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By Sue Curry Jones
The homecoming queen tradition at Ava Schools has been an exciting event for this community since it’s inception 62 years ago. And, even though event details have changed a little bit, and each generation has put their brand on coronation night, it would seem that the inner spirit and enthusiastic feelings associated with the affair haven’t changed much over the years.
Homecoming ignites a unique sense of enjoyment within the community – students and residents alike feel ownership and excitement, the town is filled with anticipation. It’s also a big event for parents and sport enthusiasts who look forward to a victorious evening of football with the Ava Bears.
The homecoming queen tradition started 62 years ago in Ava when the Class of 1949-50 selected Wanda (Sallee) Canas, the sister of Don Sallee of Ava, as Homecoming Queen. It was quite the special event and honor. Today, Wanda has the distinction of being the very first Ava Homecoming Queen.
Just like in 1949 and subsequent years, the spirit of anticipation has prevailed anew this week, and it seems the tradition really hasn’t changed much at all. That same wonderful inner spirit still exists – it continues to live in our hearts.
For most of us, Homecoming will always be a wonderful memory… a special moment in time and a grand story to share. Here are just a few.
Ann (Burris) Hunt
Homecoming Queen 1953-54
Our cheerleading sponsor, Martha Jo Daugherty called me out of class a couple of days before Homecoming to tell me I’d been chosen queen. She made me promise not to tell anyone except my parents until the half-time ceremonies of the game on Friday. The candidates rode on our float during the parade on that Friday afternoon and none of us were supposed to know who the queen was.
The band marched at all home games and did special formations on the field at half-time to form words or pictures. This time, the half-time formation was a huge heart and each member held a blue flashlight (as the lights were turned off and the band played “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”). It was so special and so very beautiful.
I had many wonderful things happen during my high school years, but I’d have to say that being chosen Homecoming Queen was the most memorable and special because it was totally unexpected.
I think being chosen gave me a certain confidence in myself that I’d never had before.
We didn’t have individual escorts but the three who were chosen co-captains from the teams were Jack Jenkins, Larry McKee and Terry McKee. My attendants were Evon Whitacre and Shirley Durham. We were chosen by the football team players.
The whole night was magical for me. I kept having to pinch myself to know that it was actually happening to me. It was a beautiful night weather-wise and the dance after the game was wonderful.
Shirley (Hartley) Mason
Homecoming Queen 1956-57
I have many fond memories of my school years at Ava. Being selected Homecoming Queen was one of the highlights of high school. I was selected Homecoming Queen by the football team in 1956. This was quite a thrill for a poor little girl from the county.
Martha Jo Dougherty was my seventh-grade teacher her first year out of college, and my cheerleader sponsor from the seventh grade through the twelfth. Martha Jo became a big sister to me. I lived in the country and she made her home my home away from home. Many nights I would stay with her for cheerleader practice or ballgames.
In those days the cheerleaders had to find their own way to the games, and I rode with Carol Jenkins and her brother, Chester. We were usually the first ones to arrive, if you know what I mean. Then there was C.W. Parker, the superintendent, and Leslie Crumley that were always a hoot to ride with to the games.
The night of Homecoming I remember how special I felt to be elected Queen by the team. I was wearing the mink coat Martha Jo loaned me as they announced my name over the loud speaker and was driven around the football field in a new Pontiac convertible to be crowned. Suzanne Reynolds and Iris Ann Brown were my attendants. Bobby Myers was my escort and Bob McCall and Dale Davis were escorts for the attendants. It was a night I will always remember.
Because of God’s guidance, my loving mother and father, my wonderful husband and family, and all the inspirational people of Ava I received my B.A. in Education and Masters in Counseling.
Judy (Souder) Lovan
Homecoming Queen 1962-63
I have no memorable moments from the event because I wasn’t there. I think I have been the only Homecoming Queen not to attend the Homecoming ceremony. Early Tuesday morning before Homecoming on Friday, I was taken to St. John’s hospital by ambulance and underwent an emergency appendectomy. I didn’t know until Saturday morning after Homecoming that I was the Homecoming Queen.
At the time I felt there was absolutely nothing humorous about the evening. On Saturday morning, several Pep Club members, some friends, and a few football players came to the hospital and did a coronation ceremony for me. It was a surprise that they came to the hospital, and it was a very special day for me.
