High School Halls: School Spirit

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday! This weekend is Homecoming for my local school district, and school spirit is running high. It got me to thinking about school spirit activities for my High School Halls series.

That Was Then

Long ago, back in another century, a different decade called The 80’s, I remember pep rallies, cheerleaders, Homecoming mums, our fight song, school colors, the mascot, and much more.

We were the Calallen Wildcats with colors of maroon and white. Original, right?

Pep Rally

I played the flute part of our school’s fight song at every pep rally and every football game until I was marching band’s drum major in my senior year. In that last year, I wore something special on pep rally days–a white shirt with a maroon-and-white jumper and a drum major boot on the front. Our flag and rifle corps and our cheerleaders also wore uniforms on game days, and the football players wore their jerseys.

Each Friday, we purchased spirit ribbons to wear on our clothing. They came in maroon with white text or white with maroon text and said things like, “Sock it to ’em!” or “Beat the ____.” I still have a special one for band that I wore for Homecoming:

*waving at Susan Hanscheck, my fabulous co-drum major*

Our cheerleaders were awesome, doing far more than leading cheers on the stadium track. They were not only yell leaders but gymnasts and tumblers with pyramids that defied gravity and stunts that relied on catching each other at just the right time. Yes, I mocked them then (hey, I was in band!), with their bouncy hair, their bouncy feet, and their bouncy personalities. But I was rather proud of our young ladies, especially when they placed at the Nationals cheerleading competition–because, yeah, they were that good.

I recall a cheer from school that few from less-football-inclined areas seem to know. Maybe this is an indication of how seriously we take our football in Texas, but when we were on defense, sometimes the cheer was:

Blood makes the grass grow. Hit! Hit!
Blood makes the grass grow. Hit! Hit!

Yet most of the cheers were more along the lines of:

Our team is red-hot.
Our team is red-hot.
Our team is R-E-D, red, H-O-T, hot.
Once we start, we can’t be stopped.

Homecoming is the quintessential be-true-to-your-school weekend, with more school spirit swag than ever. The spirit ribbons were bigger, the hoopla of the game was grander. The atmosphere sizzled with a desire to win and celebrate our alma mater. At the football game itself, our pride was really on the line: No one wants to lose their homecoming game. So we cheered harder and applauded louder when we won.

In my day, a young man might purchase a mum for you and/or invite you to the homecoming dance. There would be a real mum flower surrounded by a border with school color ribbons hanging down. Little trinkets were added, like a football or a cheerleading megaphone or a small cowbell. If you really wanted to go for broke, the guy gave his girl a double-mum, with two flowers included.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall any big spirit stuff happening during basketball, track, volleyball, or tennis seasons. We went gung-ho with school spirit in the fall, and I presume that lasted us for the rest of the year.

This Is Now

There are still pep rallies, cheerleaders, and school spirit swag, of course. However, some things are a little different. While my school’s cheerleaders were ahead of their time with tumbling tricks, it appears that cheerleading as a sport and its connection to gymnastics has grown by leaps and bounds. No longer it is enough to do a kick or a jump. Many of these young ladies, and men in some schools, are incredibly athletic and well-trained. Cheerleading and tumbling classes abound, and personal coaching is available in some places. Still, the main job of a cheerleader remains the same: Get the crowd excited about winning the game.

(Pink pom-poms for
breast cancer awareness.)

I haven’t seen any spirit ribbons, but the football players still wear jerseys on football days. And in my neck-of-the-woods, elementary kids are encouraged to wear their recreational league jerseys as a show of support to those whom they emulate–the high school team.

There are still homecoming mums, but I haven’t seen a real flower in years. And a double-mum would be practically an insult, I suppose, since they are now larger than Kansas and have more bling than a Kardashian wedding:

The honest truth is that I thought mums were hideous then, and I think they are more hideous now. You can no longer even pin this baby onto a shirt or dress. It is hung by a ribbon over the girl’s neck like a cowbell on a cow. Moreover, the guys now get their own version of a mum, which are about the size we gals used to wear. (Can you tell that I can’t really figure out how all of this is related to school spirit? Someone, please advise.)

A nice addition in my area, though, is a Homecoming Parade down our town’s main street. It’s well-attended and fun for the high school students. It’s a good kickoff for the weekend and a way for the community to show support for the local team. Moreover, the homecoming dance is still happening, although I haven’t been asked to chaperon so I can’t give the details on that event. I’m laying bets on the inclusion of a disco ball.

