I must admit I’m not the most dedicated professional football fan. In fact, I really don’t pay much attention to the NFL and haven’t for years. The Super Bowl doesn’t even draw my enthusiasm. That is — until I heard about the integration (cheer squad, that is).
That’s right. For the first time in Super Bowl history, there will be male cheerleaders and they are on the Los Angles Rams cheerleading roster.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no male activist. I haven’t been wondering around the United Stares picketing NFL games because the male gender hasn’t been adequately represented on the cheerleading squads. As I mentioned previously, I haven’t paid any attention. It’s just that the morning television “news” programs seem to think this is one of the most exciting happenings since they first donned helmets.
It also sent my mind racing back in time to a simpler, more friendly world — back when a nickel would buy a bottle of Coke or a Milky Way candy bar.
The year was 1954 and I was a freshman attending Slater High School. That winter was a special time, a time when big things were about to happen. We could feel it in the air. Our boys’ basketball team was on a roll as they racked up win after win. The word in the hallways was STATE!
This was no little thing. Back then, Iowa had only one boys’ state basketball competition. All the high schools competed to make state, no matter the enrollment of the school. Slater had 50 students – that’s all four grades and both sexes.
As the boys kept racking up wins, the attendance in our little gym swelled to the bursting point. Enthusiasm was everywhere, thanks to the team AND the cheer squad. That’s right, it, too, was integrated. There were four girls and two boys.
This was highly unusual for Iowa high schools back in 1954. It took an abundance of grit for boys to become cheerleaders. In the gum-snapping, greased-hair culture of many of the male students, it might be a sign of questionable masculinity. But that wasn’t the case with the two boys on our cheer squad. They were both super cool and not exactly the kind of guys you would want to make an unkind remark to.
The cheerleaders did their job quite well, as did the boys’ basketball team. Slater ended the season that year with the first and only trip to state with a record of 29-3. It lost twice to Roland before beating them in the sub-state. They lost in the state to the eventual state champions, Muscatine.
Not bad for a little school with a lot of pluck, a fine basketball team and an integrated cheer squad.