I think it was a tremendous honor to be named a candidate for Homecoming Queen. It’s something that many young girls dream about as they go through school and watch Homecoming and the activities surrounding Homecoming each year. Being named Homecoming Queen was certainly one of the highlights of my high school years, especially with the experience that I had.
The honor is something I appreciate and will never forget. As a former cheerleader sponsor, and Pep Club sponsor at Ava High School, I’ve been involved with a number of Homecoming celebrations, and I’ve always enjoyed attending Homecoming. I’ve especially enjoyed those where former homecoming queens are invited back to attend Homecoming.
My escort was supposed to be Paul Warden. I think he played center on the offensive line and also played defensive lineman. My attendants were Linda (Pettit) Felton and Connie (Grote) Miller.
At that time candidates and the queen were chosen by the football team.
My special thought about the evening was that I wished that I could have been there. My sister, Pat (Souder) Henry, took my place, so I’m sure she had some special thoughts about the evening. The special Saturday coronation (in the hospital) was very nice, but the real thing would have been better.
Linda Sue (Collins) King
1966-67 Homecoming Queen
In 1966, the queen candidates were chosen by the football team about a week before the ceremony.
It was a very special privilege for me to get to represent our football team that year. My attendants were my best friends Janice Uhlmann and Vicki Hall.
To be nominated and chosen high school Homecoming Queen was a wonderful honor.
As soon as football season started, the Pep Club started making plans for what homecoming would be like that year. Mary Lou Sallee was the sponsor of Pep Club and she always had committees for everyone and it was wonderful working the event during the week and the final night. We would build a float and that would take a lot of work, but all the girls would have so much fun, and there were a few pranks played that week while we worked on the float, or getting ready for the dance after the game.
We didn’t have internet or malls for shopping, so we were very creative about borrowing or finding the right dress for the night.
The special event for the evening was the return of all the previous homecoming queens of the previous years. I think about 15 queens came that night. We were all excited about seeing the ladies and hearing about their homecoming the year that they were queen.
I can still remember how kind and gracious everyone was to me. It was exciting from the beginning to the end and I still feel very fortunate to have been chosen.
Amanda Katherine (Cox) Barnes, 1969-70 Homecoming Queen
In high school, I was known as Kathy, in my adult life I am known as Katie.
That night at the game, the Ava Bears played Houston Tigers, and Ava won.
I was so happy and honored to be nominated as a queen candidate and especially thrilled to be crowned queen. My Dad had passed away suddenly a few weeks prior, so I was sincerely thankful to have a positive event in my life. The crowning lifted my emotions and the nominee consideration warmed my heart. I was very excited and surprised.
The evening was especially exceptional because my Mother, brother and most of my large extended family was present and completely supported me, win or lose! Plus it was a special event because my attendants were my three best friends. One of the most important events in high school is the annual homecoming ceremony. Our Class of 1970 managed good team spirit and rallied together on and off the field. Lasting friendships were developed and remain in force today – 40 years later.
I truly appreciated being crowned the 1970 Homecoming Queen. I am reminded every year during the Homecoming season how blessed I am to have been given the title and I will cherish the honor forever. I still smile when I remember the excitement and fun of the evening.
My escort was Lyle Kivett. In 1970, my court consisted of three attendants, Jean Ann Curry and escort Boyd Strong; Mitzi Swofford and escort Leland Barnes; Lisa Dye and escort Eddie Potter.
In 1970, I was chosen by the football team players.
Our school motto was “He who has achieved success, has lived well, laughed often and loved much.” The class of 1970 celebrated our victory over the Houston Tigers with a homecoming dance, we remembered our school motto and enjoyed a very fun evening.
Rosemary (Halstead) Barnes
Homecoming Queen 1970-71
The most memorable moment I recall was being crowned “Queen” and all the traditional events leading up to the coronation were very exciting. It took place on Nov. 13, Ava Bears vs West Plains Zizzers, and the game was a tie, 20-20.
That evening the football players lined up in two lines in front of the decorated platform, a red carpet was rolled out, and the Queen of 1969-70 and the 1970-71 contestants were introduced. I received the traditional congratulatory kiss from the Captain of the football team, and we all received footballs autographed by members of the football team. The varsity cheerleaders who served as honor guards presented roses and gifts to everyone in the court.
