Students and staff make costumes for stuffed squirrel used in history class

Tracey Murray’s squirrel gets new outfits for historical reenactment

By Meriel Salisbury, Staff Writer


A small, stuffed squirrel has become a fascination for students and most recently, a custodian.

History teacher Tracy Murray uses the squirrel as a prop for historical time periods in her AP European History classes. Murray’s students and Ace Grotta, a custodian at LHS, have made costumes for the squirrel.

Senior Jack Foster knew immediately that he wanted to create costumes for the stuffed animal.

“At the beginning of the year she pulled it out, and it was wearing a Johann Tetzel costume, the guy who collected indulgences for the Catholic Church,” Foster said. The squirrel didn’t have many costumes at the time, which inspired Foster to make more.

The first costume that Foster made was a Maximilien Robespierre costume, worn by the squirrel when classes were learning about the French Revolution. Another was Napoleon’s coronation robes, complete with gold trim, as well as a costume of Klemens von Metternich, an Austrian diplomat in the 19th century.

The most recent costume Foster made for the squirrel was a pink dress. It was modeled after the painting “A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” one of George Seurat’s 1884 paintings.

“I don’t want to toot my own horn, but that was probably the most proud thing I did in that class,” Foster said.

Current AP Euro students are also making outfits for the squirrel. Sophomore Sophie Bracker-Sturm created a Shakespeare costume, complete with a tiny bag of rolled-up plays.

Bracker-Sturm doesn’t have any ideas for future costumes, but is confident she will make another.

“I spent five hours making that costume for him, and then I made the bag out of an old T-shirt that I cut up,” Bracker-Sturm said. “I worked on it with my dad, and it was really fun, so if I do make another one, it’ll be really good.”

The latest additions to the squirrel’s wardrobe have been made by Ace Grotta, a janitor in the building. Grotta cleans Murray’s room every night and had seen the squirrel wearing costumes a couple of times.

“I tend to try to make just doo-dads and whatnot for the teachers in my hallways if I can and if I figure out something that they like,” Grotta said.

When Grotta heard that Murray’s birthday was approaching, they decided to crochet two squirrel costumes. One was of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and the other was of a British World War I soldier, based off of a tip from history teacher Valerie Schrag.

Grotta found photos that they thought that they could best recreate, and began to make the costumes.

“I took a piece of notebook paper and traced the outline of the squirrel in two different dimensions,” Grotta said.

The costumes are crocheted, which is a skill that Grotta learned at a young age from their Great-Grandmother.

“I’d steal the end of her yarn and tie a different color to it so she could keep going and it would change colors while she worked,” Grotta said. “So I kind of just learned from watching her and making it up as I go.”

When Grotta gave the costumes to Murray, the reaction was exactly what they had hoped it would be.

“I just really enjoy just making people’s day,” Grotta said. “Like, I love to drop things off with my teachers and just have them explode with sunshine.”

Grotta’s costumes were also well-received by students.

“Those ones are pretty good,” Bracker-Sturm said. “I’m going to have to step up my game.”