I realize I’m kind of hitting the end of homecoming season (it’s almost Halloween for heaven’s sake!) but I felt the need to opine about homecomings of the past and what it meant in my tiny town and school.
Homecoming was fun way back in 1980-something. We had a whole week of dress up days at school and time to decorate our class floats. We had 50’s day with bobby socks and poodle skirts, we had nerd day with nose picking and pocket protectors and of course we had spirit day where the good old blue and gold was everywhere. We had at least one full day to decorate our class floats and more time during the week for touch-ups and any extra work we needed to do. Chicken wire and dinner napkins have never been so decorative!
Friday night was Powder Puff night where the girls became the football team and the boys became cheerleaders and homecoming royalty. I have never seen such homely ‘girls’ but the boys were good sports and great entertainment and the girls did what girls do best, proved we could do anything the boys could do! Friday was also class reunion night, not just classes who recently graduated but we had classes from several different decades and eras including classes from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. It was always fun to see the parents, grandparents and people you hadn’t seen for years return home and celebrate.
Saturday was the BIG day. It was the parade and food, the dance and of course the big game! So much fun and so many good memories. The homecoming parade was fun not just for us but for adults, little kids, everyone and everyone could participate. In fact, not to brag but my brother and I won awards in the parade several times (speaking of Halloween, one of our best was Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman and we even rode our actual horses)! We had a parade theme, floats, cars and trucks, horses, dogs….you name it, we had it and there were some crazy entrants in our little parade but it was FUN!
In the afternoon we played the big homecoming game. Bragging rights were on the line and believe me if we didn’t win the homecoming game, the dance later was not a whole lot of fun! After the game and before the dance we had a banquet. Not just a sandwich and some chips but an actual banquet with real hot food, rolls, punch, the works! It was always very nice and all of the high schoolers, families and people returning home came and ate and visited. Then we had the dance. The dance wasn’t just a d.j. and some loud teenage music but when I was younger we had an actual band. In later years there was a d.j. but both the bands and the d.j.’s played music for everyone to enjoy, not just the teenagers. Everyone danced, everyone talked and laughed and everyone had a good time.
Today, unfortunately, homecoming in my hometown has become what it is everywhere else, an event for the teenagers at the local high school. There is no more week-long event, no more float decorating time and definitely no BIG weekend. The game isn’t on Saturday anymore, there is no more banquet, the parade is a collection of people’s cars, farm equipment and a small float or two. The dance has become another prom and no one attends but the kids.
Now I’m not trying to disparage my hometown or my high school. I get it, many of the teachers are not from there and don’t want to spend their whole weekend doing homecoming. People are more spread out and many of them don’t have family in town anymore and lives are generally busier and more hectic. Over the years, people I met who grew up in other towns and different schools used to always tell me how weird that was, that homecoming was only for high school kids and I always took great pride in telling them how my town celebrated homecoming and honored the meaning of ‘homecoming’ by actually coming home!