Middle school revives spirit ribbon tradition

By Kristen Tribe | Published Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Resurrected Tradition

RESURRECTED TRADITION - Language arts teacher Lisa Heiens (from left), her daughter Abbie Heiens, Joely Diaczenko, and her mom DeDe Diaczenko show off Lisa's collection of spirit ribbons from 1983-84. This week the girls and other middle school students started their own collection as the cheerleaders kicked off ribbon sales. Messenger photo by Andrew May

A wave of nostalgia is washing over McCarroll Middle School in Decatur this week.

The cheerleaders are selling spirit ribbons.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

Remember those? Thirty years ago, many schools sold them as fundraisers and to promote school spirit. The ribbon was several inches long and was pinned to your shirt. Each week it featured a cartoon of the opposing team’s mascot getting whomped, squashed and/or pulverized.

When I was in first grade, it was a big deal to get a ribbon, and you just had to wear it to the football game. But the funny thing is, today’s middle school kids have never heard of such, and teachers found themselves trying to explain the tradition to seemingly unimpressed students this week.

Language arts teacher and Decatur graduate Lisa Heiens brought her collection of ribbons from her senior year (1983-84) to show the kids and explain what all the fuss was about.

Tuesday morning Heiens clutched a handful of ribbons, the white slightly yellowed and the blue faded to purple. They all declared Decatur school spirit with phrases like, “Rip the Bearcats,” “Trample the Texans” and “Wipe Out Wylie.”

They even had one that seemed to honor the defense with “The Crunch Bunch.”

And my favorite: “Our Team is Red Hot, Beat Midlothian.”

Cheerleader sponsor DeDe Diaczenko said sales began Monday, and they ramped up after the pep rally Tuesday morning with staff and parents excitedly buying them.

Even the Messenger office was abuzz when we heard about the ribbon sales. For some of us, it instantly brought back memories of buying them every game day.

I bought a ribbon every week as a student at Alvord Elementary School. I proudly pinned it to my shirt, first with a straight pin and then later with a big plastic pin in the shape of a bulldog head.

And by second grade, it became cool to pin the ribbon to your jeans, so it would hang down the side of your leg.

At the office we agreed the most special, and possibly our favorite ribbons, were the “big” ribbons that listed the entire football roster. Depending on your school, those were traditionally sold at homecoming or for playoff games. As a little kid, they would hang from your shoulder to your knee, possibly a pre-cursor to today’s tot-sized mums.

Diaczenko said the idea to sell the ribbons came about after staff members were talking about them in the office one day.

“We were just remembering the good ol’ days and remembering how we’d get a ribbon,” she said.

The teachers thought it would be fun to resurrect the tradition. Even though the nostalgia factor is lost on the kids, the excitement of the teachers is sure to spread to the students. Plus, it seems like a fun way to involve lots of kiddos in game-day activities.

The ribbons are 50 cents each and come with a silver football sticker to adhere them to your shirt. They’ll be sold weekly, and anyone can stop by the middle school office to purchase them.

Diaczenko said since the middle school games don’t coincide with the high school games, most of the ribbons just tout general school spirit so that they can be worn to all the games during the week.

But there is a special ribbon for the Bridgeport game – “Brand the Bulls.” It’s a nod to nostalgia with the exact phrase used decades ago.

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