Trojan Outfit

1962, donated by Patricia (Saukko) Debernardi. Ronald Tutor Campus Center, University of Southern California.

The outfit was made and worn by Traveler's first and long time rider Richard Saukko for almost forty years. It was also later worn by his stepson Chuck O'Donnell. The history of this outfit and the Traveler tradition began in 1961 when Bob Jani, Director of Special Events at USC, and Eddie Tannenbaum, a student volunteer, contacted Richard Saukko about riding his horse, Traveler, at the USC home football games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A metal chest-plate and Roman helmet from the movie Ben Hur were provided for his use that first year. Because Saukko thought he was only going to ride one year, he put up with the challenges that the metal plate posed. In 1962, he was asked to continue to ride Traveler at all home football games, on a permanent basis. Along with that honor, Saukko knew that he had many hours of work ahead of him. Saukko continued to use the Roman helmet and decided to incorporate red ostrich plumes into the helmet's crest for motion. Saukko was an artist who designed and crafted leather: the gantlets for his wrists, leggings for his shins, and for safety, specially designed sandals for riding Traveler. He added a handmade over-sized wooden sword to the ensemble, so all of the USC fans could see his sword raised when "Conquest" began to play as he and Traveler ran a victory lap around the Coliseum. They did this every time the USC football team scored a touchdown. Next, Saukko needed to replace the metal chest plate with one that was more flexible for riding a horse. Saukko looked to the Tommy Trojan statue for inspiration and used cardinal suede to copy that skirt from the statue. At 41 years old, Saukko felt he was too old to ride with a bare chest like the statue. So, he designed and crafted a leather chest-plate that allowed the flexibility that he needed to ride Traveler. Unfortunately, Saukko ran out of time for embellishing his leather chest-plate that year, and the embellishments were completed at the beginning of the 1963 footballseason. Additionally, Saukko needed something to wear under his leather chest-plate in cold weather. He designed and had made a sleeveless tunic from heavy beige cotton; he felt the use of a beige tunic would not detract from his dark brown leather chest-plate. In the 1980s, after all those years of use, Saukko bought new beige material to remake his well-worn tunic, but it was never made. Saukko wore that well-worn tunic until 1991, and his stepson, Chuck O'Donnell, wore it until 1998, when the tunic style and color changed to cardinal, with gold Greek keys on the sleves. For this display, the material Richard bought in the 1980s has been used to remake and replace his worn-out tunic. (quoted from commemorative catalog produced for the art grand opening on September 30, 2010, p. 20)


Back to: Select Art at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center complex, University of Southern California