Modern cheerleading is a sport of its own, with breathtaking acrobatics and sophisticated choreography. But when Pete Anderson was a yell leader at the University of Kansas, it was a simpler job. They cheered on the Jayhawks and got the crowd going, too.
Pete tried out for the squad because he knew how much his Phi Psi fraternity brother Ken Gray enjoyed it. “I always thought it would be fun, but it was a hell of a lot of work!” said Pete, who now lives at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor.
Back then, squad members paid for most of their own expenses, including travel. They were supplied with letter jackets — which had to be returned at the end of the year — and heavy red wool sweaters. They provided their own white pants and saddle shoes. Pete wrote recently on the KU Spirit Squad Alumni Facebook page: “We all thought we were hot stuff at that first football game. We soon learned how HOT the heavy wool sweaters could be.”
At the beginning of the 1958-59 school year, the head cheerleader brought them 10 megaphones. Pete proudly painted each one white, then stenciled “KANSAS” in red and painted each squad member’s name on the back.
Pete’s KU connections run deep. His family moved to Lawrence from Minnesota in 1948 for his father’s new job teaching at the university. Pete was 10.
“I’ve lived here ever since. I never left. I never wanted to,” Pete said.
His father became dean of the college of education through the early ’70s. “The campus used to look so small,” Pete recalled. “When my dad had his office in Bailey Hall, you could walk all over. Now it’s almost at the back door of the manor.”
Pete majored in design and art history, but after graduation in 1960 he went to work for Maupintour, an international group travel firm based in Lawrence. Over his 30-year career, Pete played a big role in developing Maupintour’s first domestic tours. His work took him throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Pete and his wife, Joan, have two sons and two granddaughters. (His sons didn’t go to KU, but their daughters are both attending now.)
The Andersons moved to Presbyterian Manor three years ago, and Pete said it was comfortable right away: his mother also lived here for 24 years. “A lot of her friends are still here, so it’s like old home,” Pete said. “And some other residents were contemporaries of my parents at KU.”
He appreciates the sense of community here and the freedom to do as much or as little as you want. “When you start aging, you want to be where you’re secure, and that’s what Presbyterian Manor provides. It’s a very friendly, warm place,” he said.
When Pete and Joan were sorting through their belongings before their move, he discovered his red yell leader sweater, mothballed in a bag. It was in perfect condition. So he donated the memento to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics museum at Allen Field House, to stir up nostalgia for other Jayhawk alumni and fans.