50 years of Saratoga High: Homecoming wasn’t always a spirited spirit week

October 30, 2009 — by Mac Hyde and Christine Bancroft

Saratoga, 1977. Previous Homecomings had been lackluster and unenthusiastic. There was a Thanksgiving football game, but none of the decorations, quad dances and other festivities that came to be associated with the event.

That year, assistant principal Karen Hyde was in her first year at the high school and hoped to bring major changes to the autumn event. Having taught at Los Gatos, where Homecoming was a much bigger production, she helped the classes start the tradition of quad decorations and performances, as well as the tradition of float building. In that decade she brought what many thought was a large dose of spirit for a school that had previously been all but void of school spirit.

“It wasn’t ‘my’ idea,” said Hyde. “I just borrowed it from when I was over at Los Gatos.”

Prior to Hyde’s coming to the school in 1977, Homecoming consisted of a Thanksgiving football game against Blackford High in San Jose, and even that faltered within the school’s first decade since the game was no longer played by the time Hyde arrived.

Following the reworking of Homecoming in the late 1970s, an event students today would recognize started. The entire week was devoted to spirit events and themed days, with both staff and students dressing up.

“It would start on a Tuesday, and the night before the freshmen would come and set up for their day. Everyone had one day and it had to be all taken down after school when your day was over,” said Arnoldo Rodriguex, Spanish teacher and world language department head who has taught here for more than 30 years.

Every class had just one night to set up their entire area, which consisted of the whole quad unlike the quarters today’s classes have to grapple with. They would then have to dismantle everything that evening or else they would be docked points, or worse, the next class would do it for them. That Friday, there would be a special rally bell schedule, and every class would build a float to be taken down Highway 9 to Los Gatos High’s football field.

“I remember one year when a float just fell out of the truck, out of the flatbed,” said Rodriguex. “It was a gingerbread house onto Highway 9. That was just ‘stress city’ trying to get those things over to Los Gatos.”

It was quite a hassle, and then everything needed to be marshaled in the parking lot outside of the field, along with the cars to carry the Kings and Queens around the track. Directing traffic around the track was also a nightmare. Floats were always breaking down and requiring last-minute repairs. The cars had to be spaced just so and move around at exactly the right speed, lest they make it around too fast. But even with all the troubles, there were some lighter moments too.

In 1982, then-senior Eric Leonard decided to play a prank during the Homecoming court’s procession across the field.

“My dad and his friend were dressed in a nice suit,” said current senior Jordan Leonard of her father. “And my dad borrowed one of his friend’s dresses. He wore this yellow dress, and he and his friend walked across the field as if nothing was wrong.”

Around the year 2000, the tradition of floats was discontinued because they were causing too much stress, and the quad was divided into four quarters to more evenly distribute the ever increasing load of work to be done as the numbers of students building decorations dwindled. Since then, the quad days and the choreographing of elaborate dances have come to be the main feature of Homecoming.

“I don’t know if [reducing the amount of decorations] was a bad thing, given the number of kids that don’t help. In terms of ecology it’s a better thing––we killed tons of trees with cardboard and paper,” said Hyde.

Around this time the school also stopped inviting the previous year’s cheerleaders back for the game since so few were showing up. Hyde said the school is looking to bring back some of the old traditions such as inviting back cheerleaders and maybe even bringing back floats to go around the field during halftime of the football game.

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