I wore a red velvet formal, long white gloves, a “mink”, football mum corsage, and a very special necklace and earrings that a very dear friend and the 1969-70 Homecoming contestant Mitzi Swofford had given me. She sent me a special note of congratulations along with a rose and the jewelry she had worn the previous year.
I think that was my first time, and last time of wearing a “mink fur”. I felt special.
It was a very high honor to have been chosen. Terry (Lafferty) had asked me if he could nominate me and that was an honor in itself.
This was an everlasting memory to always remind me of the awesome friendships. We did share a lot of our lives together, good times, and good years. We don’t always realize how good we have it until it passes by.
I was escorted by Captain Terry Lafferty, #60 right guard and rode in a convertible driven by Roger Swofford. The attendants were Julia Gray who rode in a convertible driven by Cary Kennedy and was escorted by Roger Denney; and Janice Lea Hicks rode in the car driven by Randy Reid and was escorted by Larry Plaster.
We were chosen by the football team players.
This is an evening you never forget. In Oct. 2002 when former Homecoming Queens returned for a game, I still had that same “inner” feeling, and even now, the memories are stirred up again –– it is good to remember.
Jamie (Frye) Dry
Homecoming Queen 1973-74
The most memorable moment was hearing my name called as “winner”, and also the following year, it was so special to be able to hand the crown over to my cousin, Vicki (Delp) Prock. It just makes me happy to know that two members in my family received this honor.
It rained all night. The football field was very wet and muddy. I had borrowed my dress from Terinda (Everett) Hampton, and I was so afraid I had ruined it in the rain and mud. My attendants and I were all soaked. It was definitely not a good hair night.
When I think about being Homecoming Queen, it brings back great memories of my high school years. I was very active in sports and was also on the pom pon squad in high school. I lived 20 miles from Ava and it was not easy for my parents to get me to all the activities that I was involved in, and I would have to find my own way at times, but I had lots of great friends and loved them all.
To win such an honor by the vote of the whole school, makes me wonder what was so special about “me”? I had many friends and I believe that I received their vote by treating everyone the same. Jesus was no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and I believe he wants us to be the same. As an adult, I have always tried to remember that, and to teach my family to be the same.
The year was 1973 and you know, that has been a few years back, so I don’t really remember everything, I believe my escort was Kenny Hale. I don’t remember what position he played. My attendants were Rhonda (Swofford) Williams and Georgia Lake but I don’t remember who their escorts were. The football team chose the three candidates, then the student body voted for the Homecoming Queen.
It was just a great night. It was very exciting and such an honor that I will carry with me always.
Homecoming Queen 1980-81
I was very quiet and shy in high school. I had moved to Ava my sophomore school year and didn’t even realize until that moment that the student body even knew who I was!
The evening of the coronation it was fall and I had a thin spaghetti-strapped gown on and I am very cold by nature – I never even remember being cold – my adrenaline was on over-drive!
It was such a great honor to have an entire student body vote and choose you as their Queen. I was shocked beyond measure as I wasn’t allowed to run around much, didn’t have a lot of money, and I did not consider myself one of the “popular” girls. I had always envisioned those honors going to those girls. I always said that there were more ordinary people like me in high school than the really popular girls and it was those masses that voted for me!
The honor probably gave me more confidence in myself.
My escort was Louis Ruggiano because during that school year (1980-1981) the football players were not escorts. Louis wore a tan colored suit, I remember that! He was a handsome guy, and I’m sure as shy as I was, that I had never even spoken to him! Donna Tackett and Deanna Main were my attendants, and they were beautiful.
The football players voted on three senior girls, and then the student body voted from those three.
Ann (Mooney) Leonard
Homecoming Queen 1983-84
The whole Spirit week and events leading up to Friday night –– Keith taking our picture for the paper, Joe Corum interviewing us for KKOZ, the Homecoming parade and pep assembly was memorable. Oh, and getting to go with my Mom to buy a new dress!
It rained a lot that week, and the field was really muddy, we were slipping and sinking into the field in our heels. It didn’t rain during the coronation but started raining later in the game, so the three of us got to sit in the press box and watch the game from there. Marge Norman brought us really pretty coats from her store “Normans” to wear because it got really chilly.
I have always been proud to be an Ava Bear and tried to represent my school well, and this honor helped me be able to do that in a special way.
