Harmony Grove homecoming a game changer

By Wayne Bryan Published October 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Harmony Grove High School in Haskell will hold its first ever football-based homecoming this year. Shown in the halls of the high school, front row, from the left, are Harmony Grove alumnae Oma Dell, Janie Lyman, Sharon Finley and Kim Stewart; and back row, from the left, Harmony Grove High School Principal Tim Holicer, Haskell Mayor Jeff Arey and Harmony Grove Superintendent Daniel Henley.

— The homecoming queen and her court for Harmony Grove High School will have to dress a little warmer this year. The school’s annual homecoming event has moved from its traditional place in the school gym during basketball season to outside on the school’s football field Friday night during the Cardinals’ game against Centerpoint High School.

“We especially want the community to know about our first football homecoming,” Harmony Grove High School Principal Tim Holicer said. “We hope the crowd will be bigger, and we want to invite not only all the former students to attend, but we welcome the newer members of the community to come and find out more about the schools.”

Although the Harmony Grove School District was formed in 1927 by a combination of several one-room schoolhouses, it didn’t hold its first homecoming until 1967.

Janie Lyman graduated in 1965.

“When I was in school, there was no homecoming and no dances,” she said, “but we were a close family that opened class with prayer.”

The high school has been playing football for only three years, so the traditional homecoming game was always a basketball game in the district’s gymnasium.

More than just being an outside event this year, homecoming will provide information about school organizations to the community and offer opportunities for alumni to reconnect with the schools.

“There will be sign-up sheets for alumni so they can be on our mailing lists and we can have contact records,” Holicer said. “This is the right time of year for generations of people to come back home to their school.”

Holicer said the high school also asks former students to help the school patch up some of the history that has been lost over the years.

“We don’t have a copy of every year’s book on file for reference,” he said. “We have scanned the yearbooks from 1953 until 2012, but we are missing yearbooks from 1951 and 1952. Do they exist? We don’t know with any certainty.”

Also missing are some of the composite photos displayed along the halls of the school. The composites are a collection of graduation pictures of students in their caps and gowns.

“We would like to have them to protect them,” Holicer said.

Haskell Mayor Jeff Arey, a graduate of the school, said the photos reflect the history of the community.

“There is no picture of the class of 1944,” he said. “There were only a few students and almost no guys because they had gone off to [World War II].”

For the small Saline County town of Haskell, the school system is the common thread that holds the community together.

Kim Stewart graduated from Harmony Grove in 1978 and has been a math teacher for 19 years.

“I have been here my whole life,” she said. “The school has been everything to the community. It has grown up like a family, with a small-school atmosphere, even though we have gotten much bigger. So many have moved into the area, everyone is not related to everyone anymore.”

Arey said the community has a different dynamic today because new residents are unaware of the history of the community and its small-town culture, but that atmosphere may be what has attracted newcomers to Haskell.

“I think many have moved here looking to make that connection with us,” he said, “and we want to welcome them.”

Sharon Finley, a 1974 graduate, said some things about the school have continued over the years.

“The teachers still really care,” she said. “They get to know the students and become involved in their personal lives and become a role model for them outside school, as well as in class.”

Harmony Grove Superintendent Daniel Henley, who was a teacher, coach and principal at the schools before being named to lead the district, said the homecoming will be held in football season in even-numbered years and in basketball season in odd-numbered years. He also said the event will not conflict with the annual reunions held by the school system’s active alumni association.

“We hope it will bring in more people who can learn about the history of the school and found out about what a great place it is to come to and support,” he said.

The homecoming events will start at 3 p.m. Friday in the high school field house and outside the gates to the football field. The activities will run until 6 p.m., when the gates to the stadium will open.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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