Oral History Interview
Interview Conducted by
October 18, 2008
Oral History Project
Special Collections & University Archives
Edmon Low Library ● Oklahoma State University
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
Interviewer: Jennifer Paustenbaugh
Transcriber: Natalie Nielson
Editors: Jacob Sherman, Latasha Wilson, Tanya Finchum
The recording and transcript of this interview were processed at the Oklahoma State
University Library in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The purpose of O-STATE Stories Oral History Project is to gather and preserve memories
revolving around Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (OAMC) and Oklahoma
State University (OSU).
This project was approved by the Oklahoma State University Institutional Review Board on
October 5, 2006.
Scholarly use of the recordings and transcripts of the interview with Steve Costello is
unrestricted. The interview agreement was signed on October 18, 2008.
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
About Steve Costello…
Steve Costello attended Oklahoma State University (OSU) from 1963-1968. While a student
at OSU, Steve was selected to serve as the school’s mascot, Pistol Pete during his junior
year, 1966-1967. In 1968, Steve earned his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering.
After college, he worked for DuPont for four years and then pursued a master’s degree in
Steve spent most of his youth in Kansas City and graduated from Bishop McGuiness High
School in Oklahoma City. He is married and has two children.
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
Oral History Interview
Interviewed by Jennifer Paustenbaugh
October 18, 2008
It is Saturday morning, October 18, 2008. This is Jennifer Paustenbaugh
and I’m here at the OSU Alumni Center on the Stillwater campus of
OSU with Steve Costello who was a former Pistol Pete. We have a
number of questions that we’re going to be asking this morning and I
really appreciate your willingness to participate in the interview.
So do you remember when you first saw the Pistol Pete mascot?
It must have been the first football game or the weekend on campus. I
started school here in 1963 so it must have been then.
And what was your reaction to the mascot?
I don’t remember what my reaction to it was, but I imagine it was just
like all the other university students. You know, enthusiastic about the
football game and glad to see somebody else on the field. Everything
was just like, “Wow!” Probably a normal reaction.
So nothing that went through your head that was like “Oh, I want to do
No, that happened when they put an ad in the O’Collegian the year
before. It just hit me that was something I had to do.
Okay, well let’s back up a little bit. Tell me a little bit about yourself
growing up, where did you grow up? Were you the first member of your
family to attend OSU?
You got it. I was raised in Kansas City, oldest of seven. My dad moved a
lot with AT&T so we moved back and forth between there and St. Louis
and other spots. We moved here to Oklahoma City when I was a junior.
All I can remember is that I wanted to be in engineering and my dad said
you have to go to OSU. I don’t know why, because they had the best
engineering school, I guess. He said OU has only got “land men.” So
there was no decision in the family. It was just, you go to OSU. My
parents made the decision for me.
Yes. I didn’t even come to campus. I had no idea what it looked like. My
mother was a chemist so I decided to be a chemical engineer. (Laughs)
That was the extent of my training.
So did you stick with that major throughout college?
I stuck with it until the end of my junior year and a professor told me he
wasn’t going to graduate me.
So then what did you do?
I moved to industrial engineering. Really it fit me better, so I spent my
whole senior year getting industrial engineering out of the way and all of
the subjects because I had everything else. Then I went to work for
DuPont for four years and they sent me back here to get my master’s and
I begged and pleaded on my knees to get in because I didn’t have the
grades. A professor went to bat for me and got me in and I came out a
year and a half later with a master’s.
It was probably a lot easier going back for the master’s degree and not
having the competition for your time, the Pistol Pete activities and…
Yes. It was the time of my life. It was a good year. I had an office on
campus and I’d get to work at seven and I’d work until 3:30 and then I’d
go play tennis and that was it.
What a life, huh?(Laughter)
Yes. Studying between working. I was constantly studying between 7:00
So back to your undergraduate days, beside your involvement as Pistol
Pete, which we’ll go into in a lot more depth, what other kinds of
activities were you involved in?
