When I was in high school, I had few dates but lots of friends who were boys. I think I was more interested in their conversation than what the girls were talking about, and they accepted me. We were in college prep classes together and knew each other well.
Cheerleader selection at Portland High School in the 60s was quite different from cheerleader tryouts/gymnastics requirements now in place. We had a simple way of choosing cheerleaders—by popular vote. Each class elected one and the football team elected two. Six cheerleaders were plenty.
But nevertheless I was shocked when I was told that the football boys had elected me as one of the cheerleaders to represent them my senior year. Wow! I was very academic and not at all athletic, so the idea had never occurred to me. I was excited, because this would give a whole new angle to my social life. Maybe now I’d actually have one.
I knew my parents enough, however, to be hesitant to tell them my good news. Totally supportive of any academic endeavor, they had strong opinions about modesty and good taste and prudent behavior.
Though Daddy and I were close, I decided to tell Mother first, hoping that my excitement and positive attitude about it would sway her. I jumped off the bus and ran in the house to tell her as soon as I got home and she was excited for me. But, as usual, she said, “We’ll need to talk to your daddy about it.” That was the part I dreaded.
When Daddy came home, his first response was no surprise. “Absolutely not!” he said, with the “discussion ended” tone in his voice.
Mother said, “Let’s talk about it and see what’s involved.”
Atypically, he stood his ground with her. “No daughter of mine is going to cavort around in everyone in a short skirt and showing her underwear and body parts that are supposed to be covered! I can’t believe you would even consider it.”
We had the weekend to “decide,” so I stayed out of their way. I could tell they were still discussing it.
Finally, on Sunday night, they called me to come talk to them in the living room. She had actually talked him into it! I couldn’t believe my ears. His requirements—skirt to the knees, no cartwheels or back flips that would show my panties, no missing church for any sports reason, no effect on my academics. They were all easy to agree to at the time, and the skirt length was the only challenge. The cartwheels and back flips I couldn’t do anyway!
Once I’d signed up and started registering for my senior year, another problem arose. Cheerleader practice was always during fifth period—scheduled as a regular gym class because most of the girls had to catch the school bus home right after school. I needed to take American history fifth period because the only other time it was offered was second period and I was taking Chemistry then. It was only offered that one period in our small town high school.
My scientist father would not let me out of Chemistry. Instead, I went to summer school in Nashville with him, taking American History under Dr Holden at Peabody Demonstration School in Nashville and thus missing cheerleader camp. When I bemoaned that necessity, my parents assured me that I was intelligent enough that the other girls could quickly teach me the cheers when they returned.
I knew my lack of athleticism or dance would soon show when they started teaching me, but the other girls were very patient and I managed to get through it. Mother was my staunch ally throughout, even supporting me when the basketball boys elected me to cheer for them as well. So when I remember that time, I think Mother was the best cheerleader in the story.
Today would have been my mother’s 93rd birthday. Now she’s cheering me on from a better place–part of that great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 12.