Flap over school colors apparently fading
When Tonganoxie High School basketball players take the court next week for their first game of the season, they will be wearing red and white uniforms.
Normally, that wouldn't be a topic of conversation.
In the past, Tonganoxie High School's athletic uniforms were strictly red and white.
But two years ago, gold trim was added to the school uniforms.
To lifelong Tonganoxie resident and loyal alumna Diane Bretthauer, the addition of gold stripes to the boys' uniforms came as a shock.
Bretthauer described the gold as khaki, although the shade used in the uniforms is actually called "Vegas" gold.
In fact, Bretthauer felt so strongly, she complained to Tonganoxie school Superintendent Richard Erickson.
"I'm adamant about it," Bretthauer said in a recent interview. "I think it's a disgrace. I just honestly believe it's not up to an individual to change the color. If they want the school colors changed or colors added, then they should go before the alumni committee and tell them what they want."
Bretthauer's concerns also stretched to:
- Volleyball players, who this year wore pink warm-up shirts they had purchased themselves.
- Flag bearers, whose uniforms include black slacks and a red shirt with a gold and black stripe
- Chieftain Dance team members, who wore black Spandex shorts with their red and white T-shirts during this year's homecoming parade.
At the October school board meeting, board member Ron Moore said he hadn't grown up in Tonganoxie, but said he'd heard from people who had.
"There are folks who did go to school here and who want the school colors to be red and white," Moore told board members.
Moore said that he had heard the gold accents were a result of the long-ago merger with Jarbalo.
"Personally, I think if they (the school colors) are red and white, they ought to be red and white," Moore said. "We're seeing a lot of black creep in and some gold."
And, Moore said he didn't approve of the volleyball girls wearing pink warm up shirts.
After that school board meeting, volleyball team members no longer wore their pink shirts on court.
"I think we're just now trying to stay as much as possible with the white and red," the superintendent said. "That's our priority right now to encourage our teams and our coaches to stay with red and white."
Erickson said he didn't believe the red and white had to be applied to all school groups, including, for instance, the dance team.
"The dance team has special costumes that they're going to wear," Erickson said. "There obviously has to be some flexibility there."
Ties to Jarbalo
Erickson said he had heard that the gold was added to school uniforms in honor of Jarbalo High School, which consolidated with Tonganoxie in 1966. But surprisingly, there's no one around who seems to know that for a fact -- or even care.
Several lifelong Jarbalo residents don't take their old Jarbalo school colors, which were purple and gold, too seriously.
Kenny Jeannin, a dairy farmer who's lived near Jarbalo all his life, was a freshman in high school when Jarbalo and Tonganoxie consolidated.
Kenny and his wife, Wanda, are parents of Laura, a Tonganoxie senior volleyball player this year, and of recent graduate, Katie, also a former high school athlete.
Jeannin's father, James Jeannin, was a member of the Jarbalo school board before consolidation. After consolidation, he served on the Tonganoxie school board.
When Kenny Jeannin began playing basketball at THS during his freshman year, his uniforms were red and white.
"I don't know how this whole gold thing got into it," Jeannin said. "I don't remember anything ever being said about it. It was red and white up here 'til the last couple of years."
But the addition of gold to the boys basketball uniforms two years ago, and then to other uniforms including football and volleyball later, didn't faze Jeannin, who has attended hundreds of school games since the 1960s.
"I hadn't even noticed the gold," Jeannin said. "It hadn't even really crossed my mind."
Kenny's brother, Phil Jeannin, a Tonganoxie Junior High teacher and coach, went to school in Jarbalo through his junior year of high school. He spent his senior year, after consolidation, at THS.
Despite what might be an assumed allegiance to Jarbalo's purple and gold, Phil Jeannin wore his Tonganoxie red and white with the same athletic fervor he'd displayed in Jarbalo.
But Jeannin's not one to quibble about colors.
In fact, Jeannin, who still owns his original red and white THS basketball uniform, said the recent addition of gold to the school uniforms hasn't bothered him.
"Those things don't bug me," Phil Jeannin said. "Those are the least of my kind of worries."
Kay Soetaert, president of the THS class of 1971, grew up with red and white high school colors and was surprised at the addition of gold to the uniforms.
"Why did we add gold," Soetaert asked. "Why and when and who -- I'm curious."
Back to the blazon
Apparently, some of the credit goes to an inconspicuous plaque that hangs in the high school foyer. The blazon, or coat of arms, describes its colors as "or, argent and gule," which translates to gold, silver and red.
So in taking the blazon at its word, it's understandable it could be construed that gold is one of the school colors.
Tonganoxie High boys basketball coach David Walker said he's not sure where the blazon originated, or the mention of gold. He said he'd heard the gold was added in honor of Jarbalo.
Thomas Murry Sr., who lives in Jarbalo and was on the Jarbalo school board when consolidation with Tonganoxie was in progress, said he couldn't remember the stipulation that Jarbalo's gold be added to the school colors.
Murry's wife, Jean, agreed, saying, "It's just been so many years I can't remember. It's just been so long, probably no one would remember."
As a teen, Sandy Heim, a 1969 THS graduate who attended Jarbalo before consolidation, wore her red and white Tonganoxie cheerleading uniform with pride.
Like other Jarbalo-area residents interviewed, Heim had no idea why gold crept into the school's colors.
And that question may remain unanswered.
"I don't know that anybody around here knows the true history of the blazon or where it came from," Walker said.
But Walker's aware of the complaints voiced about the addition of gold to the uniforms. That's why this year's basketball team is sporting new -- red and white -- uniforms.
"We just thought it would be in the best interest of everybody if we try to get back to what are the official school colors, red and white," Walker said.
However, he noted, even the new uniforms include a touch of gold that highlights the lettering.
Heim, whose daughter, Addie, plays volleyball for THS, said when it comes to uniforms, they should be red and white.
"But, if they just want to use the gold for accent, I don't have a problem with that," Heim said.
However, when it comes to warm-up shirts, such as the volleyball teams pink T-shirts, Heim would like to see a little more flexibility.
"Addie's been playing on club volleyball for several years, that's what kids do," Heim said. "They all wear different colored bright shirts. ... It has actually nothing to do with school colors."
Heim was surprised when Addie and her teammates were told they could no longer wear their pink shirts while warming up on court.
"I was not so happy to hear that people stepped in who had nothing to do with the kids who are playing on the team," Heim said. "They put enough pressure, apparently, on the school board that they had to quit wearing them. I don't think that should be anybody's call but the kids or the coach or the parents of the kids."
Hannah Heintzelman, a senior on the volleyball squad, said team members should have been able to continue wearing the pink shirts for warm up.
"I don't think it's any of their business what we wear," Hannah said. "It doesn't affect our game or anything."
And of course, Hannah added, the girls put their own money into the shirts.
"We paid for these shirts," Hannah said. "If they want our colors, they should pay for our shirts."
Consider the alternative
In Jarbalo, Thamar Barnett lives just across the street from the old Jarbalo school. Her children attended classes in Jarbalo and, after consolidation, in Tonganoxie.
Barnett, who writes the weekly Jarbalo Jottings column for The Mirror, had heard rumblings about the gold and had asked around. The longtime Jarbalo residents she asked had no inkling where the gold came from.
"I can see where it probably would have happened, but I don't know any details," Barnett said.
Then, with a chuckle, Barnett added, "My retort to all that is, well, would you rather they'd picked purple -- they'd look like the Red Hat Society."