Hook, Line and Sinker

By Tony Hooker
It smells like teen spirit.

And I’m not talking about the feminine beauty product. According to popular lore, the late Curt Cobain found inspiration for his generational anthem “Smells like Teen Spirit” when a young lady in his company teased him about smelling like the women’s deodorant.  

No, what I’m talking about is the homecoming festivities at my alma mater and high schools all across the country.

According to Google, the first institution to invite their alumni back to campus for a weekend of revelry, culminating in a football game, was Baylor University in 1909. The University of Illinois claims to be the first to use the term “Homecoming” as part of the festivities, in 1910.  

Here in the river city, many of the traditions have crossed over generations. The homecoming parade, with its plethora of beautiful young people riding on the backs of hot convertibles, goes back at least 50 years, and probably even further. Other traditions, such as the weeklong competition between classes for the “spirit stick” have more recent origins that I’m not certain of. Maybe Mr. Swan can enlighten me, as he has his finger on the pulse of VGHS history like no one else.  

For me personally, this was a season of change. For the first time since 2001, there wasn’t a little HLS family member in the parade, and to be truthful, its kind of caught me in the feels. I’ve been taking hoco Friday afternoon off for nearly two decades, and this year I stayed at the office, holding down the fort. Strange. It felt a bit strange and sad.

It’s all part of my cognitive dissonance regarding the fact that my babies are growing up, I suppose.  

Anyway, back to this year’s festivities. The sounds of our public service vehicles leading the way have long served as notice that something special has occurred in our town, and it usually involves the school. I am happy that our emergency responders are proud to be a part of our community, and as an added bonus, the lights and whistles and sirens might serve to inspire kids sitting along the parade route to consider joining the fire, police or ambulance department. Talk about a win/win. Sharing in our community’s celebrations while simultaneously recruiting future members.  

A new tradition began this year, as VGHS students and their dates gathered up town at the plaza for photographs before the dance. Just another way that the long dormant space is being used for the greater good of the community. I must say that the setting, with its fall theme, made a wonderful place for photos, and kudos should be extended to all who played a part in decorating the space. I am equally certain that downtown businesses were thankful for the influx of customers as families came and went to the photo opportunity. The tradition of gathering in a single location for pictures is one that evolved after I graduated, as far as I remember. We used to have our pictures taken at the home of our dates, and that was about it. I like this new tradition, personally, because it allows the kids to have photos taken with all their friends and acquaintances rather than a select few. I also like the tradition of announcing the HOCO royalty at the dance on Saturday night as well. If my swiftly fading memory serves me, the dance used to be on Friday after the game? Again, if anyone wishes to enlighten me, feel free.  

New traditions. Old traditions. It’s all part of what makes living in our village, and in any village, really, special. Here’s to homecoming. I hope that the students made good decisions and had a blast.  

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