This week’s Cherokee High School homecoming parade through downtown Canton unleashed a flood of memories from the days when I attended there.

Homecoming back then was perhaps a bit different, but in many ways it was just the same. For students it was a chance to show our school spirit and have fun.

For those who graduated from Cherokee High in years past, it was an opportunity to reunite with fellow classmates and pay homage to the school we all loved.

This year, Cherokee homecoming has a bit of added poignancy, as plans are underway to build a new Cherokee High School in the near future.

The new school is much needed, and it is time to move Cherokee High into this millennium. Our school board and leadership have done all they can to make the campus that opened its doors in 1956 serve today’s classes.

But our students in this part of the county need a new high school so that the level of excellence can be maintained. And there are pressing needs to address at schools throughout the county that also will be met.

Early voting is now underway to extend the present 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax for education, or ED-SPLOST for another term, and the election day is Nov. 2 to decide this important issue for our community.

Using a sales tax to pay for school additions and expansions easily adds up to be the best way to keep our school system among the top in the state.

In addition to a new CHS campus, the penny sales tax will fund a new school to replace the aging Free Home Elementary and add classrooms at Oak Grove Elementary.

Creekview High School gets new classrooms and a second gymnasium, Woodstock High will get much needed classroom additions and River Ridge High receives a second gymnasium.

Etowah High and Sequoyah High both receive safety and efficiency improvements to athletics facilities. And these are just some of the ways the sales tax will help our schools as they grow.

Those of us who love to shop know what a mecca the Outlet Shoppes in Woodstock is to people from throughout the metro region, and every time someone comes into our county to shop, our students win with the sales tax.

And thanks to our Georgia Legislature, the school system will receive a penny from the taxes paid by Cherokee County residents on most purchases when ordering online.

These days we are all spending more than we probably should for online purchases, but it makes it a little sweeter to know a penny of almost every 7 cents in sales tax we pay online goes to help our schools.

I love my alma mater, on the banks of the Etowah, amidst the rolling hills. I have so many memories there.

Back in my day, Homecoming was a major event. The festivities began on Wednesday with a parade through town, complete with floats from all the clubs. Many of the elaborate floats would be put together with chicken wire and tissue paper down at the Legion Field fairgrounds, in the long barns where just weeks before cattle, pigs, sheep, and produce were judged.

After the pep rally, many of us would gather in the Warrior Room at the Canton Drug Store to make plans for the big dance.

Think the TV show “Happy Days” and you get the idea of what the Warrior Room looked like.

Only it was more wonderful. Red upholstered booths, black and white tile floors, a long marble soda counter with stools where you could order a cherry Coke, or a vanilla Coke, my favorite. Walls decorated with Cherokee Warrior memorabilia.

It was hard not to get into the CHS spirit in that room.

That night we would have a big bonfire in downtown Canton and there would be an old car where people could use a big hammer and pound it.

This would probably be viewed as politically incorrect these days, but the cheerleaders would dance around the bonfire, cheering on our team, to the sound of beating drums.

On Thursday afternoon, at the end of the school day, we would all gather in the gym for the homecoming pep rally, to cheer on our team and recognize our seniors.

I have to admit, the football game sometimes seemed an afterthought. My senior year we didn’t win a single football game.

The crowning of the king and queen at halftime more than made up for the game. My senior year Linda Edwards Bell was chosen as queen and Anthony Whitmire crowned king. Everyone would attend the Homecoming Sock Hop in the gym after the game, to cap off the festivities.

I loved those times. I actually attended the homecoming dance every year I was in high school with the same guy, the one I am married to now.

There are many happy memories at the old school, but everything has its season, and now it is time to move on. Happily the plan appears to be to repurpose the old school for other educational uses when the new high school opens.

So let’s get out and cheer our school system on by voting in favor of extending the 1 percent sales tax. That is an easy win for our team.

Rebecca Johnston is a lifelong Cherokee County resident and former managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.


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