Not much. (Laughs) Let’s see, fraternity activities—Phi Kappa Tau. My
wife was in the Student Senate. She was in a lot of things she used to
drag me into. But I didn’t get involved in a whole lot. Just staying in
school was my main activity back then. (Laughs)
Well you said on your bio sheet that you were a Pistol Pete from 1966-
1967. Is that right?
Yes, that’s correct.
So you said that you had seen an advertisement in the O’Colly. And I
assume that was the Spring of 1966 that you saw that.
It would have been the Spring of 1965. Because they were doing
interviews the year before.
Oh, all right.
Then, it would have been late in the year and best as I can remember,
Winston Shindell was head of all the Pistol Petes back then. He was
assistant director of the Student Union back then or the Alumni
Association. I just signed up and there were 22 of us. They brought us in
with a bunch of cheerleaders and Winston and asked me one question.
They said, “Well how would you get along with the kids?” Then, “Tell
us something about yourself.”
So you didn’t have to do a rope trick or do anything…
No, no. The qualifications back then was you had to be over 6’ 2.”
I heard somebody saying yesterday in talking about that qualification
that otherwise it looked like a head with little legs coming out of it.
To just get the proportions.
I guess that’s what they were thinking about. I don’t know. But that was
their qualifications. I guess it kind of dropped off as the years went on.
I think I heard yesterday that it was six feet tall now.
Oh, I see.
Because it was interesting just watching some of the former Petes go by
a few minutes ago and see…
Varying heights and sizes?
Yes, that’s right.
All the way from 250 to 140. (Laughs)
That’s right. But that’s good. You know I guess it’s just sort of the
endearing quality of the Pete Mascot that you don’t have to have one
prototype of body to be able to pull it off.
Right. The only one I haven’t seen is a black Pistol Pete yet. Has there
been a black one yet?
I don’t know. I was wondering that yesterday when I attended the black
I saw a Hawaiian or an Indian. I don’t remember his name. He was
I’ll have to do some checking on that. So you tried out a year ahead of
time. In that year between when you tried out and knew you were going
to be Pete and then you actually had to take on the role, what kind of
preparation did you do?
Not much. (Laughs) Not much.
Did you find when you went to games that you were more attentive about
what the current Pete was doing, thinking next year I’m going to have to
Well, that was in the spring, so it was at the end of school. I only had the
summer to go, and then the fall. I think I came up before school and that
was the year the new head that was made by Disney. Winston had me go
over and try it on to make sure it fit. It was brand new.
So you were the first one to wear the new head.
The new head, yes.
Do you know how long they used that particular…
As far as I know, it’s still being revamped. I don’t know. They told a
story on the film that they had made a duplicate of it, Walt Disney, and
they kept it stored some place and they finally donated it to the
university and it’s one of the current heads that’s being used. I don’t
know if they’re renewing it. I don’t know the story of that. Somebody
here in town works on it every year I think.
All right. Well I wasn’t sure how often they—maybe not refreshed the
design but refreshed the head.
It looks just like the one I had. Almost identical to the one I had.
Okay, interesting. So did you receive any kind of compensation for being
So none of the personal appearances that you did?
We did all the home basketball games, home wrestling, and all of the
football games but no compensation other than a lot of kids’ smiles.
So all the football games meant that you went to the away games too.
Right, we did.
I know from yesterday visiting with Ed Dobson that he got to go to one
away game his first year in 1962, and that was a really big deal. So I
guess in the few years that followed that that the Pete mascot must have
become a lot more important if you got to go with the team.
We didn’t go with the team. In fact, I either went with the cheerleaders
or Winston Shindell would just drive me himself. I think he drove me to
Missouri, and I think I went with the cheerleaders to Texas Tech and a
few other places. Nebraska, we had a wild time in Nebraska. We drove
up to Nebraska. They got the whole band and us kicked out of the
Lincoln Hotel, the coach did.
