Originally posted on the Central High School Alumni Web Site, 20 July 2005
Tradition Can Be Invented, If They
As an impressionable and somewhat frightened freshman in 1952, I watched every upperclass student, the ones who were already 14, to find out what went on inside CHS and how to survive there.
For years, I had heard of its athletic and academic traditions. Recently, I had read through fat Barnwell Lecture volumes, I had peered at sports and debate trophies, and now I wore my sister's ex-boyfriend's crimson and gold CHS jacket, which I inherited after he was booted out for some unmentionable violation of tradition or Algebra. I was scared: What had he done wrong? Had he broken a rule I didn't even know yet?
At the first assembly, we were welcomed, tediously enough, in a tradition too long honored.Time ticked us past the speeches and entertainment. The bell rang. Classes called.
Suddenly, all of the 206 all sat there in shock at the first unexpected occurrence in Central High. The much-vaunted senior class -- almost all of whom shaved already -- shook the mile-high ceiling and our ears with a swelling cheer: "Yo-o-o-o-o, 199!" It was impressive both as pure noise and as a sign of CHS cameraderie. It was unrecorded. But it was a tradition and exclusive to seniors. When silence followed and we all walked out of the auditorium, we had gotten another growing-up message. Even in the school of our dreams, rank hath privilege. It was sobering. We didn't know it, but rebellion was stirring.
Someof us were taken aback. That huge final cheer was to listen to and aspire to do, but it was not meant for us. Not yet. From that first day, some of us were dreaming of joining the cheering soon.
In spite of that tradition, we still loved school, no, we loved CHS more because of the magical words and ritual access to shouting them. We couldn't wait to be part of the show. By then many of us had visited the school store run by a history teacher's wife, to buy pencils and book covers proclaiming our high school was CHS, but it took another year, I believe, for one effervescent young scamp to break the rule at assemblies and bring democracy to the place.
It was our first assembly as sophomores, and at the end, as teachers rose to patrol the exiting bodies -- while echoes of the lucky seniors' cheer rang in everyone's ears, I turned (scampily) to my neighbors and said "C'mon, let's do it", and at my count of "1-2-3", with absolute faith that my mates would follow and not leave me shouting like a madman -- and that no teacher would punish an entire misbehaving, untraditional, anti-traditional --- but well-intentioned class,we did it: "Yooooooooooooo 2-0-6" swelled for the first time ever on earth. It rolled across the rows of 206 students, and roared out as one voice to fill the auditorium, and as "Yoooooo" sang out, a CHS tradition fell dead.
The massive, perfectly combed heads of the huge seniors turned to stare menacingly at the upstart revolutionaries, teachers tried to hide that they were smiling, though several, bored with assemblies anyway, were haughtily ignoring us. And we were laughing. We knew. We saw the turned crewcuts. We had taken on the past and mapped out the future. Tradition had been killed with a single shot, a shout -- by new tradition. We had democratized assemblies.
And nothing had happened to us. I was still in Central, in the 206. No jacket to hand over, and no detentions.
At assembly the next week, another revolution was upon CHS. It happened without warning, surprising everyone, even the 206. After the talk, the teachers arose, and the mighty seniors sang. Then we sang. And then, yep, every other class shouted out its name, er, number: "Yoooo, 2-hundred", "Yoooo, 2-0-1", and even the lowly frosh "Yo--oooo, 2-0-8". We were shocked. How declasse. How untraditional. How predictable.
There was no turning back. From then on, we politely waited turns as the songs rolled in order, seniors, juniors, then the scamp generation, then the firstyear kidlets. 206: 1, CHS tradition: 0! Who knew what I know now: we were fading into legend. Soon no one would remember how the sweep of class chants started. It was already traditional. Always did it that way, you know.
I wonder. Is it still traditional for every class proudly to sing out its existence at every assembly? I hope so. If it isn't, don't try it unless your teachers are the spirit-loving type from the '50's: Detentions are another ancient CHS tradition I know some stories about.
Bob Solomon, 206
(This page updated 11/15/2007)