I still get excited today about Homecoming and all the excitement of spirit week. I help my sons dress up for all the spirit days and encourage my students to join in all the fun, and I always encourage my students to be Proud to be an Ava Bear. I am!
My escort was Shawn Donnelly, and he played center and defensive end. My attendants, and good friends were Sonja Housel and Cindy Rust. Bruce Sterling and Van Lawrence were their escorts. We were nominated by the football team and the queen was voted on by the student body.
The evening was just fun! Good friends, lots of excitement, and a great Homecoming dance after the game. Great memories!
Susan (Sanders) Calhoun
Homecoming Queen 1984-85
I was in shock! It was a thrill and great honor to be named 1984 Homecoming Queen –– and to share in the excitement with my attendants and friends, Cindy (Chamberlain) Letsinger and Patti (Beason) Chamberlain.
During the evening coronation, when the football players were presenting signed footballs to the Homecoming Court, Tom Alderson literally passed mine to me –– and, I caught it.
Most people probably remember homecoming nights over many others throughout high school. I have encouraged my own kids to immerse themselves in Spirit week activities during Homecoming to create their own special memories that they will fondly carry with them throughout their lives.
AHS honored past Homecoming Queens in 2001 by having them return and be escorted out on the football field. My son, Tyler “Biggs” Watterson was a freshman and I had the privilege of having him be my escort in his uniform. I never thought I would share a night like this with my son 18 years later! It was a night of pride in my son and school that evening.
In 1984 Roger Evans was my escort, and the attendants were Cindy Chamberlain escorted by Jason Bebout, and Patti Beason escorted by David Pool.
The football team nominated the candidates who were then voted on by the student body.
Colleen (Mooney) Alrutz
Homecoming Queen 1985-86
I just couldn’t believe it when they announced my name.
Looking back at pictures I realize how strong Aqua Net Hair Spray is. The wind was blowing really hard and everyone’s hair was blowing all over but mine did not move. Gotta love the 80′s do.
I have many positive thoughts about my high school years. Twenty-five years later I still have very fond memories of growing up in Ava and attending Ava High School. Football season was always my favorite time of the year. This is something to brag to my children about.
My escort was Carl Jean Jackson, and he was a lineman. Amy Prince and Lisa Wood were the attendants, and I do not remember their escorts. We were selected as candidates by the football team, and the student body voted on the Queen.
The evening gave me a feeling of pride and honor.
DeeDee (Gray) Miller
Homecoming Queen 1989-90
I was nominated for Homecoming Queen by the football players.
The most special moment for me was being able to share the evening after the football game at the Homecoming dance with my then boyfriend Brad Jumper, who was killed in an automobile accident a few months later.
The whole “event” was surreal to me at the time though.
I wasn’t the prettiest girl, nor the girliest girl – and quite frankly, the idea of having to buy a gown, wear a fake fur coat and walk in heels in front of hundreds of spectators, frightened me.
But, nonetheless, I was crowned queen, and I believe that was because I was a friendly person. I can look back on that event and share with my boys that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like on the outside, but rather who you are on the inside. A genuine care, respect, and personal regard to your friends, your loved ones, and your peers will not go unnoticed. It gets you crowned Queen, and you get to ride in the back of a convertible in the town Christmas parade!
And a word to the all future contestants, don’t chew gum when you are out there on the field because your mother will be very upset with you!!!!
Today, I am happily married, the mother of 2 sons and work as a pediatric physical therapist.
Kristi (Pitts) Vinson
1991-92 Homecoming Queen
The most memorable moment was when my name was announced as Homecoming Queen.
After my name was announced, I stood still – kind of stunned for a moment. My escorts had to guide me forward.
It is definitely a highlight and honor to reflect upon. It is a fond memory and an honor to have been Homecoming Queen for the Class of 1992.
Kasey Pueppke and Travis Graham were my escorts. My attendants were Lisa Graham and Amy Lansdown.
The football players chose the three candidates and then the student body voted from the three.
The honor is a memory I will always cherish.
It was special that my good friend, Tammie Nall, handed the crown down to me, as she was Homecoming Queen in 1991.
Chrystal (Barnes) Akers
Homecoming Queen 1993-94
I worked in the office 2nd hour with Andrea Zamora, one of our duties was to hand out the announcements of the day to all the classes. The day the Homecoming candidates were being announced our school secretary was “late” typing the announcements because she wanted me to hear it not read it myself. I remember I couldn’t wait until after school to share the news with my Mother so I had to call her at work.
