Homecoming queens share history
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 7:55 p.m.
Hawthorne High School's 1968 homecoming queen was back on campus earlier this month watching her former title passed along to someone very special - her granddaughter.
Brenda Simmons Smith, who won the title in 1968, said she was as excited to see her granddaughter, LaShawna Smith, be crowned queen this year as she was to accept the title 39 years ago.
"It's a wonderful thing for us to share," said Smith. Although hair styles and dress fashions have changed, both queens said being selected still means the same thing.
"I was like Sally Fields - 'They like me, they really like me,'" said Brenda Smith.
"I guess it means that I am popular," said LaShawna a senior at Hawthorne High. LaShawna's classmates also previously selected her to represent them as sophomores and juniors during homecoming.
Grandmother Smith's advice was simple during this year's homecoming queen competition.
"I told her to be confident and smile and she did," Brenda Smith said.
High schools, colleges and universities across the country have been staging homecoming celebrations for decades as a way to keep former students connected and use traditions to create happy memories for current students. Most campuses celebrate during football season, although some small institutions like Cedar Key School hold homecoming during basketball season because they do not have a football team.
The first homecoming may have been at the University of Missouri in 1911. University officials said then-athletic director Chester Brewer was looking for a way to encourage graduates to attend school football games in a new location. To generate excitement, Brewer led plans for a parade, a pep rally and other festivities.
As the idea of homecoming spread out from the university in the center of the nation, contests were added, like float decorations, school spirit challenges and the selection of students to represent the school - the royalty.
"It doesn't make you a better person that anyone else, but it is something fun to look back on and talk about," Brenda Smith said. "It's fun and we need to have fun in our lives."
Becoming a homecoming queen has grown more expensive over the past 38 years, according to the Smith queens. While Brenda's only expense was her dress, LaShawna estimated that the costs of having her hair, make-up and nails done professionally was about $130, almost as much as a formal dress.
Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or email@example.com.
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