somewhat surprising.

    What makes Waldron's use of "The Waving Song" even more interesting to me, however, is that the school uses it as its alma mater while at OSU, it's actually used more as a celebratory song (as you can kind of tell in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orvHXlKt6S0&feature=related)

    The way we use it isn't really defined very well in the university's write-up, but traditionally, it's played following OSU touchdowns and all Cowboy and Cowgirl victories. So while a lot of people (including our own fans, to my chagrin) believe we are "waving the wheat" (ala the University of Kansas), OSU has always "waved goodbye to the competition".

    Regarding OSU's pronunciation of "Ki Yi, Ki Yi" - in the OAMC days, it was, phonetically, "kie-yah, kie-yee" to rhyme with the "C" in OAMC, but now students are taught "kie-yah, kie-yay" to rhyme with "State".

    Anyway. Really interesting stuff. As a bonus, fast forward to about the 2:18 mark of the following clip for a recording of the OAMC orchestra performing The Waving Song about the same time Virgil Bethel introduced it at Waldron. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxC6hGDBr4A

  6. Well, I see I made an inane comment before, so I won't make another...