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KATIE ZERR: Homecoming in ‘73 was all football

Homecoming in 1973 was much different than it is in 2017.
Pep rallies, burning of the ‘M” (there was no P back then), and coronation. These are all part of the tradition that has survived all these long years.
But when I was in school there was no volleyball, golf or anything else. It was football, football and just football.
The players were rock stars during that week. We (cheerleaders and pep club) painted signs for all of the seniors and hung them throughout the school.
They were the center of attention for the week and received some pretty special treatment.
The majority of students wore orange and black the day of the game. There was a heightened atmosphere during that time.
But it didn’t last for a week and it happened with as little disruption of school as possible way back then.
In fact, coronation was held on Thursday night. Only the senior girls were involved in the whitewashing that night and the team had more members back then as the school and the town were bigger.
That meant the cheerleaders and senior girls were exhausted on Friday as some didn’t get much or any sleep the night before.
I don’t remember if school was let out early on Friday, but I do remember one of the best things about homecoming was the pep rally on Main Street. We decorated a couple of flatbeds with the football players on one and the cheerleaders on another. Those flatbeds were pulled to Main Street with the cheerleaders and members of each of the classes marched along, chanting cheers all the way downtown.
The trailers were parked at the intersection of Main Street and Third Avenue and the people of the community packed the sidewalks on Main to participate in the rally.
Some of the businesses closed their doors during the pep rally. There was a lot of orange and black in the crowd as Friday was designated “Orange and Black Day” in the community.
It was the cheerleaders’ time to shine and I can still remember someone had taken a picture of me stirring up the crowd, mouth wide open, pom-poms twirling, and the crowd reacting.
That was a picture that I cherished for a long time.
We did every cheer we knew and performed our routine to “Onward Mobridge” with athletic jumps and precise moves.
Coach Salzsiedler spoke to the crowd to loud cheers and rowdy reactions. The king (Wayne Helvik) and queen (Phyllis McQuirk) were there in crowns and capes, whipping up support.
It was a frenzied pitch that carried to Legion Memorial Field and the game later that night.
We played in the outfield of the baseball park, but it was a great place to play. The males of the community walked up and down the sidelines behind the team benches, following the action and yelling instructions to their sons and the other players.
The sidelines were small and people were packed in the stands. You had to get there early or you stood for the entire game.
The wooden fence that then surrounded the field was covered with the signs that had hung in the school and the marching band was in full force.
That night we played Fort Yates. It was a tough game through the first half, but something changed at halftime. The teams stayed in the park, moving to the dugout areas for the halftime pep talks from the coaches.
The band marched on the field and the king and queen were driven around the field in a convertible. Under the lights at Legion Memorial was one of the coolest memories of high school for me. It was almost magical on that field.
The Tigers broke out in the second half with quarterback Neil Nolop throwing for several scores, running backs Mark Shillingstad and Curt Reiss were dominating and the tough Tiger defense kept the Warriors from scoring except for a first half safety.
It was a nail biter for the first hour, but then the gates opened and our young men opened a can of whoop ass and laid it on.
Lineman Mark “Moose” Radabaugh even got in the act with an interception of a deflected pass and rumbled his way down the field. The crowd went crazy. He was one of my favorite players and underclassmen and I was thrilled to see him play a big role in the win.
It wasn’t just homecoming my senior year that has so many great memories. All through high school, homecoming was something that awakens special memories of the Tigers and the football at Legion Memorial Field.
I guess we didn’t know back then that it was not a good place to play football because in our minds it was the greatest place to play football.