by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
If you have lived in Grain Valley very long, you must know that our cheerleaders are among the best in the State of Missouri. The trophy cases in the Senior High Commons are filled with the many state championship trophies they have won over the past several years.
Originally called yell leaders, cheerleaders have been a part of sports since the turn of the last century. The first intercollegiate football game was played in 1869, between Princeton University and Rutgers University in New Jersey, and by the 1880s, Princeton had formed an all-male pep club. On 2 November 1898, standing in front of a crowd of sport fans, Johnny Campbell, a medical student at the University of Minnesota began the chant,” Minn-e-So-Tah!” He was so effective that the team won and he made history as the first cheerleader.
Some high schools began having yell leaders in the 1920s. A search of yearbooks did not reveal any cheerleaders in Grain Valley prior to 1945. Three girls appeared in the yearbooks wearing uniforms which were probably blue slacks with blue and white tops. Unless they had something on the back of their sweaters there is nothing to indicate they are Eagles. Does anyone besides me question their pose?
In the 1952 Treasurer Chest there were four girls who cheered for football, but I found this picture of the basketball cheerleaders, two girls and two guys!
Eventually our cheerleaders began to be identified by the “G” on their uniform. And, by the way, in the 1950s cheerleaders only had ONE uniform. It was always worn with saddle oxfords or saddle shoes, as they were sometimes called. Megaphones were also used by cheer squads.
In 1948 Lawrence Herkimer founded NCA (National Cheerleaders Association) and turned school spirit into a multimillion-dollar business. NCA began summer cheerleading camps which were held on colleges campus across the nation. Crepe paper pom poms were around in the 1930s but they didn’t hold up to the demands of dedicated cheerleaders that performed on the sidelines no matter what the weather. So, Herkimer introduced better pom pons. He founded Cheerleader Supply company in 1953. The old megaphones were replaced by spirit sticks, vinyl pom poms, and hair bows!
See the evolution of cheerleading in Grain Valley. The Historical Society invites you to join us for Coffee with Classmates –the Rock ‘n Roll Years (1950-1970) on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 beginning at 10:00 AM. We will reconnect, reminiscence, and share memorabilia from our days at Grain Valley! I hope you will join us.