What I remember from Homecoming Week 1989

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One of the pictures above is from my yearbook; it’s a picture of the THS Homecoming King (Jesse) and Queen (Heidi) back in 1989, my senior year of high school.  The other is the dance photo from my Junior year; my date was the lovely Jill.

For those of you who are not American, “Homecoming” is a week-long festival that American high school and university students organize in the early fall autumn.  Homecoming culminates in a football game and dance.

The high school version of this festival is particularly baffling.  Here are some of the traditions:

  • Classes are assigned certain areas of the school (usually hallways) that they are supposed to decorate.  A committee of students… often girls… meets the week before to argue bitterly over a decorating theme, and then agonize over time and resources.  They spend time after school or during the weekend painstakingly creating their decoration display, and then promise everyone they will update and maintain their decorations on every day of Homecoming week.  On Monday morning, when the student body shows up for school, they are often very positive about the decorations in each hallway.  Then by lunchtime, everybody stops caring.  By the end of the week, most of the decorations have been ripped down, trampled, and forgotten.
  • The student government brainstorms and advertises theme dress-up days.  Monday of Homecoming week tends to be a low risk-factor day… something that everyone can participate in without much thought, like “hat day” or “hoody day.”  The subsequent days tend to be higher in risk-factor, like “inside-out day,” or “pajama day.”  The Thursday of Homecoming week tends to be the most costume-y day… “zombie day,” “robot overlord day.”  And then Friday, the last day of Homecoming week, is the day that everyone dresses in the school colors.  Hopefully, if the student government has played their risk-factor PR correctly, there are a lot of people dressed as superfans.  The rich kids always just wore merch.
  • The Friday night of Homecoming week is the Homecoming football game.  I’m not sure how or why it’s a special game, but at least at my high school there was an expectation that a lot of alumni would be there, reliving their own high school football memories.  At halftime, the marching band preformed their regular halftime show, plus one very special and not-boring-at-all Homecoming formation.  We’d stand in that formation, and the the student government would name the Homecoming Royalty Court, which were a few boys and girls from the senior class who were nominated in a popularity contest.  The Court would come out and stand in formation, and then there would be some elaborate reveal that would name which boy and which girl were that year’s Homecoming King and Queen.  One year, the reveal arrived in an envelope, delivered by a helicopter which landed on the football field.  In my senior year, the nominees stood on some wooden stars; when we learned the names of the king and queen, we lit up the christmas lights taped to the star (which flashed and then immediately shorted out).  Then we gave the king and queen their crowns and scepters and then finally got everybody the hell out of the torrential rain.
  • The day after the Homecoming game is the Homecoming Dance.  I seem to remember alumni attending that dance, but of course now that idea seems abhorrent to me.  In my day we rented tuxes, which in our day we coordinated with our dates so that our bowties and cummerbunds (which we called “cumberbunds”) would match the color of our dates’ dresses.  We’d go to a fancy dinner dressed in our freaky formal clothes, and then show up at the school and stand around with our friends, while a hired dj played some top 40 records.  Classy!

Anyway, back in 1989 it was my senior year of high school, and my friends and I were in charge of Homecoming week.  I forget most of the details of that week, but I do remember that our adviser was mad at me on Thursday for not dressing up.

We had scheduled Thursday as “Accident Day,” and I’m pretty sure that no student government in the history of our school had scheduled such a high-risk costume-y Thursday.  I had been planning… I don’t remember what I had been planning.  All I remember was that the night before Accident Day was the Loma Prieta earthquake (the “World Series Earthquake”).  And when I woke up that morning, I had no desire to dress like I had been in an accident.  Other people showed up that day with ripped clothes, blood stains; I remembere one person had make-up that looked like his eyeball was falling out; someone else had glued pieces of pipe to his shirt so it looked like he was impaled by it.  I didn’t begrudge them for dressing up that day; in fact, it was me who had helped organize that day.  I just didn’t want to dress up myself the day after so many people had died horrible deaths… mostly by crushing.

The next day, Friday, I remember we had a substitute in physics class, and the sub made an earthquake joke.  It was a dumb joke about shaking; I don’t remember how it went.  I just remember that everybody laughed.  Immediately afterward, I chimed in loudly, saying “200 PEOPLE ARE DEAD, HAHAHA!”  and then calmly went back to my homework.

Ally Barr, a junior, asked me incredulously, with alarm in her voice, “are you ok?”  as if there was something wrong with me.

“Am I ok?  Yes, I am ok,” I told her, and neither she nor the sub spoke to me for the rest of class.

And that’s what I remember about THS Homecoming 1989.

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