Photo provided by Ohio University Archives, Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections
Many families have a black sheep — the one who brings a less than desirable, though highly entertaining, reputation to the clan. During the 20th century, the Ohio University journalism family had its very own black sheep in the form of a green goat.
The Green Goat, an Athens-based student humor magazine, lived by a simple mantra: “The spice of life is jest and wit, but who wants spice by getting hit?” It went about collecting comical spice by targeting different people and organizations around campus. Though it may have found it amusing to poke fun at its alma mater, The Green Goat was passionately loyal to OU. Behind the scenes, the comedic periodical was no stranger to challenge and adversity. The publication underwent two separate revivals by different, but equally devoted, editorial staffs. A spirit of perseverance resided at the heart of OU’s leading humor digest, and although there may not be a Green Goat grazing on College Green today, its legacy lives on in the memories of alumni and the influence it has had on current student publications.
The O.G. (Original Goat)
In 1912, The Green and White, later renamed The Post, began publication at OU. A year later, The Green Goat of OU was born. Instead of reporting hard-hitting news, the magazine, headed by editors Virgil Falloon and Carl A. Foss, focused on hard-hitting jokes. “Many battles have been won by sarcasm,” the first issue stated. “And if you are the one to be hit, remember it was done for O.U.’s sake, not yours.” Those battles for humor were not waged for long. After two issues, the magazine was cancelled due to a lack of student interest. However, nine years later, the seemingly forgotten Green Goat was out and about on campus again.
Reviving The Green Goat was a family affair when it returned in 1922, thanks in part to Virgil Falloon’s sister, Fern, who served as editor alongside James Nolan. Like its predecessor, the new staff placed an emphasis on scandalous topics, such as The Prohibition. “I’ve had people say that they couldn’t wait for the next copy to come out,” William Kimok, Ohio University Archivist and Records Manager, states as he recalls alumni testimonials. “They would take it back to their dorms and read it together.” Amusing anecdotes and articles dotted the pages of the magazine, which was affectionately referred to by its staff as “Billy.” The publication was contacted by the national cigarette company Camel for profitable advertising opportunities. Revenue from those advertisements led to a financial windfall. Unfortunately, the magazine remained severely under-equipped. Supplies consisted of a few run-down desks and two retired typewriters. “The ‘Goat’ spent many of its 11 years in depressed times,” Lawrence Flinn, editor in 1933, explained in a letter written to the Alden Library staff. “But in a way, that contributed to college humor…students needed something to laugh at and with.” Eventually, financial woes caused by the Great Depression became too burdensome, and The Green Goat suffered its second death in 1933. But in more ways a phoenix than a goat, the publication rose out of the ashes of cancellation one final time.
Gruff Around the Edges
Returning in 1954, The Green Goat became an off-campus magazine with an even more mischievous attitude. Previous incarnations had always supported The Post, but that was not the case with the new Billy, which sharpened its horns and set its sights on OU’s premier newspaper. One story listed proper uses for The Post, declaring that it was “Obviously not meant for intelligent reading.” “Things open up as to what is more acceptable when you start getting into the [1950s],” Kimok says. “All of the sudden, there are more things acceptable to make fun of.” Tenacity won the production staff admiration not only from Bobcats but from students attending other universities as well. “From my point of view, a humor magazine is the only real way to transmit the spirit and life of a university,” writes Janet Hart, a student from Denison University, in a letter to the magazine. “And The Green Goat has given me a most favorable opinion of Ohio U.” Every issue was adorned with an illustrated cover, created by various artists like OU alumni Tomas Lipps. Designing the covers provided Lipps with a way to sharpen his artistic skills. “I had a lot of fun drawing them,” Lipps recalls. “I remember doing one or two in the lobby of Tiffin Hall.” Also included in each issue was a “Bobkitten” section, profiling a different coed. The March 1958 issue of the magazine, a parody of Playboy, even included a mock centerfold of student Janie Howard. But The Green Goat’s love of the ladies eventually landed the publication in hot water. Rumors persist that it ran an obscene image, leading to demands for its cancellation. The validity of such rumors has yet to be determined. Nevertheless, The Green Goat ceased production once again in 1961. Unlike with its last two expirations, the periodical did not recover.
A Legacy of Laughs
After suffering two separate terminations, The Green Goat’s rebirths can be accredited to its signature blend of humor and wit. The controversial magazine has served as a forerunner for other periodicals. In the late 1960s, shortly after The Green Goat’s final demise, another satiric publication named The Hocking River Valley SILT Magazine was distributed at OU. Cancellations have not kept The Green Goat down in the past. One day, it may yet again return to OU. In the meantime, donated issues of The Green Goat have found a home in the Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, allowing for their creativity to be admired by enthusiasts, long-standing and new. As stated in its debut issue, “The Green Goat is for Ohio University, first, last, and all the time.”