Tahlequah Daily Press


June 3, 2013

High school twirlers, skimpy outfits and roaring fire batons

TAHLEQUAH — There were four former Fort Gibson High School twirlers at a reunion-ish event I attended a couple of weekends ago. If you’re more than a few years younger than I am, the word “twirlers” may give you pause. If so, you can be forgiven your ignorance, because for the most part, twirlers don’t exist anymore. I should know; I was one of them.

“Twirlers,”  in the ‘70s, was the modern way of referring to a “majorette,” which was scuttled as a sexist term in the late ‘60s. What we twirled was a baton – and the more accomplished among us could twirl more than one at a time. In the early ‘80s, twirlers fell out of favor with high school band directors, to be replaced by what we disparagingly called “rifle handlers” and “flag girls.” We liked to tell ourselves we were supplanted because the new crop of chicks had neither the skill nor the agility to maneuver the skinny stick batons, much less catch them when they were spinning so fast you couldn’t get a bead on them and had to rely on your best guess.  Our observations of this trend convinced us anyone could learn flags or rifles in a few short months. It didn’t require years of backyard schooling by an older twirler who had condescendingly agreed to share her trade secrets. Some of us also smugly told ourselves those younger chicks wouldn’t look as good in the skimpy twirler costumes as we did. Band directors, mostly men in those days, intuited this, and thus urged the transition to disciplines that came with more modest uniforms.

Besides myself, the former twirlers at this get-together were (and I’m using their maiden names) Glinda Johnson, Lisa Smith and Becky Mears. Becky and I had been twirlers from the time I was in ninth grade, she in 10th; Lisa moved from Perkins and joined the squad her junior year, after Becky graduated. Glinda was a jack-of-all-trades type: Some years she was twirler, another time a cheerleader, and one year, she was the “mascot” for the football team, which required her to wear a full-length, faux tiger fur jumpsuit. Though it may have been hot and stuffy, Glinda’s jumpsuit did not raise the ire of the school board, which was composed of stern-faced men who were either members of the First Baptist Church or Church of Christ. Practically everyone in Fort Gibson in those days was a member of FBC or CofC, though there were a few Methodists (rumored to be liberal) and Pentecostals. The representatives of CofC and FBC frowned upon the scanty uniforms of the twirlers and cheerleaders. The CofC frowned a little deeper, though; I can only think of one or two backsliders from that congregation who dared to join either squad. One year, the school board president – a CofC’er – made a concerted effort to get the twirlers’ hemlines lowered. The push-back came not from the twirlers, but from their moms – including my Baptist mother, who wasn’t about to have some CofC man tell her what her daughter was going to wear. She had an ally that year in Becky’s mom, who was one of those rare Methodists.

Some of you know Becky, who now goes by Clovis and is the coordinator for NSU’s Indigenous Scholar Program. Becky’s probably the only one of the four of us who could still squeeze into her old twirler uniform. Becky’s a lovely person, both inside and out, and in some ways, totally the opposite of me. I’m a rough-and-tumble loud-mouth who shows up with wet hair and says the wrong thing. Becky is very refined and genteel, and perfectly put-together, from the hairstyle to the wardrobe, right down to the fingernails. I never could figure out how she managed to twirl and keep her perfectly manicured nails. My mother often said of Becky, “Now that is what a real lady is supposed to be like” – a hint I needed to improve. In fact, Becky was a lot of fun and could get into mischief just like any of us. Despite our differences, we had a lot in common, and got along famously. She even let me make fun of her for being “prissy.”

I applied this label as the time to take up our fire batons approached. They’re not as dangerous as they look, as long as you keep them moving. You’d have to hold the lit end against your clothing to catch it on fire, although a particularly careless girl might wind up with a few locks of hair poofing into nonexistence like a dandelion. But it wasn’t so much the fear of getting burned that intimidated Becky; it was the thunderous roar the blazing batons make when you twirl them. During practice, I begged and cajoled and goaded, leveled a few threats, and Becky bravely took baton in hand. I’ll never forget the image of her, twirling the baton, hand over hand, crying and twirling, crying and twirling, and laughing at the same time, and still managing to keep her composure.

Later that afternoon, Becky was apparently feeling supremely confident, because she tried a throw-turn move, where you spin around a couple of times while the baton is in the air, then catch it. It’s quite a trick, because you can get disoriented during the spin, and then you have to focus on the slim, spinning baton and grab it at just the right moment so you don’t break a couple of fingers. Becky missed the baton, but it didn’t miss her: It smacked her square in the nose with a loud “whap!” sound, and went flipping off in the distance. The look of shock on her face was priceless; she was so shocked she didn’t emit a single sound of pain. Her nose did swell, which bought her another round of teasing. But thanks to a few ice packs and a couple of layers of expertly applied makeup, no one was the wiser. At least, not until the rest of us leaked the story. Fortunately, though, Becky was always the best of sports.

Let’s hope she’s still a good sport. If she objects to my revelations, I can only hope she no longer has a baton under her bed. Those things can be deadly weapons.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Text Only
  • Wild West pits U.S. government against “We the people”

    Unless one has been living under a rock over the past week, one couldn’t have missed the recent standoff in Nevada between a rancher and the U.S. government. It’s only one incident in many that has the government of the people pitted against the people.

    April 16, 2014

  • Bodily functions don’t belong in job interviews

    For all you soon-to-be college grads who will be trying to join the rest of us suckers in the workforce, I have a word of advice: Don’t pass gas during the interview.

    April 14, 2014

  • As Moore tornado anniversary nears, documentaries ask, ‘Where was God?’

    But one question put to readers in a publication that crossed my desk was a bit confusing to me. It asks its readers: “Where was God?”

    April 9, 2014

  • A pound of bacon is better than a pig in love

    Whatever happened to the cavemen in the Geiko insurance commercials? Those were some of the least-offensive TV blurbs I’ve ever seen, and they were original. But like any other good idea, this one fell victim to the kind of corporate tampering that always insists on fixing what ain’t broken.

    April 7, 2014

  • Escape from Auschwitz: To the 21st century

    One would have to question whether our world has gone mad in this, the 21st century, or if we are doomed to repeat the historical past.

    March 30, 2014

  • Volunteers needed to ‘Clean up Tahlequah’

    There’s a movement afoot that tugs at the pride of the folks calling Tahlequah and the rest of Cherokee County home. It’s an appeal for everyone – from the youngest to the oldest – to clean up the turf around them. Call it a campaign or a program, but what it really boils down to is a shoutout to all of us to resist contributing to the roadside trash we see, now that the snows of winter are behind us.

    March 24, 2014

  • U.S. debt threatens dollar as world currency

    March 16, 2014

    March 17, 2014

  • A sense of entitlement

    March 16, 2014

    March 17, 2014

  • It’s the publisher who sets the tone – and courage is key

    Daily Press readers should be gratified to know they have a publisher who brings courage and experience to our newspaper; who will stand as a bulwark against outside forces that might try to suppress information; and who believes in the tenet of “fair comment and criticism.” Anyone who knows me can attest I’ve always felt the same way – but the editor doesn’t get to set the tone, unless the publisher allows it.

    March 10, 2014

  • Putin switches attention from Olympics to taking over Ukraine

    Russia’s President Vladamir Putin, former head of the KGB before the Soviet Union splintered under the weight of the arms race, has taken up his old habits now that the international community has vacated Sochi and the Olympic torch has been extinguished.
    It seems as though Putin wants the old Soviet Empire to rise again.

    March 6, 2014


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case