By Sarah Schrock
As a kid, the appeal of homecoming traditions eluded me. It meant fancy dresses for my sisters, corsages taking up space in the refrigerator, and sitting in the freezing cold against the bleachers sipping hot cocoa while my brothers played football. I had no idea that it was traditionally the time for alumni to return to the school and field and celebrate among current co-eds, building school pride.
In Twisp, one tradition that comes back each year is the “snake.” If you were out in town on Wednesday evening (Oct. 18), you might have heard or seen the commotion. The “snake,” as it’s called, is a time-honored local tradition whereby teenagers gather at a central location — usually the Hank’s Harvest Foods parking lot — strip down to their underwear, link arms, and run through town like a human chain. They weave in and out of bars and restaurants, cheering and singing while they parade down Glover Street and back via the highway where they conclude with a dance party in the lot.
Homecoming is a memorable affair on many counts. A couple of years ago, I ran into my 1991 homecoming date at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop. We both immediately recognized one another, after 25 years. It could be the fact that he’s now a reality TV personality that I recognized him, but if it hadn’t been for that one date, I’d likely have been just another face in the crowd to him.
Homecoming is also a coming of age, especially for freshmen, as they embark on their first date. It’s never been an easy endeavor for teens to ask a peer on a date, nor is it easy to wait in clueless anticipation to see if someone will ask. It’s an emotional time for kids. This high-tech, teen-screen generation, however, is taking it to another level, enabled by social media and smartphones.
One example goes something like this: boy (or girl) buys or builds a bouquet of flowers and makes a signboard with a big question mark, with a subtext that says, “Homecoming 2017.” He then takes a selfie with his flowers and sign, and sends it via his phone and Snapchat to the lucky girl. He awaits the response. A selfie response with a happy emoji, “yes” written in the sand, or some other clever evocation of her answer, is sent back.
At Liberty Bell High School, seniors get their own personal parking spots. These precious pieces of real estate also serve as important asking locations for the big dance. A lucky girl or boy might return to their car at lunch to find it full of balloons with a note on the dashboard, and the answer is of course posted to Instagram or Snapchat. The exchange requires a lot of effort and cleverness in these young kids. The use of the smartphone in this way enables a delayed, measured response, unlike a face-to-face response.
Is this a good or bad consequence of this form of communication? I am not sure. It seems like a lot of pressure, but maybe it’s also less nerve-racking than making an evening phone call to the girl’s house to have her dad answer the phone, as it was in my day. Perhaps Monday night’s showing of the documentary film “Screenagers,” which is sponsored by the school district at The Barnyard Cinema, will shed some light on how social media is building or destroying social bravery among this generation.
I was at Liberty Bell the days leading up to homecoming. Whispers of who’s going with who, how the ask unfolded, and who said yes were in the air. But one tradition that Liberty Bell kids should be proud of at homecoming is the group date.
The group date is a newer trend that embraces inclusion, and I think it’s great. Everyone who wants to go to the dance can go with friends as opposed to waiting to be asked, or being brave enough to find a date. Also, if you haven’t noticed, the ratio of boys to girls in our small classes can be quite skewed, sometimes as much as 2:1. The group date provides the fun, the elegance and the pomp without all the circumstance, and most importantly the fear of social exclusion.
Now, if you are alumni of Liberty Bell or Twisp High, I’d love to hear your homecoming story from a previous generation. Tell me your homecoming tradition or memory!