Standing on Chieftain sidelines
Does anybody remember when it was necessary to reserve prime seats at Tonganoxie High School football games?
To make sure they'd have the best seats, fans merely drove to the football field on a Friday afternoon and parked their cars just outside the endzones. By the time school was out, usually there were half a dozen empty cars lined up along the south and north sides of the football field. And by the time the game started, the cars were full of spectators who heralded touchdowns with the honking of horns.
With the recent improvements to the Tonganoxie Athletic Complex, now, without reservations, everyone has a prime seat in the grandstand. There's no more rickety bleachers for Tonganoxie High School football fans.
And although touchdowns go down more quietly than they used to, loud sirens now herald the end of each quarter.
In the good ol' days, to gain access to the announcer's booth on the east side of the football field, it was necessary to climb a ladder. The new announcer's booth has an elevator.
Remember the old cinder track that used to encircle the football field? Heaven forbid if you fell down on it barelegged. Have you taken a walk on the new track yet? Your Nikes will barely feel the pavement.
I remember our high school band marching in formation on the football field to the tune of "Let Me Call You Sweet-heart" for the halftime of the homecoming game. It wasn't a very peppy tune, but then again, the high school band wasn't as peppy then as it is now. Do you think there could actually be someone livelier or more inspiring than today's band director, Charles VanMiddlesworth? Since he came to town two years ago, the high school band membership has grown from 35 to 103.
Across the street at Chieftain Park, the new soccer field is surrounded by trees and a park on two sides, the new bank on one side and to the west, if you're there in the evening, the setting sun. It's a picture-perfect setting, and with all the other improvements in the area, including the playground, sand volleyball court, smaller soccer fields, walking trail and basketball goals, it's a useful setting, too.
The improvements in our school compound are measurable measurable not only in the sense of their physical existence, but also in the sense that Tonganoxie citizens stepped forward to make these changes possible. They didn't wait for a tax levy, they didn't wait for a milestone charitable contribution they just went ahead and did it.
Much volunteer labor has gone into every part of the new and improved athletic complex, as well as into the city park across the street.
And as I stand on the sidelines, trying to capture area children and teenagers on film, watching them execute their moves, observing them in their triumphs as well as in their defeats, I can't help but be proud, and to feel kinship with them.
It was one evening at a recent football game, as I stood near the edge of the field looking through the lens that I realized, like all those in their red and whites, I'm also a Tonganoxie High School Chieftain.
And I always will be.
Take it from a THS alumna who in the wintertime still sleeps beneath a red and white (school colors of course) afghan crocheted by her grandmother for a high school graduation gift.
I was proud to be a Chieftain then.
And I'm proud to be a Chieftain now.