USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘high school’
Folk Beliefs
Material

Lucky Socks

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (CB) and I (ZM).

CB: I wore the same pair of socks every volleyball game from junior year and senior year of high school and both years within our like league of ten teams, we beat every other team, or every team and went undefeated, not including playoffs.

ZM: Why did you decide to keep wearing the socks, like what happened?

CB: Because we kept winning.

ZM: Did you wash them?

CB: Yeah, cause that was gross, but, and they smelled, but… They were bright green neon socks.

ZM: Was it just you or did other players…

CB: Just me. Umm, and it’s funny cause, like I’d be in the bathroom and someone would like look under the stall and see my socks and know immediately it was me. Like it got, it got to that point of like popularity.

 

Context: CB and I were having lunch when I noticed he was wearing a volleyball tournament shirt. I asked him if he had any volleyball rituals or lucky socks or anything. This conversation was recorded then.

 

Background: The performer is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. He transferred from California Lutheran University where he played Division III volleyball but did not continue at USC. CB attended a medium-sized public high school in Santa Clarita where he was born and raised.

 

Analysis: This is a pretty common example of a sports ritual. A lot of athletes have stories of a lucky piece of clothing. Some even go to the extent of not washing said pieces of clothing so they don’t lose the lucky powers.

 

Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Game
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Assassins

My friend was already aware of my folklore project. While getting coffee, we were happened to be telling stories about our experiences in high school. I realized this would be perfect for this assignment. GG is the informant, PH is myself. Another friend was sitting with us, who I did not collect folklore from, but she does talk during the following collection. She is CC. Both GG and CC are from Orange County, though they were from different cities and did not know each other before attending USC. Both of their high schools had the following tradition.

PH: Do you have any folklore about your school, like stories everyone would tell, or things everyone would do?

The informant then told me of a legend/superstition, which is documented separately.

GG: Do games count?

PH: Yes!

GG: Our high school, senior year we had senior assassins. [This was not a tradition that only happened during her senior year, but it was a tradition you had to be a senior to partake in.]

CC: Oh, we had that too!

PH: Okay, could you explain what that is?

GG: You didn’t have that?

PH: No.

GG: Basically, everyone who wants to be in it has to sign up and they get assigned someone they need to shoot with a water gun.

PH: Oh, yeah I’ve heard of that. I’ve seen it in TV shows actually.

GG: Yeah, and the last one standing gets money.

PH: Woah, what?

GG: Yeah, supposedly, but I never heard of anyone actually getting any money.

Gestures
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Red Lady

Title: The Red Lady

Category: Folk Object

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

The “Red Lady” is a large red bong used by a select group of the theatre community at Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth Texas. None of the students know the exact origin of the object, they believe that it was purchased by the school’s theatre department for use in one of their shows many years ago. The “Red Lady” has been passed down from senior to senior in the theatre department as the years have gone by. The “Red Lady” is given to a trusted member of the group and it’s their responsibility to care for and keep the secret of the object— While still maintaining its hiding place on school property.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller was fortunate enough to have earned the “Red Lady” her senior year of High School and was abel to share this story with me. She said she earned it because she was known for smoking marijuana and for being an excellent “chill” actress of her senior class. When it cam time for her to graduate, she then passed the bong down to a rising upperclassman.

 

Personal Thoughts:

We had something similar at my high school on the cheerleading team. The senior captain was in charge of the “spirit stick” all throughout the year and for maintaining the level of excellence that our team had achieved that previous year. I wound’t say a “sprit stick” and a bong are extremely similar, but they could be used as motifs to describe the same sort of seniority earned possession.

Customs
Festival
Game
Gestures
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Homecoming Mums

Title: Homecoming Mums

Category: Clothing/Object

Informant: Rebecca Reinehr

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 21

Occupation: Student— Food Service Industry, Medical Group Volunteer, etc.

Residence: Austin, TX

Date of Collection: 4/14/18

Description:

Homecoming mums are worn by high school students and differ from person to person based on status, gender, relationship, etc. The practice is most common in Southern high schools- Texas in particular.

Homecoming mums are meant to be received as a gift from someone significant to the person wearing the object. An individual might receive a mum from the following persons: A friend, an organization, a parent/relative, a significant other (boy friend/girl friend), homecoming date, etc. A person is not limited by the number of mums they can give or receive and some people (women in particular) will often even make them for themselves if they want to be sure to have one for the day.

Typically, the age of the recipient and grade level will determine the size of their mum. Women’s mums are always larger, but Seniors mums are also usually larger than underclassman mums. Seniors mums are also sometimes made will all white ribbons, decorations, and flowers.

