Take yourself back in time to a late fall night in 1972. It was late enough in fall that the leaves were pretty much all off the trees. It was the kind of fall night we used to have before Al Gore invented global warming.
On this clear night, the stars were out in abundance and it was very cold. The setting for the story is old Perdue Field, the home of the Trigg County Football Wildcats. The opponent didn’t matter. It was one that looked just liked all the others, a hapless victim for the soon-to-be two-time state champion ‘Cats.
What made this night stand out was that it was Homecoming. What no one knew was that it would be a Homecoming like none other before or none to follow.
It was a hall of fame Homecoming court – beautiful girls escorted by star football players. The queen attendants were Wendy Perry, Billie Ann Stallons, Margo Redd and Elma Palmer. Their escorts in corresponding order were Jimmy Futrell, Ivan Baker, Benji Glunt and Larry Palmer. Larry was Elma’s brother.
I can still remember sitting on the top row of the rickety old bleachers that night. Just as I had finally got the corsage pinned on my 7th grade girlfriend (with help from my mom), the Homecoming ceremony began.
At the microphone for the festivities was TCHS Student Council President Tracey Calhoun. Now, if it was going on at TCHS in the fall of 1972, Tracey probably had a hand in it. He had a finger in every pie.
Tracey was no dummy either. He was smarter than the average bear and maybe some of the owls.
Anyway, Tracey professionally introduced all of the girls and their escorts. He then gave the traditional lengthy and obligatory pause before he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, your 1972 Trigg County Football Homecoming Queen is Miss Wendy Perry.”
There was great applause as Wendy’s boyfriend and starting tackle Jimmy Futrell presented her with the flowers and crown. Then Jimmy sealed the deal by giving Wendy the traditional kiss right there in front of a packed stadium.
Another Homecoming in the books and all is well, right? Not hardly!
All in all, Wendy wore the crown for about 30 seconds before the unthinkable happened. She didn’t even have the title long enough to be considered Queen for the day.
Just as the crowd had settled back into their seats and the crown had settled onto Wendy’s head, Tracey Calhoun came back on the microphone. His words were concise and to the point,
“May I have your attention please? I have announced the wrong queen. The queen is Billie Ann Stallons.”
Within seconds, the crown and flowers were taken away from Wendy and given to Billie Ann (The kiss was nonrefundable, however). Ivan Baker then gave Billie Ann the Homecoming kiss amidst another round of applause, albeit it slightly confused. The dazed court then stumbled toward their seats on the makeshift stage prepared for them.
How could this happen? Well, I tracked Tracey Calhoun down in Mobile, Alabama, to find out.
Tracey said, “Nothing went right that day. We worked up to the last minute on preparing the stage. The backdrop was made of chicken wire. We must have stuffed a million Kleenexes in it. I had no idea who the queen was, but Mrs. Angie Mason was supposed to give me a sealed envelope right before the ceremony.”
Tracey added how Mrs. Mason was his absolute favorite person ever.
“The problem was that she was working so hard trying to make sure everything was right that she never handed me the envelope. Instead, she suddenly appeared in the press box, leaned over and whispered the name of the Queen in my ear. I then promptly announced the wrong name. To this day, it is still a mystery to me as to why I did not call the correct name out. I liked and admired both girls equally. I do know this. My gaffe ruined not only Wendy and Billie Ann’s night, It messed up mine equally bad. I spent the next 30 minutes puking behind the bleachers with my date Shirley Hamm tending to me.”
Both Wendy and Billie Ann had similar memories and feelings about that fall night long ago. Wendy said she was embarrassed and she felt bad because it had messed up Billie Ann’s special night. Billie Ann felt bad for Wendy and what she had to go through.
Billie Ann stated, “I wished they had just left it with Wendy as Queen. We were friends and had a great time cheering together over the years.”
Most importantly, neither of the girls had any hard feelings for Tracey. They both noted how it made for a Homecoming that they would never forget.
Hey, it is like the bumper sticker says: Stuff happens!
OT: Wendy and Jimmy definitely survived the ordeal. They recently celebrated 36 years of marriage. They are the proud parents of two grown children and the even prouder grandparents of a granddaughter.
Double OT: Billie Ann and Ivan went on to be married 21 years before divorcing. They have two children and one granddaughter.
Triple OT: This Saturday is basketball homecoming for the Trigg girls and boys teams. Not to put any pressure on the Public Address Announcer, but here’s hoping for a smooth night. In other words, Don’t mess it up, Brother Jason Strickland!
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
(Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.)