Their coach did?
No, our coach.
Why is that?
Because they were playing in the lobby at midnight and we were waking
up the players. So we all had to move out of the hotel. (Laughs)
So while you were in the role of Pete, did you get any additional
training? Like I know now, when you’re selected as Pete you go to
cheerleader camp with the cheerleaders, and there’s a special mascot
training that they go to.
No, we didn’t.
Nothing like that?
No. I think Winston was just here to make sure I didn’t get in too much
(Laughter) So did he have his hands full?
A couple of times. No, not really. I mean, I have some stories, but you
know. I was playing around with the Missouri mascot when we were in
Missouri and I slipped and fell on the field while I was spinning the tiger
around by the tail. I understand you can’t touch them now. There’s
something about it.
A rule? Yes.
And the whole stadium just erupted in joy because we were beating
Missouri. But they started throwing oranges at me. So they had to escort
me with the police off the field.
So would you say that was one of your most embarrassing moments as
That was probably most embarrassing. Yes, yes. 50,000 people laughed
because you’re down on your behind. (Laughs)
Well, I guess that’s something you can laugh about now, right?
Yes. It was good.
That’s funny. We talked a little bit about the head, the fact that you were
the first Pistol Pete to wear the new head. But what was the rest of the
Just pretty much like it is now. Chaps, black vest, white shirt, I think. I
think a couple of times I wore a flannel checkered shirt. But there was
nothing that said I had—of course the six shooter and I had the shotgun.
So you did have a shotgun at that point?
And what about the boots?
These are them. 42 years old. I bought them myself on Main Street and I
had to pay good money for them.
Oh, that is interesting. Now I think the Pete is well provided with the
clothing and the boots and everything else. But the time you were doing
that, that wasn’t really the case, was it?
No, my girlfriend had to give me a buckle even because I wasn’t a
So were there any dos and don’ts about being Pete at that time?
Not that I can remember.
Just sort of to keep your nose clean and…?
Keep your nose clean and be attentive to the kids, and that comes
naturally. That was one of the major qualifications, make sure you spend
a lot of time with the kids. And that was it.
I know that some children have their reaction to Pete because the
proportions are larger than life that it kind of scares them. So how did
you handle situations like that?
Just take it easy. Back off. My two-year-old grandchild is just getting
used to me now, and if I haven’t seen her for three months, I have to go
in and sit down on the couch and do nothing while she walks around me
for quite a ways (laughter) and figures out that she wants to talk or
Right. Now one of the things that is really interesting to me, and I don’t
know if this was true when you were Pete because he’s such a tradition
now, but parents that will bring their really young children out….
Oh yes, they would lean over the stadium walls to shake my hands.
So that caught on early on.
People wanted their children to be with Pete.
In fact, I had some football players say that when they were four years
old their parents brought them and they’ve got a shot of me on the field,
something that they still have.
So they were getting them to drink the orange Kool-aid very early.
At the point that you were Pete you weren’t being scheduled for other
types of appearances beyond athletic competitions?
And was your Pete experience anything like what you thought it was
going to be?
It was bigger.
In what way?
I had no expectations. I was young, just kind of bubbling through life.
But somehow I knew I was supposed to be Pete. I can tell that story
later. But I think whatever I did was semi kept in line and inspired by
God somehow, just like he cares for all of his kids.
Right. I’d like to follow up on that. You said you knew you were
supposed to be Pete. So tell me that story.
Well, I was totally surprised when they told me I was Pete. But I guess
after walking the campus that day, the sense came over me that this was
right and I was going to be okay. Excuse me. Um, can we get back to
that in a minute?
Sure. I think that must have been a very powerful experience. So tell me
what a typical week was like for you as Pete?
It was just go to school. Friday nights I’d even shoot my guns outside
the fraternity house, and then go to game day and have fun and do my
thing. Then afterwards, put everything away and then go back and meet
my parents or friends. It was just pretty much normal except for the
game day or game night experiences.