I suspect school spirit is the same in the 50’s and the 80’s and the 2010’s as far as students wanting to feel part of something big. We revel in those moments and recall those fond memories. Perhaps the “ten percenters” weren’t involved, but the majority of the high school wants to engage in the music, the cheers, the outward signs, and the inner excitement of showing school spirit.

What school spirit activities do you remember from high school? What school spirit activities do you take part in now? How important do you think school spirit is to teenagers?

25 Years and Still Looking Good!

After the post in anticipation of my 25th year high school reunionI figured I should post an update on how it went!  Did I wow them all with my brilliant success and gorgeous looks?

Well, no.

In spite of thinking ahead of time what kind of impression I would make, those thoughts and concerns fell completely by the wayside once I saw my old pals.  I had a great time catching up with people and seeing where life has led them.  There were plenty of friends who didn’t make it to the reunion whom I would love to see, and friends who have since passed that I hope to see one day as well. 

A few personal lessons stand out to me from the weekend: 

Your same-aged peers are the best people to ask how you look.  And may I say, we look GREAT!  Haven’t changed a bit!  Perhaps we are sporting a few more pounds, struggling with hair loss (sorry, guys), wearing corrective lenses, counting varicose veins on our legs, or facing down crow’s feet in the mirror, but we feel young.  And I heard plenty of comments that we still look good.  Maybe we’re lying to ourselves and each other, but I think the Class of 1986 has aged beautifully.  Maybe in 25 more years, we’ll finally look the 43 years we actually are.  

The Breakfast Club

Cliques don’t matter in the long run.  Yes, some of us were smarty pants geeks, some of us were popular jocks, some were slackers, some go-getters, and so and so on.  None of that matters 25 years later.  We were like one big happy family, and everyone was excited to see everyone else.  Some people definitely had more memories to share with each other, but I think everyone felt included as long as they mingled.  All of those divisions seemed so important in junior high and high school, but the reality is that we were just trying to make it through back then.  Perhaps we are older and wiser now. 

Some things change, some don’t.  If you head to your hometown, drive around and think about how things used to be.  For instance, there are still Wienerschnitzels in Corpus Christi, but no Hershey Hotel.  The mall is where it used to be, but it’s been renamed from Padre Staples to La Palmera and looks really different.  My old house looks mostly the same (from the outside), but there is a different fence around it and the landscaping has grown up.  People are the same way, too.  Some things about us stay the same, and some things change. 

Life is full of surprises – some good, some not.  Some slackers straightened up and become family men and devoted moms.  Some high-achieving students didn’t fare as well in college and the real world (heard about them rather than saw).  Some people became successful teachers, doctors, or businesspeople. Some people fell in love with high hopes but ended up experiencing the pain of divorce.  Some people who never had a great relationship in high school have been married for umpteen years (like me).  And one fellow student lost his beloved wife to cancer when their child was quite young.  When you are 18 years old, you look out at your life ahead of you and think how great it can be!  But life isn’t likely to unfold exactly as you imagine.  You must learn to delight in life’s serendipitous moments and weather its storms.  Overall, however, life is a blessing.

Aren't they cute?

I dance better now than I used to.  This is hardly some big life lesson, but I got taken out on the dance floor by a guy who could clearly cuts a rug better than I.  And I didn’t fall down – even though I was wearing my animal-print wedge flip-flops.  I still would like those ballroom dancing classes (hint, hint, hubby!), but I fared okay.  I did not embarrass myself or my partner by stumbling or doing an Elaine dance.

Thanks to the reunion organizers for a fabulous weekend, amazing barbeque (Howard’s Farmhouse BBQ & Catering), and a new set of memories with my high school pals.  I would recommend to anyone to return for a high school reunion at least once.  You might be surprisingly glad you did! 

Have you attended a high school reunion?  Have you kept in touch with your high school friends?  Have you returned to your hometown after many years away?  What have you learned with any of these experiences?

Reunited, and It Feels So Good

This coming weekend, I am attending my high school reunion.  Want to guess which year I graduated? 

a.            1982
b.            1986
c.             1991
d.            1993 

Thank you for all picking D, as I’m sure you did!  However, B is the correct answer.  Yep, it’s been 25 years since I donned a scratchy graduation gown and a cardboard cap and flung tassels from one side to the other. 

