18 Feb Something to cheer about
by Vivian Hogue
Except for playing school ground baseball and powder puff football in high school, then fencing in college, my sports experience is quite limited.
In the early 1960s, Conway secondary schools did not have female team sports. We did not feel neglected, form protests or storm school board meetings as if it was the end of life as we knew it. Instead, the ladies were very active in band, cheerleading and drill team and quite content with that.
I recently viewed my old yearbooks, flipping through the pages knowing not to stop at the honor society, homecoming court, beauty review or math club. But there I was in the journalism class and, of all things, the drill team! It must have been a social thing as I knew nothing about organized sports except it was good when your team threw a ball over a goal or in a basket.
My mother may have received the successful drill team tryout news with mixed feelings. She was 60 at the time, and I was kid No. 5. She probably hoped she was near the end of 28 years of school activities, but she discovered she had to make a uniform. Other mothers or their friends were doing the same.
Mother was an accomplished seamstress and spent her summer making the outfit after purchasing the blue corduroy, white shirts and white skirt lining. The letter “C” and a white bulky sweater came later. Today, a whole team orders matching uniforms, shoes, socks, gloves and pompons from a national company, each set for hundreds of dollars.
Most of our practices took place in the gym, which was then only 7 years old. It was also there where we gathered and made our large pompons out of tissue paper. We looked fairly “uniform” in our uniforms while participating in pep rallies, parades and games. The auditorium roared with cheering on Fridays. Parades meant flashy walking routines and stepping over horse deposits. Local games were played in the Hendrix College football stadium.
Our usual Thanksgiving Day game was with the Morrilton Devil Dogs. One year we performed while sleet stung as it pelted against our faces. Another unbearably cold game later required hours of wrapping my feet in warm towels before I could walk.
Our routines comprised rhythmic hand motions, hula hoops and painted cardboard cutouts. Forty-two of us stepped in formation to “Alley Oop” and “Mack the Knife.” Trips on the school bus with seats full of teenaged girls were taken in stride by our sponsor, Judy Chandler. We sang, “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for way too many miles, and as we tired out we sang “Deep Purple” and “In the Still of the Night.” We thought we were good enough for American Bandstand.
There were several turning points on the horizon as I put away my uniform. In a short time our stadium would be a memory. Skirt lengths would show that we had ankles AND knees! The special train trip the school made to a Hope game would only be found in our recollections, as passenger trains were discontinued several months later.
We never realized that the rest of that decade and long after would leave us with gratitude for our era and something to “cheer” about.
A native of Conway, Vivian Lawson Hogue graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in art education. A retired teacher, she worked in the Conway School District for 23 years. She is editor of the Faulkner County Historical Society’s semi-annual publication, “Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings.” She can be reached at [email protected].