I graduated from Fresno High School back in the turbulent 1960s. There were nearly 1,000 kids in my graduating class, and today the Fresno Unified School District is the fourth largest in the state with 73,000 students attending 107 different schools. Founded in 1889 about a mile or so from the city center with the now politically incorrect mascot, the Warriors, the school drew its students from a wide metropolitan area. When a few alumni returned for Homecoming, most of us didn’t have any clue who they were. Without knowing a thing about them, we just called them grumps.
In order to satisfy segregation issues, Edison High School, located in the westside’s Black ghetto, offered special programs that attracted a number of diverse students from schools across the city and then traded Edison students for them. There were frequent conflicts between the White and Hispanic students. Big city stuff, although I don’t think I really recognized that at the time.
Thankfully, Lassen High School students live in a completely different world far removed from such societal tensions. Susanville is a pioneer city founded on the edge of the frontier. The families of many of those original settlers remain, and many of those families intermarried. Those interconnected familial ties create a rich social fabric that didn’t exist where I grew up — you know, the so-called “Good Old Boys.” (I always loved former Lassen County Clerk Theresa Nagel’s “Good Old Gal” sign on her desk, by the way.) Many indigenous students from several local tribes attended LHS as well.
In the good old days not so long ago before the continuation and charter schools, if you went to high school here in Susanville, you went to Lassen High. That’s it. Your parents may have gone there, too. Maybe your grandparents went there, maybe your cousins and nieces and nephews went there. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about a community made up of cliched interbred yokels holed up in some isolated holler. They were emigrants to our marvelous land, sure, but they also were dreamers of a better world — doctors, lawyers, community builders and leaders, politicians, Masons, church-goers with deep religious beliefs, farmers, ranchers, cattlemen, sheepherders and honorable laborers. Our local students live in this interconnected community that can only exist in a historic small town like Susanville, although they may not recognize how special and unique this is because it’s the only thing they’ve ever known.
Homecoming week themes
Homecoming week begins today with Gold Fever — bell bottoms tie dye and platform shoes. Tuesday brings Go for the Gold — dress like an Olympian. Wednesday means Comedy Gold, including a three-legged race and an obstacle course. Thursday is Pirates vs. Prospectors — a little arrrr in your parrrd!
But Friday is the big day, Grizzlies go Gold — the Homecoming Parade at 2:12 p.m. on Main Street, the crowning of the Homecoming Court, Alumni of the Year, class floats and a brisk fall afternoon and evening of football at Arnold Field.
According to a statement from the city, “We are encouraging businesses and residents to get into the spirit and show their Lassen Pride with outside decorations, like streamers, purple and gold flowers, supportive signs or anything that makes our community great. The Alumni of the Year will be introduced as well as the royalty representing their grade levels. … Main Street will be closed from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and the parade begins at 2:12 p.m. The parade route starts at the entrance of the high school back parking lot (Berkeley Street), down Highway 36 (Main Street) and turning onto Foss Street.” The festivities conclude Saturday with a Homecoming Dance.
I encourage every Lassen High School graduate and all the family members of students to join in the celebration on Main Street. Such an event could only occur this way in a small, close-knit town like Susanville.
I hope we can all recognize this is simply and truly Americana its finest. We don’t need to go anywhere to Make America Great Again. We can do it ourselves right here on Main Street Friday afternoon. Pride in our high school will expand into pride in ourselves and our community. We have an opportunity to create a big shindig our Lassen High School students and our community will never forget. We could even make this Homecoming Parade an annual event! That would be something, wouldn’t it?
And kudos to the Susanville City Council members who donated their discretionary funds to pay the costs of this unbudgeted parade. Well done.
I encourage all of us to get together and make this great thing happen for our kids. I’ll see you there.