So what was your family’s reaction to your selection as Pete?
Oh, I think they were excited and proud. But you know with seven
kids—when I went to school I had a brother that was one year old and
still in a high chair.
So you weren’t the sole focus of their attention.
No, when I was Pete, I had a three year old brother. They were here
occasionally. But I’m sure they were proud.
And what about your fraternity brothers?
I think it was nice for them to have that acknowledgement. In fact, I
didn’t have a place to stay this weekend, for the first time in fifteen years
I walked into the fraternity and said, “Do you have an extra bed?” They
said, “Yes.” And they had no idea that they had a member who was
I was going to ask you if you were the first one from that fraternity,
maybe the only one.
Maybe the only one, Yes, that I know of.
Well I think one of the interesting things probably in the last ten years or
so, because Lance Millis had done a lot of work to research the history
of our Pistol Petes, I think we’re now like starting to get a real handle
on who the Petes were and what their student involvement was. I think it
will have an interesting impact for some of these houses when they
realize, “oh we’ve had one,” or “we’ve had five guys who have been
Yes, I think there were two or three Sigma Nu’s I met the other night,
right in a row, almost. Like it was a done deal.
Like that was one of the qualifications.
So being Pistol Pete was different for you than what you thought it was
going to be?
I had no expectations. My expectations were just to have fun. To have
fun with the kids, and to leave my mark as a Pistol Pete and think of
some unusual things that would maybe happen on the field or not
happen on the field that I can do.
So what were some of the unusual things?
Well over OU weekend, on Friday afternoon I had a lab mate that was
totally Indian and he said he had a war bonnet down to his back. I said,
“Do you have a war bonnet? Why don’t you dress up like an OU
Indian?” The OU Indian back then was on the field. So we dyed his long
underwear red and at half time we pulled the OU Indian off the field
with an emergency call. The cheerleaders got him off the field and my
guy came on and he led the OU team out through the field goals at half
time. I shot him with both barrels and he dropped at the OU players.
They parted and ran around him and the whole stadium went dead for
about five seconds until they figured out it was a hoax.
Do you know what the real OU Indian did when he found out he’d been
No, he did not come over and talk to me after that. I don’t even know
how long they kept the OU Indian after that.
Are you aware of another Pistol Pete getting pranked like that at OU?
No, I haven’t heard any stories about pranks that are going on. They did
that year. They came on a wrestling match, and they broke into the room
where the head and gun were stored and stole my guns.
Oh, they did?
They stole my six-shooter. I never got it back. I mean the university
never got it back, and we attributed it to OU students.
Interesting. I hadn’t heard that story before. I had heard that—and
maybe it was actually Frank Eaton’s gun that this was in the context
of—it was in an exhibit in the Student Union and was stolen and it still
hasn’t been reported.
Really? Did somebody break the glass?
I’m not exactly sure how it happened but that’s the story I heard about
eight or nine years ago.
Well, I had a really old six-shooter. I don’t know how old it was, but
they had to replace it with a new one.
So it sounds like the balancing your Pete and non-Pete life wasn’t as
difficult then as it might be now if the guy’s making like 300 or 400
appearances a year?
Oh no. It’s got to be consuming. I don’t know how they keep their
I’ve heard it’s a real challenge
It probably is.
So what was it like to step out on the field the first time as Pete?
It was amazing. I mean, just having the privilege of being on the field
and seeing all the people in the stadium and having to react to the
children and everything else. It was really really hot for the first five
games. You know, you were drenched. You were thankful in November
that you had the head on when it was really cold.
Well, I would imagine that viewing everything through that head must
have taken some getting used to?
Yes, you really had to spend some time getting used to it because you
didn’t want to trip over things and you had to learn how to look through
the head and how to deal with your gun. You couldn’t see where your
gun was. You couldn’t see how to load your shot gun. All that had to be
done by feel so you just had to take it slow. But you could see the
stadium really well and who was in front of you.
