It’s that time of year when high schoolers paint streets, store windows and themselves to celebrate school pride—even if they don’t know why.
I didn’t really know what homecoming was about when I got in a paint fight with the Senior Class President while slathering a big “W” on the intersection of Washington and Elberta in my hometown. All I knew was “Shawn” was cute and paying attention to me, even if it meant having paint stuck in my hair.
Homecoming week activities included dressing up for “backwards day” and “silly hair day,” assemblies, pep rallies, a parade, cheering on our football team to another loss, then going to the dance with a dork. It’s all part of youthful magic and documented in a collection of photos my children mock me mercilessly about (I try to explain that everyone had sleeves and hair that big).
Actually, homecoming is supposed to focus on alumni—foxes turned fossils who used to rule the school and thought they were invincible and immortal. But age happens, so it’s nice to have a chance to return to our high school roots to be reminded we were once young and clueless. Maybe there should be a day when the alumni go walk around the school halls with our clothes on backwards and our hair done silly.
Then again, my teenagers would think that’s just a regular day for me, so scratch that.
I don’t think homecoming focuses on alumni much anymore. The tradition originated back when a community centered around the local high school or college because the athletic, cultural and club events were the main source of entertainment. Then bowling alleys and TVs were invented and people didn’t need to dress up and go to a high school banquet for date night anymore.
When I was in high school, I remember during homecoming week there was an “alumni assembly” where former students came back and performed. A girl who’d become a prima ballerina for Ballet West danced for us. There was also this really funny guy who told jokes, played the guitar and sang goofy folk songs. I couldn’t believe they rounded up a dude that old to come back and perform at his alma mater (he was probably in his thirties).
It was memorable enough that I still recall songs he sang: Peter, Paul and Mary’s humorous little league lament Right Field, and a tune called Gimme Some from a little known Broadway musical Golden Boy.
The lyrics go:
Beer and whiskey, whiskey and beer, makes your head start aching, makes your eyes unclear.
Makes you waste your money, turns you blind and dumb.
Similar verses relating the vices of smoking, loose women and gambling follow, with a finale verse of:
Will I ever get smart? I doubt it.
Tell me something’s bad and I can’t live without it.
I’d like to see that performance get cleared for a high school assembly nowadays, right?
It’s a nice gesture though, coming together once a year as a community to connect and celebrate old and young, then and now. Though maybe shy away from inviting a former class clown to come back and perform for impressionable children.