Story behind Lakes burnt orange and royal blue colors

By Tim Marsh, Lakes High School Class of 1966

There are “givens” concerning Lakes High School. Colors for the school are burnt orange and royal blue. Lakes teams are called the Lancers. In fact, even before Lakes opened in September 1962, the school colors were selected. But, when classes began in the 1962-1963 school year, there was not a nickname for Lakes teams. Nor was there a fight song or alma mater. For that matter, there was not a senior class either.

Lakes Colors

Lakes 1965 grad Rick Austin, 63, Kansas City, Mo., has first-hand knowledge of selection of the school colors and in the selection of the Lancers nickname, too. His father, the late Gerry Austin, was Lakes’ first athletic director and head football coach after serving as the successful head football coach at Clover Park High. Rick was starting quarterback for his father’s first three Lakes teams – the 1962, 1963 and 1964 seasons – and also played basketball and was a baseball pitcher for the Lancers.

“Dad was instrumental in the choice of colors at Lakes, with administration approval of course. The main need was to order the football uniforms for the first season,” said Rick.

Why burnt orange? Gerry Austin thought Darrell Royal was a great football coach. Royal gained his fame as coach (1957–1976) of the University of Texas Longhorns. According to the University of Texas at Austin website, Royal chose the burnt orange color for the Longhorns’ football jerseys. (By the way, before Royal joined Texas in 1957 as its coach, he coached one season, 1956, for the University of Washington, Gerry’s alma mater.)

Another reason for burnt orange and royal blue color scheme, said Rick, was because it was not used by other schools in the Puget Sound League or used by many high school teams in the state.

Rick remembers before the football season began when his father brought all the Lakes football jerseys – they were burnt orange with white numerals – to the Austin home not far from the northern shore of American Lake. “We had the jerseys spread out all over the family room floor and I got to pick my own number by ‘coach’s son privilege,’ Rick said. “The jersey manufacturer only put lower numbers on smaller jerseys. I needed a larger jersey, so that’s why I picked number 42,” he said.

Lancers nickname

Lancers was one of the several nicknames names suggested by Lakes students during the 1962-1963 school year. Rick Austin was one of the students casting a vote in favor of the winning “Lancers.” During that first school year, Lakes teams played varsity teams from smaller schools and junior varsity teams from larger schools. Thus, until that vote, those Lakes teams in early games of the first year wore burnt orange and royal blue, but they did not have a nickname. In the 1963-1964 school year, Lakes began playing full varsity schedules as a member of the Puget Sound League. League members included Clover Park, Franklin Pierce, Puyallup, Auburn and others.

An interesting sideline to Lakes not having a senior class in 1962-1963 concerns the classes housed in the then new Lakes High School. Sophomores used the school’s sophomore wing. Juniors used the junior wing. However, seventh graders were housed in the senior wing. Many of those students would return to Lakes in the 1965-1966 school year as sophomores. Consequently, as seniors during the 1967-1968 school year they were in the senior wing for a second time.

Lakes Alma Mater and Lakes Fight Song

During the 1963-1964 season, the Lakes boys’ basketball team, coached by Holly Gee, had an outstanding season and played Renton in the Highline gym for the league championship. Lakes won, 47-46, in an upset. It was announced over the public address system late in the game that the fans of the team winning the game could sing its alma mater at the game’s conclusion. Lakes won. There was momentary silence – no Alma Mater — followed by cheering. At that point, Lakes did not have an Alma Mater or Fight Song. Later that school year student-written music and words for the Alma Mater and Fight Song were composed/written and adopted.

Austin postscripts

Gerry Austin — From Kelso, Gerry Austin, who died at age 70 in 1994, was a quarterback at Kelso High and for the University of Washington during the 1942, 1943, 1946 and 1947 seasons. His career as a Husky included being the UW’s quarterback and punter in the 1944 Rose Bowl football game. A member of the Washington State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, he coached football at Clover Park from 1949 to 1961, then coached for six years at Lakes. He compiled a 118-53-8 record at Clover Park and Lakes with his Warriors and Lancers football teams winning four Puget Sound League championships. He became the Clover Park School District athletic director in 1975 and retired in 1981. His wife/Rick’s mother, Lillian Austin, died in 2006. Like her husband, she was a Kelso High grad. Prior to retiring in 1986, she was an elementary school secretary for more 20 years in the Clover Park School District.

Rick Austin — The son of Gerry and Lillian Austin, he was born in 1946 in Seattle and lives in Kansas City, Mo., where he is financial adviser working with business and estate owners for Austin & Associates, a firm he owns with his son, Luke Austin. He was an outstanding pitcher for Coach Ron Storaasli’s Lakes baseball teams. Selected by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the 1968 Major League Baseball draft, he pitched for the Indians in 1970 and 1971 and and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975 and 1976. He was with Japan’s Hankyu Braves in the 1974 season. While Rick loves baseball, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Gerry, and be a college quarterback. But, there was more interest in him from colleges for his baseball talents, so he pitched for Coach Bobo Brayton at Washington State University. Rick takes satisfaction that his son, Luke, was a college quarterback at Washington University in St. Louis.

Luke Austin — the son of Rick and Verna Austin, he was a three sport-star at Brookfield, Mo., High School. One of two athletes at Brookfield, a four-year school, to ever earn 12 varsity letters, he lettered in football, basketball and golf. He was a quarterback for the Washington University (in St. Louis) Bears football for two seasons before an injury ended his football career. A finance/management graduate of Washington University, he earned a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business. He works for and is an owner of Austin & Associates.


Gerry Austin


Rick Austin

Photos of Rick and Gerry Austin from the 1964 Lakes High School Legend yearbook.


  1. Thom Stewart says

    Thanks for a great article. Interesting to finally learn about this portion of school history 32 years after graduating from LHS.

  2. says

    Yes, this is great info about what are very prominent colors in Lakewood after all these years. Thanks for researching and sharing.

  3. Jan Holmes Cook says

    Wonderful information! My dad and brother lived in the basement of our just being built house so my brother could play football. First graduating class of 64′. I was at Mann in the 9th grade and lil sis at Lakes in the 7th. Tim wrote a great explanation of colors and song.

  4. Helen Coasdill Montfort says

    I remember the choosing of the colors and team name so well. My dad was on the staff at Clover Park and Lakes and would report on the progress of the decisions nightly at dinner. It was a momentous decision and an exciting time. I graduated with the class 0f 1966, my sister in 1968 and my brother in 1970. Lakes was a great school and innovative for it’s time.

  5. Shotzy Durkin says

    Great information. I remember the Austin’s very well and it is nice to hear Rick’s success. I ended up graduating from Clover Park but went all through elementary & jr. high with the Lakes seniors!