Except for maybe the muffled sound, viewing what was going on maybe
wasn’t that big of a deal.
No it wasn’t at all.
At which sporting events did you enjoy portraying Pete the most?
Oh, it’s got to be the football games. Because you’ve got 40,000 back
then, or 35,000 and good times. But back then Bedlam, OU wrestling
matches I haven’t been to one up here for a while, but they were the
loudest and the hardest to get a ticket for back then. Because you
couldn’t get another soul in Gallagher-Iba Arena for OU-OSU match
and I think there were two of them a year. That had to be the loudest and
most intense experience as a Pistol Pete.
I think one of the things that’s really interesting about our mascot was
that he was modeled after a real person. Were there characteristics that
you knew about Frank Eaton having that you tried to portray as Pistol
I really didn’t know a whole lot about his life until I began to read his
history which was two years afterwards. I knew the basics, and that he
had been a character and he’d do anything for attention. (Laughter) And
that was about it. And he shot his gun off in classrooms a couple of
times. But he had lived the wild west real experience of the cattle drives
and having to gun down the people who murdered his father. But he was
a character. And that’s what I tried to bring into it a little bit—a little bit
of the pizzazz.
Okay, which I guess could give you a license to do a lot of things.
A license to do a lot of things, Yes. (Laughter)
So maybe other than the fact that Pete is based on a real person, are
there things that you think really make the Pistol Pete mascot a lot
different than other school mascots?
Well, because so many mascots, I’m sorry, but they’re dressed up like
everybody else’s mascot today. Every professional mascot has got some
kind of…and I think the reality of a real cowboy and the cowboys and
how authentic everything looks about Pete even though there’s a big
head it’s still done well—quality stuff. The other mascots are nice but
they don’t have the quality. They’re kind of fluff suits.
Yes, it sometimes strikes me that they could be on the side of the road
hocking five dollar pizzas, whereas Pete, you would never think of him
in that role.
Right, and you don’t get him mixed up with all the other mascots you
can’t remember what or who.
Yes, he really is distinctive. Do you think there is a way that Pete really
captures the spirit of the university?
Well, it’s out here on the plains of Oklahoma. Yes, definitely. And you
know Oklahoma was Indian Territory just until recently and Pete was a
part of that. He lived not too far from here. Still in the 1900s it was
pretty wild and wooly, you know, so I think he captures it great.
Is there some experience that you had as Pete that really stands out
above all the other experiences that you had?
Well, the one I told you about at the OU thing. And the Missouri thing.
A few of the incidences I don’t want to talk about. (Laughter)
Where we had to go in front of the Dean and get our ID’s back. All of
the cheerleaders and myself after we got back on campus from the Texas
Tech game. I thought we were going to get thrown out of school but
there were so many of us that he couldn’t throw us all out. It really
wasn’t that bad. The police picked us up in a convertible. The Texas
Tech cheerleaders got in just as much trouble as we did.
So you were in good company, huh?
We were in good company.
What did being Pistol Pete mean to you at the time that you had the
Well, it meant a little notoriety. I mean, people on campus treated me a
little differently who knew who I was and what I was doing, which was
fun. I think it helped in finding a wonderful wife. I’m sure she would
have been attracted to me anyway, but while I was Pistol Pete we started
dating and we’re still married today.
Congratulations, that’s no small accomplishment.
And besides that, just a small amount of notoriety. It made me part of
Looking back now after all these years, more than 40 years, what does it
mean to you now to have been Pete?
Well there are a few highlights in your life. The birth of your kids and—
although Pete didn’t match up to those days, it’s close. God had his hand
in my life since I was 13, 12, even younger I know. And there’s been
valleys and there’s been highlights, and it’s got to be one of the four or
five or six highlights in my life. I’ve been able to say, “Yes, there were
great times and there were some valleys too.”
