Longtime residents reflect on homecomings past, present

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Pete Pleasant remembers when homecoming was the biggest event of the fall semester.

Moffat County High School classes competed to build the best parade float. The girls worked on their classes' entries while the football team trained for Saturday's game.

But Pleasant, a lifelong Moffat County resident and a 1957 MCHS graduate, believes times have changed.

It's not that the essentials of the annual homecoming celebration have changed. A parade, a bonfire, a football game and a dance have been featured regularly in the celebration for the past 60 years that Pleasant can remember.

Instead, in his view, student participation in the event seems to be waning.

"When I was in school, we didn't have TV," he said. "So, you went to someone's garage, you built a float and you stuffed it with paper napkins and put chicken wire on it."

Pleasant said students would start building floats two weeks before homecoming.

"Now, they get a hay wagon, pull it behind a brand-new pickup : put a couple of signs on it and that's kind of it," he said.

He attributes the change to several factors.

"It's just the general apathy of the public," he said. "They've got way too many things to do, or think they (do) have."

He believes increased class sizes and added demands on students' time have contributed to the trend he's noticed.

When he was attending high school, about 45 students were enrolled in each class.

Last May, MCHS graduating class contained more than 150 students.

"There's not the camaraderie now there was then," he said.

Other aspects of the yearly celebration have changed over time.

The homecoming football game used to take center stage; other current fall sports weren't a part of high school athletic offerings.

There were no sports for girls, either. As a result, the girls did most of the work on the class homecoming float.

And, in Pleasant's day, homecoming was a major celebration.

"It was one of two events you might have in the fall, and that was it," he said.

Susan Whinery, a retired MCHS English and psychology teacher, has noticed similar changes throughout the years.

She couldn't estimate how many floats entered the homecoming parade on average during her 25-year tenure at the high school.

Still, "I can tell you there used to be a lot more than there are now" overall, she said.

Whinery echoed Pleasant's observations.

Floats in past parades were built with more effort, she said, and students took the competition between classes seriously.

"Now, it's hard even to get the kids to put in the effort to build a good float a lot of the time," she said.

She's seen the celebration change in other ways.

"It used to be such a big deal for recent graduates, particularly, to come home from college for the first time," she said, adding that Homecoming used to be primarily centered on sports.

Some recent graduates still return for Homecoming, Whinery said.

And, if they wish, alumni or any other visitor may attend the homecoming dance, provided that they receive clearance from high school administrators.

But while some aspects of the celebration are still true for some students, Whinery no longer sees them as the norm.

The homecoming queen used to be selected by the football team. That tradition, too has changed.

"It's different," Whinery said, "and the kids have a different value system. The only thing we know for sure in life is that things are always going to change.

"And, it may be that the nature of the celebration has to change."

As Pleasant described past homecoming festivities, it became apparent the memories of days gone by are still vivid in his mind. The contrast between past and present homecomings may prove that even long-standing traditions tend to evolve.

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