STEPHENVILLE — They may be turning 100, but the Ten Tarleton Sisters — half of Tarleton State University’s Purple Poo (the oldest spirit organization in Texas) — are forever young.
Their birthday will be marked during several Homecoming week activities, including a ceremony in Heritage Park following the Saturday morning parade.
“Any time you celebrate 100 years at a university and you’re still a vital contributor, that’s impressive,” said Tarleton State President James Hurley. “Everyone loves the Poo and the Ten Tarleton Sisters and Ten Tarleton Peppers. Their enthusiasm for the purple and white is contagious.”
TTS formed in 1923 as the female counterpart of the Ten Tarleton Peppers, a 10-man group backed by Dean J. Thomas Davis to boost school morale. The groups painted and hung canvas banners around campus. They became known as the Purple Poo after a paint glob splattered on a sign they were making, inspiring the moniker.
Although early editions of the yearbook, The Grassburr, show the groups in separate photos, they have always operated with the shared mission of raising Tarleton State spirit.
“The TTP and the TTS are individual organizations with individual leadership; however, the organizations come together collectively as the Purple Poo,” explained Kristy O’Keefe, Poo adviser since 2021. “The Purple Poo forego a ‘normal’ student experience and give 100 percent of themselves to Tarleton and the student body to keep the spirit of Oscar P alive and well. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of students and their dedication.”
The TTS and TTP still differentiate with letters on their robes, and both are represented on the signs they make and hang around campus (now on posterboard instead of canvas), said Donna Strohmeyer, Executive Director for Scheduling and Events and close Poo friend who has been known to do Poo laundry and mend Poo robes.
“Each Poo has their own individual signature on the sign they make. The TTP is always on the left and the TTS is always on the right.” The signs are coveted items, and Strohmeyer has her own personal collection. But there are rules about how to obtain one:
- Don’t steal or try to haggle a Poo Sign from the Poo or from a fellow Texan who won it fair and square.
- Don’t take a hanged Poo Sign before 8 a.m. It would not be fair to everyone else who followed the core value of integrity and waited until after that time.
Instead, show your spirit to get noticed by the Poo, who then might bestow a sign on you. Showing up and demonstrating school spirit at campus events puts students on the radar as prospective new TTPs and TTSs to replace those graduating each year, as new Poo are selected by current members.
Poo members attempt to keep their identity secret, and this stems from the original students having the Dean’s permission to be out after campus curfew, which was 10 p.m. for the men and 7 p.m. for the women. Strohmeyer said that over the years their costumes evolved from robes with hoods to masks, and that while each Poo creates their own look, the anonymity puts the focus on the campus mission rather than the individual.
“They’re just a really special group. To have a group that’s dedicated solely to raising the spirit and morale of the student body is a unique and special thing. It’s not about cheering for the football team, it’s not about cheering for the basketball team — it’s truly about investing themselves in the student body, as kind of the conscience of the student body.”
Jennifer McGregor, a TTS from 1992 to 1995 and Poo adviser for about 10 years starting in 2004, said the experience left her not only with lasting friendships but a never-ending respect for Tarleton traditions.
“Hanging signs and going to football games are my favorite memories of being a Purple Poo. It’s the lasting friendships, staying in touch with people and looking forward to seeing them. Homecoming is here, and I’m excited because I’m going to see all these people.”
Being a Tarleton State alum and involved in an organization that promotes school spirit helps her now as an Assistant Professor in the College of Education, McGregor added.
“I know the traditions and I’m excited about the traditions. As a Tarleton Texan you understand the excitement of the week, and also that students are tired when they come to class! When I tell students I was a Purple Poo and I show them my picture on the first day of class, that catches their attention. They’re very interested in that.”
Homecoming Week events celebrating the Purple Poo:
- Tonight (Thursday), Tarleton’s first music festival honoring the Purple Poo will host William Clark Green, Kaitlyn Butts and Drake White.
- Friday evening, two alumni members will carry a torch to help light Bonfire in honor of the TTS centennial.
- Saturday morning immediately following the Homecoming parade, a centennial celebration takes place in Heritage Park (site of Monday night “Poo Signs” for the organization).
- During the football game Saturday the Poo alumni organization will be invited to the field after the first quarter to Raise the Spirit of Oscar P.
A 100-year celebration shirt is on sale at the Texan Campus Store or online. Some proceeds will benefit the Purple Poo scholarship fund.