Mums are ornamental fake flowers that are usually around 6-8” in diameter and are attached to a back that has ribbons surrounding the flower on top, and dangling ribbons with  decorations and letters. High schools in the area will have custom ribbons made with the high school logo or mascot as well. These ribbons and materials can be bought at craft stores in the region and even larger nation-wide craft stores will seasonally carry these items in their fall season. An example of stress that sell these items include, but are not limited to: Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Grocery Stores, etc.

Mums worn by women typically have ribbons extending to a yard in length and are worn via safety pin over the heart. Men’s mums are approximately half a yard in length and are worn on their arm attached to a ribbon garter. These objects will often include materials that make them distracting and challenging to wear all day. Attached items may include: bells, whistles, mini-LED lights, trinkets, stickers, etc. Sometimes a person may receive more than one mum and will either attempt to pin them all to their shirt, switch them out during the course of the day, or pin them to their backpacks.

Homecoming mums are worn on the day of homecoming to class and then later to the game. These flowers are also usually worn to a pep-rally that day before the homecoming game. Each mum is expected to be personalized with inside jokes, hobbies, or resemble the receiver’s/giver’s personality.

Mums may also be given by a parent’s club of an activity or sold in smaller forms by a student organization. Examples of smaller mums are: Finger mums, hair mums, children’s mums, etc.

Mums are usually kept and hung on bedroom walls by high school students. Women will often compare mums in class and use it as an almost competition to see who can get the most.

Mums can add up in expense quickly. While all of the items individually are fairly cheap— the main flower only costing around a dollar or two. But as is the slogan for Texas, “Everything’s bigger…” the more trinkets, ribbons, and bells that can be fit on are better and considered more impressive. Small, simple mums usually cost around $40 where larger and more intense mums can range in the $100-$200 range.

Context/Significance:

Mums are a very specific tradition, popular only in Texas (and parts of Oklahoma) and are huge, ginormous corsages. The NCAA recognizes the University of Missouri as the official place of birth of homecoming. In 1911, Mizzou athletic director Chester Brewer encouraged alumni to attend the game, and he gave them incentive to attend by having a huge celebration around the game that included parades and rallies.

At some point not too long after this first homecoming celebration in Missouri, the tradition of a boy giving a chrysanthemum to his homecoming date as a corsage was born in Texas. For decades, mums were simple, comprised of just a small flower with perhaps a few ribbons.

In the 1970s, homecoming mums became more elaborate and have continued to grow to the mammoth size they are today. Now they include a huge flower (albeit a silk flower has replaced the real chrysanthemum as the centerpiece), tons of large ribbons, charms, bows, bells, cowbells, stuffed animals, perhaps the high school mascot, and even LED lights in some cases! Even guys have their own version of the mum, called the garter – an elastic band worn around the upper arm that has the same features as the mum only on a much smaller scale.

Personal Thoughts:

Mums are also not only worn for homecoming. Mums are sometimes given as decorations for the home. Before coming to USC, I made a USC themed mum to hang on our common room door in my dorm room. Expecting mothers may also receive baby shower mums that will hang on the door of the delivery room. These are often themed for either a girl or boy and have baby trinkets and ribbons attached (sometimes even baby toys or pacifiers).

My cheerleading team sold mums the week of homecoming and provided a service for gentleman to order mums from our organization to be delivered the week of homecoming. At the game, each cheerleader also received a mum to wear on their leg for the game as athletes are not allowed to wear mums on the field. The football team will often wear a small carnation pinned to their uniform. The presented homecoming court will also remove their mums during the half-time ceremony.

Personally, I also just love them. Upon graduating high school, I tallied up a total of around 12 large mums and a few other smaller mums that I pinned to a bulletin board. They’re a fun way to remember that year’s homecoming celebration, friendships, and interests over the past four years.

Image:

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Annotation:

For additional history behind homecoming mums, see:

https://www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/

MLA Citation:

“HISTORY OF MUMS.” The Mum Shop, www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/.

Legends

El Paso High Ghost-Moratorium

Main Piece:

The Participant is marked as BH. I am marked as LJ.

LJ: Can you tell me about El Paso High School.

BH: So El Paso High is known as the oldest high school in El Paso, but beyond that, its also the most haunted high school in the city. It used to be um, the moratorium for world war 11 soldiers who had died in combat, but had no family members reclaim their bodies. So all these bodies were just left there…so as a result, it has been said that there are many ghosts that wander the halls of all of these veterans who have not been able to find peace.

