SULLIVAN TWP. — Times change, and the years fly like autumn leaves, but some things stay just the same.
On Friday, Black River High School friends, fans and alumni will gather for the district’s 50th homecoming celebration. Sandy Mullins, who was Black River’s first homecoming queen in 1959, will have the honor of crowning the school’s 2009 queen.
A lot has changed in 50 years, but no matter who the new queen will be, that moment of excitement and anticipation is timeless. Mullins still recalls the wonder of that big night.
Junior and senior students elected the members of the homecoming court and the football players voted for the queen. Mullins said her football-player escort, John Nagy, dropped a gentlemanly hint as they walked arm-in-arm onto the field.
“I can remember John Nagy whispering to me, ‘You better get ready,’ ” said Mullins.
In her mind, the realization of what was about to happen began to take hold, but when her name was announced, she still couldn’t believe it.
“I got teary-eyed,” Mullins said. “I was shocked.”
The game was played in Spencer, where she got a football signed by all the players. Later, wearing a baby-blue formal gown for the homecoming dance in Sullivan, she received the customary kiss from her escort, as well as her crown — made from golden fall mums.
“That flower crown,” Mullins said. “I’ll always remember that.”
Her father, Herman Moore, was there, but not her mom. The only sadness among the memories of 50 years ago was the absence of her mother, Gail, who passed away that August, only weeks before.
“I was wishing she was there,” Mullins said.
Mullins, 68, is a Spencer native.
“Born and raised,” she said.
She and her husband, Jim, live in Spencer Township and will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They have two children, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
With many of their crew involved in high school sports, they don’t miss a lot of Black River sporting events.
In 1959, three community schools — Sullivan, Spencer and Homerville – consolidated as Black River. Although students attended class in their home schools for another year, they were considered part of the same district and joined together for sports, for the homecoming court and for other school activities.
Those were the days of Elvis, Frankie Avalon and poodle skirts — which Mullins and her friends were glad to trade for blue jeans when they were finally allowed to wear them to school. Mullins was a cheerleader, but there were no high school sports for girls in those days.
Spencer was — and still is — a quiet town. There was a movie theater in Lodi, but Mullins and most of her friends chose to hang out at a youth center in the town hall that opened after school.
“The girls danced to records and the boys played pool,” Mullins said.
Even though Mullins’ diploma says Spencer High School, where she graduated in a class of 20 students, she’s the original Black River homecoming queen. Inviting her back this year helps bring a sense of continuity and tradition to the celebration, said athletic director and high school dean of students Eric Yetter.
When the district began planning for the 50th homecoming, it was Black River Primary Principal Pam Oberholtzer who said, “Wouldn’t it be neat if …,” and ventured the idea of inviting Mullins to crown this year’s queen.
The event has blossomed into an entire line-up of community activities in the days leading up to homecoming — including Powder Puff volleyball on Wednesday, Powder Puff football on Thursday followed by a bonfire, and, of course, the big football game vs. Brookside High School and the crowning of the 2009 homecoming king and queen on Friday. The public is invited to attend them all.
“We’re all really excited about the 50th,” Yetter said. “The community part is what’s really exciting.”
On Friday, all 1,500 students in the Black River district will gather for a schoolwide pep rally at the Black River Education Center. Yetter promises a fun time.
“We’re planning 60 minutes worth of stuff in a 50-minute period,” he said.
After the football game that night, there will be an alumni-only sock-hop at the high school. The student homecoming dance is Saturday.
And when the first Black River homecoming queen places this year’s crown on the head of the school’s newest homecoming queen, Mullins already has an idea of what she will say.
“I might say congratulations — and tell her to be very proud,” Mullins said.
For information on homecoming events, contact Yetter by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact John Gladden at email@example.com.