Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Homecoming Mums

Danny McCoy remembers…..

I guess we all did not realize that a Mum was a Texas thing.

Upon October's arrival, once again there will be High School Homecomings all across the United States. We did not know it at the time, but Texas had added a tradition that we natives simply have taken for granted. If you still do not believe in Global Warming or that mums are not just a Texas tradition, just asked a friend or a co-worker who went to a non-Texas high school for their opinion.

Mums first became part of the Texas Friday Night Lights Football scene in the early 1950s.  The chrysanthemums prime growing season is October and November. Thus, the florists defaulted and promoted chrysanthemums corsages for high school boys to impress their dates and the young ladies who would wear them to the Homecoming game and dance. In the early 1960s Homecoming corsages were bundled with ribbons featuring the schools colors, glittered letters and/or mascots.

Gradually, the size of the mums became competitive and expensive. They became large badges of honor with ribbons long enough and ready to be tripped over. Some teenage ladies started to walk the school halls early to show off their mums in a not-so-subtle-way to demonstrate that they not only had a date for Homecoming, but her beau spent a hunk of money on her. It was very intimidating for the girls who did not have a date and for the boys who had not yet purchased their obligatory mum.

The price of today’s mums can easily start at over $100. And of course everything is still BIGGER in Texas. Mums have now morphed into a proud statement featuring flashing lights, musical sounds on modules/chips and a bevy of tiny teddy bears. A mum may not be on your shopping list, but this season take time to check out the florists displays.

When Linda and I started dating in high school, our sweetheart status provided some instant benefits. I no longer had to worry about being turned down on date requests and there was no anxiety for Linda on waiting for invites to important events such as Proms and Homecomings. So for her first High School Homecoming I ordered her a nice mum from Gordon Boswell.

And those of you who really know me, it did not stop there. A family church friend, Mrs. Plumlee, whose daughter, Linda, would later be one of our flower girls at our wedding, was known for her skills in making tissue flowers. These handcrafted artificial flowers looked like the Real McCoy. So I contracted with Mrs. Plumlee to make a custom mum for me. She agreed as long as I provided the supplies. So I purchased a quad-ply premium box of Kleenex and dyed a few chenille stems (pipe cleaners) in royal blue (Eastern Hills colors).  Mrs. Plumlee shaped them into E H, arranged the tissue into a beautiful flower, added some glitter and perfume to fashion a perfect mum. From a yard away you could not see the difference.

Linda’s dad greeted me and I noticed with delight when entered the room that Linda was wearing a strapless dress. If her parents were not around, I know I could have managed to pin on the corsage. I must have paused too long.  Linda’s mom intervened and said: “Let me help you with that?” She then opened the box and continued: “Oh, Danny this is very nice. Did you make it yourself?”  My future father-in-law then gave me a disappointed glance.

It was at this time that I realized I had not fully thought this ruse through. I had assumed that they would all recognize that this was a joke and I would go back to the car, laughing all the way, to retrieve the real flowers.  But before I could internally debate my next action, the Kleenex Mum was pinned and we were ushered out the door. I could not believe she was wearing it!

As we headed to Farrington Field, I was a bit agitated. How could she possibly think that I would buy her a fake flower! In the stadium stand, it only got worse. My buddies taunted: “Hey, I think I am getting a cold. Does anybody have any Kleenex?”
After the game we headed to the Homecoming Dance. We paused in the parking lot. I reached under the seat and pulled out the Gordon Boswell mum. It was still in great shape. I meekly offered it, mumbled a lame excuse so that she could wear it to the dance. As she exited the car, she politely said: “No, I prefer this one.” 

Since then I have always liked a girl with SPUNK!  For several years both mums hung on her bedroom wall in a place of honor. But the one made out of Kleenex lasted the longest.

...even at Junior High....


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