LJ: How did you learn about the ghosts?

BH: I would hear them all the time when I was growing up. Um…I think I heard them more around middle school. There were kids who would go out to the school at night. So sometimes they would hear things..

 

Context:

I had visited the participant and her family in El Paso in March. This was recorded after.

Background:

The participant is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer in religion and likes “scary stories,” including television shows and hearing about hauntings. She grew up primarily in El Paso, Texas with her mom and two sisters.

Analysis:

This is an example of how ghost stories are passed from one person to the next, immortalizing the event and history of the place. In this case, El Paso High, being the oldest has a lot of history. Not all of the stories may be true, but they are believed by a large amount of the population in El Paso. Being there, I also learned that since El Paso is so close knit, many of the stories and beliefs are shared by the community. Every place I went on my visit had some sort of history to it. There were plaques along the walls and in the pavement, but a lot of what I learned came from listening to native El Paso-ans speak about their city.

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Humor

9/11: The TRUTH

Context: I was chatting with my roommate about his time in marching band in high school, and the following is one of the encounters he had during one of his festival trips.

Background: My roommate is a psychology minor, and one of the aspects of the subject he’s always been interested in is the part of the human brain that induces paranoia. Because of this, he’s been invested in conspiracy theories for a long time.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, B denotes my roommate)

C: So what about the van?

B: Oh, 9/11!

C: 9/11, tell me about 9/11!

B: OK! First of all, inside job. Second of all, I was in Victoria, British Columbia on a band trip, and, um, we were getting ready to march in this parade, and we saw this van driving around the– the– I guess the Parliament building? Um, and it said on the side of it, “9/11 was an inside job.” It was like a 9/11 truther van. And I thought, “Why… do you care? You’re in Canada… 9/11 did not happen in Canada.” I just thought that was interesting. I had a lot of questions, first of all… “What?” Second of all, um, like like like are these Americans doing this? Uh, if so, why are they in Canada, why are they in Victoria, British Columbia? Um… you know you’re not even near New York at this point!

Analysis: I actually debated with myself over what to categorize this piece as. The central bit of folklore revolves around a conspiracy theory regarding what “really” happened on 9/11, which is a tragic day in American history. However, the countless people who insist that 9/11 was an “inside job” (AKA a disaster orchestrated by the US government itself) have put such ridiculous and unreal theories out there, that it’s nearly impossible not to laugh at something like a “9/11 truther van” driving around. Because of this, and because of the fact that this theory is a belief shared in online communities without consideration for reality, I decided to categorize it as both Humor and as a Folk Belief.

Annotation: My roommate’s encounter is not nearly the first instance where the “9/11 was an inside job” belief popped up. In fact, in the same conversation, my roommate mentioned the documentary Loose Change as a good place to go deeper into the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Going to Hell in High School

Context: I collected this from a high school friend when we were on a camping trip together over Spring Break.

Background: My friend and I were part of our high school’s marching band.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, J denotes my friend)

J: When I first went to CV [high school] they— We did the tour thing with the band, and they were like “This is the stairs to Hell! There’s a bomb shelter down there.” Which… fuck knows.

C: There’s a bomb shelter?

J: Yeah, apparently there’s a bomb shelter in CV. It was built in the 60s, it makes sense, y’know. I’ve never looked at the blueprints.

C: I was never told there was a bomb shelter.

J: Um, but I don’t know where that is. I’ve always assumed it was down in Hell, um, but… A couple years after that, uh, I was told by… someone, that a hobo used to live down in Hell and just kind of… slept there, cuz y’know, shelter I guess, and that one day administration found that hobo dead in Hell. So that sucks— Well it’s not really in Hell, cuz Hell you get to from the inside of the auditorium, you gotta go down the stairs from the Jazz Cave, but this was like— you know the stairs behind the auditorium, that go down and are like, sketchy and dark?

C: The spiral ones?

J: N0, the spirals are in the Jazz Cave. The ones that are, like, if you’re going from the Band Room up to the quad, and instead of going up the stairs you go around the stairs, and then there’s stairs down. If you go down those stairs.

C: Okay.

J: That’s where I was told that the hobo died.

C: Oh! Yeah, yeah.

J: And it’s like dark there and shit, so… it would make sense that no one found him there for a while.

Analysis: This is almost my own piece of folklore too, since I went to high school in the same place and knew about the same locations. In this instance, however, comparing my own knowledge about “Hell” (a basement area underneath our school’s auditorium) to what my friend knew showed some variation: I had never heard of the bomb shelter existing before, nor did I know that the specific staircase my friend had spoken about was supposed to be an “entrance to Hell,” as we would have put it back in the day.