There were 213 students in my graduating class at Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, Texas.  What do I remember about high school?   I participated in choir and was named Best Female Singer at my senior prom.  (Any rock group need a lead?)  I was drum major of our marching band, which went to state competition three of my four high school years.  I didn’t date a whole lot.  I wasn’t in the popular crowd.  I was into English and history even back then.  And our high school got out for three full days during the Nueces County Livestock Show because too many students were involved to hold classes; plus many of us went to the livestock show, even if we hadn’t raised a pig or a sheep, baked an apple pie, painted a picture, crocheted something, or roped calves. 

But enough about my past, here is what I wonder now:  What do people hope to convey about themselves when attending a high school reunion?  Of course, you assume that others want to know what you managed to do in those years since you swore you’d be BFFs 4-ever and everyone was 2 Nice 2 B 4-gotten!  But what else do we think about?

I theorize that most people headed to a high school reunion want to convey one or more of the following messages: 

I’ve done something worthwhile since graduation.  Whether it’s the five children you spawned, the company you started, fabulous vacations you’ve taken, or volunteer work that contributes to the good of humanity, you want to say that you accomplished something.  If you were voted Most Likely to Succeed, the pressure might be high to deliver on achievements.  But even the stoner who barely eked out a diploma with more knowledge of Nirvana lyrics than the American Revolution may want others to know he straightened out and did something useful with his life. 

I’m older and wiser.  Young and stupid – it’s almost redundant.  Every youth does something unbelievably foolish that you would never do again or, God forbid, let your children do.  And your high school friends were eyewitnesses!  They can testify to your idiocy.  Hopefully, we don’t freeze each other in time and expect that we are as stupid today as we were then.  We want to come across as having learned a few things in life and being at least a smidgeon smarter than we were when we called that guy twenty-five times one night to breathe heavily into the phone or mooned a car of middle-aged businessmen from the band bus. 

I’m sorry.  You hurt somebody’s feelings in high school.  Intentionally or accidentally, you did it.  Looking back, you may be embarrassed at the ugly names you called someone, the way you excluded a person from your clique, or the theft of someone else’s boyfriend (even if he was incredibly hot!).  Now that the years have passed and you are wiser, it would be nice to issue a blanket apology:  “To anyone I injured emotionally, I am sorry that I was selfish and made you cry every night; plot revenge against the world; or become a writer to work through your feelings in a socially acceptable way.”  

You should have asked me out when you had the chance.  Whatever your appeal is today – looks, money, fame, charm, whatever – you hope that one of those people who rebuffed you in high school is thinking, “I should have asked him/her out!”  Yep, you should have!  Even if you are happily married to the love of your life, there is likely someone from high school that you had a crush on who didn’t give you the time of day or fed you the “I think of you as a friend” line.  And you want that person to wish they had it to do over again, so they could grovel at your feet and declare you to be the god/goddess they had been looking for – at which point, you would smirk and say, “No, thanks.”  Okay, we aren’t that cruel, but we might want that guy or gal to notice us and at least think, Hmmm. 

I liked you back then.  Just as common as the crush and rebuff scenario is the I-never-told-you-how-I-felt situation.  In fact, I know a couple of friends who got in touch with old high school chums on Facebook and eventually one said, “I had a crush on you,” to which the other said, “Why didn’t you tell me?  I totally would have gone out with you!”  Maybe there is some of that at high school reunions too – a realization that if we’d had more gumption back then, we might have dated someone that we never knew liked us. 

I’m still fun.  Ultimately, you go to a high school reunion to have fun once again with people you enjoyed before.  Even with a serious job, home ownership, and knee-biters getting in the way of your current social life, and the fact that you no longer “cruise the main drag” looking for a good time (at least I hope you don’t), you are forever that fun guy/ girl who  did crazy things, made others laugh, and danced the night away.  You know have to have a good time!  Whatever your brand of “good time” (drinks and karaoke, bustin’ moves on the dance floor, telling jokes, etc.), let loose again!  Create some new memories! 

Romy & Michelle - Never saw it; heard it was funny!

I do not plead guilty to all of the above, only some.  And I SWEAR I have never mooned anyone; if you had known me in high school, you would know how completely incapable of that I am!  But I am definitely looking forward to seeing familiar faces, even if our faces all hold a few more wrinkles and more tales to tell. 

Have you attended a high school reunion?  What was it like?  What impression did you hope to make?  What impression did you make?  Did you learn anything interesting?  And what should I wear to my reunion?