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Frames of Time...

012_04 - Five Girls and a Guy
I don't really enjoy sports, but for one year in school, I attended every single game.

It was my first year at Grapevine Middle School. Grapevine, Texas, was a small town between Dallas and Fort Worth. It was known for it's lovely lake, and little else. My favorite sight upon driving into the city was the back of a drive-in movie screen which shouted in large letters, "Grapevine: City of Opportunity". As you passed the large screen you saw the drive-in was long closed with weeds growing higher than the car speaker stands.

A true small town, the main street was about two blocks long and featured every store in the city. The local drugstore is where I got my first fix of comic books. It still had the fountain counter where you could order sodas and ice cream. The movie theater was not in great shape. In fact, the balcony had been damaged in a fire years earlier and was "off limits" should it fall. (I thought it interesting that you could still sit under the balcony.)

Grapevine schools had the same small town feel. The best thing about the school, in my mind, was that it was only a block away from where we were living. So I could come home at lunch to watch TV. Also, the outside walkways were all concrete, so I spent weekends roller skating up and down the covered areas.

I am not sure why, but it was in this serene, small town of Grapevine that I began to question conformity. One spring day, they announced that there would be cheerleader tryouts and all girls could fill out an application. Even though I seldom saw sports, I did know that college teams had boy cheerleaders. I asked why boys were not allowed to try out. The teacher seemed flustered when others in the room began to ask the same question. She stated it really made no difference and any boy who wanted an application could have one. I took one.

Once my application was turned in, I was assigned a squad. Each squad was six hopefuls. We were given two afternoons to practice a specific cheer. That next Friday, all squads would then perform in the auditorium in front of the entire student body. The students would vote, and the top six vote getters would become the school's cheerleaders for next year.

Having little public speaking experience, and maybe one summer's worth of tumbling at the YMCA, I wasn't really prepared for such an exuberant debut. Nonetheless, that Friday afternoon, in front of the entire school, I performed in my squad, one of eight squads that tried out. After my horrible (in my opinion) performance, I looked forward to a weekend of rest.

On Sunday, as I was leaving the house to go skating (at the school), several young ladies came up and were excitingly giving me "the news". I really wasn't sure what the news was until they told me they had gotten advance word of the cheerleader elections. It seems I had been chosen by the students to be a cheerleader. Before I could even not believe it, they went on to state how I had received the most votes of all. This made me the "head cheerleader" or manager of the squad! I was now a "respected" member of the Grapevine Colts.

That Monday, I met the rest of "my crew". All were girls, of course, with a few who suspected my abilities as a cheerleader. At least I showed I could lead, and we soon became friends. We were quickly fitted for uniforms (for me pants, vests and sweaters) and equipment (megaphones and pom poms). Next we were scheduled to spend a week at Southern Methodist University's cheerleader school.

During that week, I bunked with the boy cheerleaders. The girls had other quarters. During the days our squad learned cheers and how to "inspire" our team. At night we watched movies, went to campfires and found out who won the "spirit stick". This stick was given at the end of each day to the school that showed the most spirit during the day. The winners were allowed to carry the stick with them the following day to show their spirit. The third day we agreed we would win the stick, and after lots of yelling and smiling, we did!

When school started, I found myself scheduling rehearsal sessions and preparing for the pep rallies. Most the preparation consisted of painting miles of signs to hang around the school. Our spirit signs came from a donated roll of butcher paper I had obtained and shoe shine color. We'd spend an afternoon doing all sorts of sayings about how we'd beat the other team. Alliteration was always popular in signs (beating bears, kicking cougars, etc.).

The pep rallies were an hour of bouncing, jumping and cheering. The students cheered when they were supposed to and looked bored other times. I was usually able to keep in rhythm. In fact one of my leader decisions was that I did not have to be the center of attention, just because I was male and the head cheerleader.

The games were something else. Our games were never well attended, whether at home or away. Again, I am not a sports person, and was not always sure what was happening. However, I did know that we usually lost. Luckily, all we had to do was just keep cheering on the sideline. Our league was not too big, and we only played around two-dozen football games. The basketball season seemed almost non-existent. In fact, we weren't even taken to off campus basketball games.

The entire experience proved to take a colossal amount of time. I discovered that being a cheerleader, male or female, did not make you a hotter commodity. None of my squad seemed to be doing much on the social scene. Of course, in those days, Middle School (aka Junior High), was not quite the dating sensation of today. At least my squad and I bonded, and that friendship was worth something, if nothing else a ton of rumors about what a guy and five girls DID do when alone.

When the teacher came around that spring announcing cheerleader tryouts for any girls interested, I didn't say a word. After all, I was heading to high school and a new city.

Shortly after we moved, Grapevine became the location for the gigantic Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport. The city was forever changed into a major metropolis. Almost a decade later I went to the airport and that defunct drive-in was still there. The message, still visible, was a bit more correct.

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