By Linda Emley
Since Richmond celebrated Homecoming last week, I want to share some history of how it’s changed over the years.
I thought it would be easy to trace this fall ritual, but I was wrong. After reading 100 years of Echo yearbooks, I still haven’t figured it out. The first Echo was in 1910. It is a very formal yearbook and has some great pictures. It gives the history of RHS football from 1906 to 1910. In 1908, only one game was played and we lost to Wentworth 5-0.
The last page of the 1910 Echo is my favorite. On page 68, there are 10 girls in their long dresses and they all have on great big hats. I don’t want to give away the surprise of what they are doing, so we will save that for a later story since this story is about Homecoming and football games.
The 1941 Echo talks about “Padded Warriors” and I think that is a very good title for our football team over the years. The RHS football boys have been playing their hardest for the fans of Richmond for over 100 years, but when did they play their first homecoming game? The first mention of a Homecoming football game was in the 1940 Echo, so that would make it in 1939.
Before Homecoming, the big event of the fall season was the Box Supper. Each year, RHS would crown a “Box Supper Queen. The 1945 Richmond Missourian gave a good description: “The annual box supper sponsored by the senior class will be held Friday night at 7 o’clock at the high school auditorium. All girls are asked to bring well-filled boxes and the boys plenty of cash. The crowning of the king and queen, voting for the biggest wolf, most popular girl, and the most lovesick couple are a few of the events for the evening. Everyone is invited.”
At a box supper, all the girls would put their box dinners on a table and they were auctioned off to the highest bidder. So the young gent that bought the box would share it with the young lady that brought it. I am sure many watched to see who brought what box and fought over the most popular girl’s dinner. More than once, some guy would run the price up on a box that some other boy wanted for his girl.
The 1936 Echo noted that “Several days before classes met and chose candidates to run in a popularity contest, the winner of which would be proclaimed Homecoming Queen on the big night.” On Thursday Dec. 19, 1935, Kathlyn Emley was elected the Homecoming Box Supper Queen. This is the first mention I could find of the word “Homecoming” used in an Echo.
On Nov. 21, 1938, the football boys started a bonfire and the Homecoming Box Supper was held on Nov. 23. So the traditional Thursday night “bonfire” goes back a few years. The following year, 1939, was the first mention of a Homecoming game in the Echo and the Spartans beat the Excelsior Springs Tigers 33-6.
You can’t have a Homecoming game without cheerleaders. There were four cheerleaders for most of the 1940s. In 1944, there were two guys and two girls on the cheerleading squad. The following year there were four guys but in 1946 it was back to two guys and two girls. Eventually it evolved to the all-girl squad that we know today.
The Class of 1947 had a Homecoming Dance in 1946. On Oct. 18, 1946, the Richmond News noted that “Richmond High School homecoming game will be played on the Woodson Field tonight when the Spartans meet the Liberty Blue Jays, a strong opponent. Following the game a ‘Homecoming Dance’ will be held in the Woodson auditorium. There will be no queen this year.”
The 1947 Echo has a football picture whose caption reads, “Big Swofford rolls against Liberty. It took all three to bring him down.” A few years later, this football star became Ray County Sheriff and we all knew him as “Hoss”. The “Music Masters” band played at the Homecoming Dance and their picture was in the Echo, but I did not find any pictures of the Queen. There were pictures of the Echo royalty but they were not crowned until the following spring.
While researching this story, I found the 1941 Echo kept talking about some guy named Harry. Who was Harry and why was his name all over the pages of this yearbook? One page was titled “Harry’s First” and it talked about the first RHS student council being formed. John Albert Watkins was elected the first president.
The new student council did lots of wonderful things around school, but I still did not know who Harry was. The next chapter was called “and then for fun.” It started out, “If all work and no play makes Harry a dull boy, we should shine brightly. And we did shine! From the Echo Box Supper to the senior picnic there never was a jollier year.”
A few pages over, there was Harry again. “If Harry hadn’t been such a little gentleman, he would have given vent to a whistle of approbation at sight of the queens who were chosen by the four high school classes to reign during the year, 1940-41.”
Two more pages tell the adventures of Harry. “Harry Steps Out!” and “Harry Goes Hollywood”. I went back to the senior class pictures and did not find anyone named Harry. I did find a few names that we all know like Levan Thurman, Ben Ellerbeck, Vernon King, Clark Smith, Howard Hill and Jimmie Stewart. No it’s not the Jimmie Stewart that was in the movies, it was the Jimmie that was in the RHS class of 1941.
I went back to the beginning and started reading the pages in order, which is what I should have done in the first place. I found, “Let me introduce myself. I am Harry High School. I am one of you – typical of the hundreds of students who comprise the student body of Richmond High School.” So it finally hit me that Harry wasn’t a real person. Someone made him up to tell the RHS stories.
I started searching to see who was the mastermind of the 1941 Echo who invented “Harry High School.”
On a page titled “A Permanent Record,” it said, “After Mary Young and Levan Thurman were elected co-editors of the 1941 Echo, the next problem was the theme of this Echo. And then Harry High School was born. He was the logical outgrowth of the editors’ desire to make the 1941 Echo represent the personality of the high school as a whole.”
It went on to say, “The entire Echo Staff worked busily all year to give you Harry High School as he was.” Thanks Levan, you always amaze me with your great sense of humor.