Pen in Hand: THS Homecoming Week: A Tehachapi Tradition Continues | Way of life


This week is reunion week at Tehachapi High, hopefully culminating with the football game on Friday night and a dance on Saturday night. These school traditions seem to have their origins as far back as the 1930s at THS and evolved over the following decades.

The week usually features various mostly friendly competitions between the different classes, including decorating the hall, making floats for the return parade, and more. shorts, which got covered in mud. Some of the more gladiatory Homecoming competitions have been phased out.

There was also a huge bonfire every year, usually Wednesday or Thursday evening and open to the community. This was another chance for class rivalry, as different classes vied for which one could provide the most scrap wood, tree branches, tumbleweed, etc. The great fire lit up the sky above me, and I remember feeling the heat 100 feet one way.

The tradition of the bonfire ended, mainly for safety reasons, many years ago. It’s hard to imagine now, especially when we have to deal with poor air quality day in and day out due to the numerous giant forest fires in California. Deliberately creating fire and smoke doesn’t sound as appealing as it once did.

Friday has always been the biggest day of Homecoming events. It was then that the reunion parade, made up of assorted floats filled with exuberant teenagers, made its way through town. This year the pandemic continues to exert its evil influence and has apparently led to the parade being abandoned, but hopefully it will be back next year. It’s always fun to see what the creativity of young people produces in the design of the different tanks.

Friday evening is packed with activities, with the football match and the coronation of the king and queen of reunion.

When I grew up in Tehachapi, I always loved going to the Homecoming game. One of the highlights for the young people was the throwing of the commemorative soccer balls. They were small white plastic soccer balls surrounded by green Warrior rings and green letters.

The soccer balls were usually donated by Farmers Supply, a former Tehachapi company that provided feed, seeds, chicks, plants, etc. It belonged to Bob Gassaway and I loved going there with my uncle Henry and seeing his friend LE Sanders. , a good, good man from Tehachapi who was always friendly and engaging. Farmers Supply is now called Mountain Garden Nursery, owned by knowledgeable Rick Gillies.

Souvenir footballs were kept in large cardboard boxes near the side fence and were carefully guarded. When the time came, the cheerleaders tossed them to fans and hordes of enthusiastic kids. I usually managed to mark one of those precious memories, and I can remember the feeling of elation as I ran away from the pack of people, successfully hugging my own little soccer ball.

As a child of Tehachapi attending home football matches, you go through stages over the years. At the beginning, when you’re really small, you have to stay with your family in the stands. As you get older you switch to an unattended status and you can take trips to the snack bar or run with friends in the grassy area along the track just north of the soccer field itself.

It feels like freedom, and the lush, spongy green grass would seem vast and inviting. Children of different ages mingle in their own small groups, the younger ones run and play while subtly observing the older ones, who were mostly too cool to run.

I remember I was a little boy marveling at the events of Homecoming. The Homecoming Queen contestants, with their long, pretty dresses, were like Disney princesses to me. They would be transported slowly around the track, each of them on the hood of a Corvette driven by its owner. These American classics, often with metallic paint, looked like some of my Hot Wheels cars that sort of grew bigger to become real vehicles as they became cars for girls.

To a small child, the soccer players themselves seemed not only to be THS warriors, but real warriors, fighting on the pitch. I loved seeing the players in their Tehachapi uniforms burst through the paper banner held by the cheerleaders at the start of the second half.

In truth, there has been a lot of heroism on Coy Burnett’s pitch over the years. It takes tenacity and courage to spend two hours outdoors in a full contact, cold weather sport of Tehachapi that can be so bitter that people don’t even like to walk from their cars back home. And there have been runs, throws, catches, and other displays of incredible athletic prowess over the years.

Legendary college coach Gary Ogilvie, and his equally legendary successor Steve Denman, would stalk the sidelines during the game, the epitome of concentrated intensity, like a general in an epic conflict. Bark orders (call out coins), confer with other coaches, try to use all possible strategies and resources, inspire players to win the enthusiastic hometown fans, sometimes in the wind, fog, rain or even snow. It was a dramatic spectacle for a young person from Tehachapi.

I eventually got older and became a HRT student myself. As a freshman, I was even part of Homecoming Court, wearing a suit and tie and offering a supportive arm to Princess Tami DeMontmorency as she walked the grassy field in high heeled shoes for the halftime ceremony. Sure, freshmen never won (who would vote for a freshman to win?), But it was still fun to participate.

I wish all current THS students a fun and positive reunion week experience. It is in many ways a throwback to an earlier and more innocent era in American culture. I hope our 2021 teens can enjoy it without being too jaded or cynical.

Oh, and I had another chance to join Homecoming Court when I was a senior. When they announced the Homecoming King, and I heard my name called, I smiled slowly and in my mind I turned to the north end of the soccer field where the little kids were running and playing. One of them stopped and looked, and I momentarily crossed my eyes with the 6 year old version of me, who turned around in a mixture of wonder and surprise before disappearing. . .

Have a good week.

Jon Hammond has been writing for Tehachapi News for over 30 years. Send an email to [email protected]

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