Are there any special bonds between the guys who have played Pete
over the years?
Well, there is in the fact that we’ve all had similar experiences and no
one else has had that experience and it’s just an instant camaraderie. The
50th reunion I think is extremely moving to have all of us in one room at
one time. That was just special because we were there by ourselves, and
that was probably more fun than the whole weekend put together, just to
Well, I thought it was really interesting before the interview just
watching you interact with Stormy Phillips who was one of the more
recent Petes and seeing that there was almost like this instant
connection between the two of you and the desire that both of you had to
know each other and to know a little bit more about each other.
Right. I think if you called one up and asked him to help you out and he
wouldn’t know you from Adam, you’d have some connection.
Right, it’s like its own fraternity. That’s really neat. Do you think there’s
any kind of collective legacy that the former Pete’s have?
A small fraternity. We are almost the size of a small fraternity. We’ve
got 60 or 70 of us now, and the ability to get back here on the campus
and to—one of the things all of us enjoyed the most before they
renovated the field was the ability to go on the field at Homecoming.
They would allow us to put the head on and we would go out and
nobody knew who it was. So that was always a highlight. There’d
always only be about 12 or 13 of us so we’d all have the chance to go
out on the field and relive it again every three or four years.
That’s pretty neat. Get that rush again.
What kind of reactions do people have when they find out that you were
a Pistol Pete?
Well, the OSU alumni have a nice reaction, the others don’t care. But I
don’t try to talk about it a whole lot with the people when they do find
out. They always have some questions. Just, “Oh, that’s great.”
So generally a positive reaction?
Was there like a lasting influence in your life or something that you
learned through being Pistol Pete that…
I remember I took public speaking when I was a sophomore; I wasn’t the
greatest public speaker. But after being Pistol Pete for a year, I didn’t
have trouble getting up in front of a convention of 15,000 people and
talking for 30 minutes.
I think that’s an excellent example.
It gave me an ability to meet and greet people and to feel confident
wherever I was. And to get out of any situation that I could get myself
into in front of a large crowd.
Those are important skills to have. What would you tell an OSU student
that was thinking about trying out for Pistol Pete? Do you have any
Do it. Give it a try. Even if it doesn’t work, at least you went through the
experience of the interview and everything else. And if it’s supposed to
work out, it’ll work out.
Have you participated in any of the selection panels for the Petes?
No, I haven’t. I probably would—that would be fun to do. But I haven’t.
Yes. I think it’s a relatively recent phenomenon, from my understanding.
Oh, I see.
So I’m assuming that if you had to do it all over again that you would try
out all over again to be Pistol Pete?
Oh yes, without a doubt.
Is there anything else about the Pete experience that you wish I asked
you about or that you want to talk about?
Well I impressed my to-be-wife’s parents one basketball game when she
brought them to see me. I played basketball in high school, and making a
shot from half court wasn’t unusual. We messed around before and after
practice a lot so I had some experience but you couldn’t throw the head
this way, so I just threw it over my back at half court and it went in,
while her parents were there! (Laughter) So that impressed them. I don’t
know about the rest of the crowd.
They were probably thinking, “If he can do that, what else can he do”?
That was my only thing that I can remember. Let me go back to why I
felt like I was part of the Pistol Pete thing. Pete in his real life had a
girlfriend and she’d given him a medal of Mary, a Catholic-type of
medal. My parents were Catholic and my dad was near death once and
they’d promise that they would say the Rosary everyday of their life, and
they did. And when I read that in this book, I connected somehow their
prayers and Pistol Pete’s actual life being saved. I put them together and
I felt like somehow God had interwoven those two things, and honored
me with the gift.
What a great story. Well, thank you so much for being part of this and
taking the time to talk to me today. I really appreciate it.
Costello You’re welcome Jennifer. Thanks a lot.
------- End of interview -------
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