It was a hundred degrees in the morning, but the kids wanted to sit outside to make plans in the fresh desert air. Three weeks before classes started, forty or so students and their Associated Student Body instructor had traveled with parents and chaperones to their annual planning retreat in Palm Springs. This morning it was time to talk about spirit days, Homecoming, and the Welcome Back Dance.
They kicked around ideas, looking for activities that would resonate with their classmates. Their adviser, a twenty year veteran, showed them lists of what he’d seen over the past two decades. They wanted to repeat some of the events that had shifted from innovative to traditional, and they bandied around new ideas they thought would be fun.
Fun for me was seeing that on their own current students decided that they wanted a western themed Welcome Back Dance, complete with costumes and hay bales …an idea that San Dieguito students came up with on their own back in the 1940s.
More than a few of the alumni I’ve talked with have described the fun they had dressing up as cowboys and hillbillies when they did their own western dances in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Looking at the photos of these students from decades past. I see the same youthful exuberance I see in the faces of students today. Times change, technology changes, and the city around our campus looks profoundly different than it did decades back, but in the smiles beneath broad brimmed hats I see a universality that ties together San Dieguito Mustangs from across time.
For perspective, the first western themed dances at San Dieguito took place about sixty years after the actual gunfight at the OK Corral. More time separates the 2016 dance from 1940. And yet, no matter the decade, there is something familiar in the pictures of the students.
These are students having fun, caring for each other, laughing, and dressing up to dance. I’ve sprinkled photos from 2016 and 1958 together in this post, and see in all that same spark of joy that I imagine will still be lighting students’ faces fifty years from now.
When this year’s Welcome Back Dance takes place, in a courtyard built in 1937, our students will saddle up as some of their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents did in their own time on our campus. Tying these generations together is the shared experience of San Dieguito, the human spirit of play, and now, as then, probably a lasso or two.