One of my best friends had the honor of announcing the halftime ceremonies. All week she kept teasing me saying “and your 1994 Homecoming Queen is… Chrystal Akers.” The night of the ceremonies, after she really did say my name, it took me a minute to realize that it really was my name this time!
Looking back, of course it was one of my best memories from high school. The whole week is filled with excitement, laughter and pure fun. It was just an honor to be nominated.
To this day I can still relate, and feel the excitement and nervous butterflies in my stomach the moment right before they announce the name – when you hold your breath. It was an honor that I will never forget.
My escorts were Brad Baxter and Travis Burnett. My attendants and their escorts were: Pamela (Freeman) Crim with Tim Hall and Matt Lane; and Amy (Turner) Groll with Matt Turner and Jeremy Welch. We were nominated by football players, but voted by the student body.
The whole night was memorable from getting ready, to the support from all my friends and family, the crowning, but I must say the game was amazing. Our theme that year was “Appetite for Destruction” and we played the Salem Tigers –– it is still one of the most exciting games I have ever attended. In a double overtime the entire crowd was on it’s feet to watch Ava fight for the victory of a 23-22 win. They played their hearts out. It was the first time Ava had beaten Salem in six years. They definitely had an appetite for destruction!
Ashlea (Ball) Cox
Homecoming Queen 2000-2001
The most memorable moment was my name being called “Ashlea Ball – Winner!”
That evening it was so cold I was numb and couldn’t feel my feet walking in my heels. I was praying I wouldn’t fall.
I’m so thankful for all the good memories I have in school. It makes a memory to pass along to my twin boys.
Brad Strong was my escort and the attendants were Gina Garrison and Erica Ray.
The football team players nominated the candidates and the student body voted.
It’s always an honor to be nominated for anything, but actually winning Homecoming Queen is the icing on the cake!
Tatum (Hathcock) Siebert
Homecoming Queen 2005
I recall feeling very honored (and surprised) that I was even nominated. I remember when my name was announced at the football game and I didn’t even realize it until people came over and started hugging me!
But the things I remember the most were the events leading up to the actual Homecoming ceremony: participating in Homecoming week, the parade, talking on the radio, and waiting for the ceremony to start with Kayla and Mandy.
That night it was incredibly cold and we had on these dresses with no coats on or anything. Kayla, Mandy, and I had to ride in the convertible car around the track and I remember instead of waving at everyone, we were huddled together trying to get warm!
I had a very positive experience with high school, but being nominated for Homecoming with two girls that I have known my whole life and sharing that experience with them was the most special time that I can remember through high school.
It left me with some great memories and helped me realize that the people you share experiences with make those moments more special and memorable.
My escort was Grant Matthews. He did not play sports but was a very talented singer in the high school choir. My attendants were: Kayla Mitchell and her escort was Justin Coonce and my other attendant was Mandy Hampton and her escort was Chance Dry. We were chosen by the student body.
It was an honor that I never expected to have in high school, but I can’t say enough that the evening and whole event was made special because of my friends that I got to share it with.
Homecoming Queen 2010-2011
The most memorable part was the week before! Dressing up and taking a million pictures during Spirit week was so much fun.
That evening as we were lining up, about to walk on the field, Pete Leonard threw up – some because of nerves about the ceremony, and some because of the game. Everybody felt sick after that.
I have always thought of myself as somewhat a leader and winning queen gave me more confidence and motivation to be a strong, good leader, not only in my high school, but also in my community.
I have learned through high school that if you try to be nice to everyone, branch out and meet new people, and try to be the best example of Christ you can be, it pays off in the end. Because of my actions, I got the honor of being queen. If we use these actions in our everyday lives, I have learned that it will pay off.
Spencer Breland was my escort. We are great friends still today. Pete Leonard escorted Kristen Hastings; Garrett Baird escorted Celena Clouse; Brock Mitchell escorted Amanda Taylor; Nikki Rieken was escorted by Brett Lambert; and Emily Petty was escorted by Trae Shelton.
I was nominated by the football and cross country teams and chosen by the student body.
It was and still is a huge honor to be Ava’s Homecoming Queen.
I can’t wait for the day when I get to tell my kids about that special night and show them all my pictures!