Gestures
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Luck Free Throw

Everyone who plays basketball has some sort of free-throw routine. This is my brother’s:

Skye: When I get fouled, I go to the free throw line. The referee hands me the ball.I spin it, let it hit the ground, it comes back to me. I dribble twice. Look at the basket, take a deep breath. Spin it again. Shoot. Make it. And then do it again for the second free throw but I don’t get second free throws.

Me: Does everybody have a free-throw routine?

Skye: Yeah, but everybody’s is different.

Me: When did you discover your free-throw routine?

Skye: Middle school. I’ve changed it up a couple times. It used to be three dribbles instead of two. Ball is life. Ball is wife.

Analysis: Basketball is not a game of luck. However, having  a free throw routine can help to center a lot of players when they’re being yelled at from the opposing team’s crowd. Like in other sports, there are moments where a single athlete’s performance can matter more than the entire team’s. A free throw, when all of the team is watching, is a moment of extreme pressure for the individual. If the player has a routine, he feels centered and ready to score.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Spirit week

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

 

My high school took spirit week super seriously and every single person got super hyped for it and dressed up every day. It was awesome. The whole week culminated on thursday nights when we had the annual Rock N Jock tournament which was a game of basketball with modified rules. Each player on the court dressed as a different character and had different limitations and scoring potential. Like the granny had to only shoot underhand but got a 3 points no matter where she shot from. And the traveler could travel all he wanted, but had to carry a small piece of luggage with him and wasn’t allowed to shoot. Scuba diver had to wear a scuba mask, wetsuit, and flippers, but got 5 free throws if he ever got to the line. The most important character of all though was the flamingo who had to hop on one foot whenever he was on the offensive half of the court, but got 7 points if he made any shot, 3 if he hit the rim, and 1 for just hitting the backboard. The game essentially boiled down to boxing out so that the flamingo could take shots and try to get as many points as possible. It was the best part of spirit week for sure.

Collector’s thoughts:

Once again, the idea of multiplicity and variation arises. While the game of basketball has official and standardized rules, this adaptation of the famous game also has its own set of very specific rules and regulations. While this game might not be “official” it represents a great amount to the informant. This game was the essential part in determining the winner of spirit week.  

Customs
general

Stealing Props

There’s this huge tradition in theatre… our high school theatre… uh, department… where after we close a show, everyone in the cast and crew, like, steals one of their props or, like, a piece of the set or something. And we’re not technically supposed to do that, like, all the props and sets are supposed to, like, be deconstructed and put back in the vault, but, like, nobody actually cares. But um… yeah, my first show at the high school, I didn’t know this was a thing, so I didn’t take anything, which… I cry (laughs). But then for the spring show my freshman year, I… we did Pippin and I was one of the, like, farmer guys in Act Two, which, like… wooo, big role, I know, but, um… during strike, I almost forgot about that, but, uh… fortunately, I was just walking around backstage after school one day, and I found my hat that I wore for the show, which was just, like, a really redneck-looking baseball cap… and it was just lying on one of the tables backstage… I don’t know if, like, somebody forgot to put it back with all the costumes or something, but, like, yeah, I just decided to take it, because I’d forgotten to take any other props, and, like, you know, it was my first speaking role in a high school show… I mean, a small one, but you know, and so… yeah, I guess I just wanted to keep it. Uh… but yeah, I’ve seen people walk away with… like, whole pieces of sets that they just keep in their rooms, I guess, or, like… just other props… I know the middle school kids are starting to take props from their shows that they do, too, so… I guess it’s spreading (laughs). But yeah, I guess it’s kind of a problem within the theatre department, you know, like, we’re supposed to give them back so they can use them for future shows, but, like, in all honesty, they hardly ever do, they mostly just sit there in the prop vault for years… and, like, honestly, our school has enough money to just buy new props if they need to, so, like… nobody actually cares that we’re just stealing props and set pieces, and it’s… it’s pretty cool to, like, keep parts of shows you’ve been in or worked on, so we just do it.

 

Thoughts:

The tradition of stealing props or set pieces is a highly sentimental one. After working for weeks or sometimes months on a show that closes after a few performances, those involved in it want to keep pieces of the show to remember it by, especially since a show’s closing is usually very emotional (the same informant, as well as others, tell me of cast parties during which everybody cries the whole night). It also allows cast and crew members to show others or “prove” that they were a part of a particular show, since they have a keepsake from it. This tradition also points to high school students’ desires to break rules and get away with “sneaking around” behind the adults.

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