Jake Joins the Pep Squad

Greenwood High School band, 1939

“We [Sara, Lucille McAlexander, Mack Standifer] joined the Pep Squad, a group of girls who marched with the band and cheered at the football games. Roy Martin, the band director, was noted for his big halftime shows, and we had to practice in the afternoons and at night before a football game.

GHS Band Director Roy Martin

“If you got out of step, which I often did, he would scream at you in front of everybody, but we all respected him and liked him. We were warned never to run off the field but to march off in formation. One night one of the girls, Alice May McBee, got confused and we messed up on an intricate drill and all ran off the field despite his prior instructions. He kept us there until midnight drilling, even though many were supposed to have dates after the game. It never happened again.

Pep Squad members in New York City. The infamous Alice May McBee is fourth from the right.

“Mr. Martin produced some of the best high school bands in the country. He died in 1985 at the age of ninety, and he and I were still very good friends even though I still remember the time I was out of step and he said ‘Jake, you’re out of step!’ and looked right at me.

The 1937-38 Pep Squad.

“We rode on a school bus to out-of-town games in places such as Belzoni, Leland, Cleveland or Clarksdale and Greenville, and we marched in the Christmas parades, the early Delta Band Festivals, and in the parades before the football games.”

Sara loved Greenwood High School all her days. One of my favorite childhood tales, which I would beg her to tell me over and over and over, was the saga of poor hapless Alice May leading the Pep Squad off the field. Actually, the way I remember Sara’s account, Alice May led them in the completely opposite direction from where they were supposed to be headed and they randomly marched around the field for awhile before dissolving into chaos as the football team stormed back out of the dressing room. This story would have me doubled over with laughter, which got Sara going and we would both be howling at the antics of a bunch of high school girls from long, long ago. And when she did something clumsy (not a rare event), Daddy would call her “Jake.” Notice that she is not on the front row in that Pep Squad photo; I suspect that she, Mack and Lucille were tucked safely in the back line, out of step and cutting up.

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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