From one generation to the next, Lincoln’s school spirit is unmistakable

Students do the rollercoaster celebration during color wars assembly.

A giant teletubbie walks through Lincoln High School’s hallways, and it’s clear to everyone around: today is color wars.

Every school has a unique way of celebrating its community; Lincoln’s lasting traditions are rooted in school spirit, as both students aged 14 to 90 recall, even today.

Spirit Week and Homecoming were especially celebrated at Lincoln this year, as 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the high school. Each year, Spirit Week at Lincoln is characterized by students dressing up according to the different designated themes-of-the-day throughout the week.

This year’s Spirit Week began with Monday as pajama day, as well as Senior Sunrise, during which hundreds of seniors could be found on the school’s football field at 6:45 a.m. in their onesies and Christmas pajamas to take part in the occasion, as well as eating donuts and drinking Dutch Bros.

Then followed Tourist Day. In past years, Tuesday has been titled “Tacky” Tourist Day, though according to Caitlyn Aldersea, ASB Co-President and Co-Chair of the LHS 150 Committee, the administration and senior cabinet decided to remove the term “tacky” from the spirit day’s title. Aldersea explained, “we worked on creating a more inclusive environment with just calling it ‘Tourist Day’ because tacky is a derogatory term.”

It really has to do with the senior class and their style and energy. I always refer to [Spirit Week] as our version of Mardi Gras…there’s more than just the red and white and black because there’s the blue and green and all the crazy costumes.

— Peyton Chapman, Lincoln High School Principal

After Tourist Day came Middle School Day, then Jersey Day, and finally, Color Wars. In all of her 13 years as Principal at Lincoln, Mrs. Chapman says the tradition of Color Wars has remained.  

Chapman is now the third longest serving principal in Lincoln High’s history, after T.T. Davis and Olen Wills, who served for 26 years and 16 years respectively throughout the WWI and WWII eras. Furthermore, being one of the longest-serving principals has provided Chapman with many Lincoln spirit weeks, and some of her favorite memories from all her years as principal.

When asked about the source of all the spirit, Chapman explained that “it really has to do with the senior class and their style and energy. I always refer to [Spirit Week] as our version of Mardi Gras…there’s more than just the red and white and black because there’s the blue and green and all the crazy costumes.”

Principal Chapman also recalled one year where an incredibly tall senior came to school dressed in a giant red Teletubby suit. She said it was “very surreal,” as she was also hosting two principals from other schools for the day, both of whom commented on the costume and the color wars assembly that year exclaiming their “high school was not like this.” While Chapman recognizes the immense spirit seen throughout Lincoln’s walls during this time of year, valued alumni such as the 90 year olds that were present during the Lincoln Homecoming football game also recollect stories of school spirit from their high school days.

The woman to thank for all the behind-the-scenes efforts in organizing the   90 year olds’ visit to Lincoln during Spirit Week and the Homecoming game is Dana Cress, another Lincoln alumni who graduated in 1964. Cress notes there are differences in school activities between her generation and those of current students.

Cress recalls that there was no homecoming— in fact, the first record isn’t found in yearbooks until the mid to late 1970’s. She also said that there were no service clubs, instead there were many social clubs, “so it was way more socially competitive.” However, she does recall that instead of Homecoming, there were weekly football games every Friday night, followed by a dance in the Lincoln gym.

While there are some notable differences between Cress’s time at Lincoln and the present day, what Violet Heezsel Larkin remembers from her times at Lincoln would shock many of those who currently attend the high school. Larkin graduated in the June class of 1942, back when students were separated into January and June graduation classes.

Although Larkin thinks back fondly about her time at Lincoln, she says that she was a lot more involved with her church’s activities than those of Lincoln, seeing as she lived “out beyond Multnomah, and at that time, Multnomah was almost rural.” She remembers that because she lived further out, her bus cost 10 cents, while the other busses in Portland cost only 5 cents. On her way home from school a popular activity to do with friends was to stop at Jolly Jones, a diner to buy a coke at on the way to the bus stop.

“There weren’t a lot of social events I went to at the school,” Larkin said, “and I don’t think there were any games at night, because there was no lighting on the fields.”

What she does remember, however, is that World War II began during her senior year.

“What people don’t understand,” she explained, “is how the war just, you know, changed everything, and you kind of almost blocked out your earlier years ‘cause the war years were so impressive.” Thinking back, she recalls how gasoline was rationed, limiting how accessible the city was to her, and how there were blackouts, where “you could not have one light showing.”

The purpose of these mandatory, city-wide blackouts was to hide from attack, because “you really just believed that the west coast could be invaded after Pearl Harbor happened.”

Larkin also remembers how the Japanese students she was friends with throughout her high school years were interned her senior year, one of which she believes to have been the class treasurer at the time.

What people don’t understand is how the war just, you know, changed everything, and you kind of almost blocked out your earlier years ‘cause the war years were so impressive.

— Violet Heezsel Larkin, Class of 1942

Despite these wartime conditions of Portland during her final year of high school, Larkin still laughs when thinking about how a lot of the girls would come to Lincoln “with their hair still in curlers, and take them out in the lavoratories,” and how much she loved playing softball and basketball for her church.

One commonality between alumni Violet Heezsel Larkin and Dana Cress is how neither of them experienced a high school in which women’s sports existed. Another Lincoln alumni and nonagenarian Frieda Gass Cohen remembers how there was only tennis and swimming offered for women’s sports, back when she graduated in the January class of 1938.

Cohen was one of the 90 year olds present at this year’s Homecoming game. She went to Lincoln “in the heart of the depression,” and couldn’t even afford a yearbook to commemorate her time there.

Even without a yearbook, Cohen’s memory of her time, as well as her brother’s time at Lincoln, remains vivid. Cohen’s parents hand-picked the location of their family’s home to be just a block away from Shattuck, the grammar school Cohen attended, and the old Lincoln High School building in the park blocks.

“There was no bus transportation, there was no automotive transportation, we had to walk,” Cohen explained.

Regarding school spirit, Cohen said that school assemblies were “really great fun,” because “the whole school attended. In the whole assembly, everybody would sing, and everyone would take part in the program that was going on.”

Regarding her time at Lincoln, she made a statement that current students experiencing the academic competitiveness and intensity of Lincoln can relate to.

“Mostly, my time at Lincoln was academic,” she stated. Yet, Cohen’s academic experiences were also accentuated by her experience of having to go to Hebrew school after her classes at Lincoln, which left her hardly any time for social activities during the week.

Gerry Frank is another of Lincoln’s distinguished nonagenarian alumni. Frank is part of the Meier & Frank family and has made a name for himself all over the country due to his career as Mark O. Hatfield’s right-hand man during his time in the U.S. Senate. Now 95, Mr. Frank still works from his office in Salem, which sits full to the brim with memorabilia collected over his years working various careers in Oregon and the U.S.

One particularly eye-catching piece of memorabilia includes his gigantic rolodex, which stands in the form of a large wooden chest with 24 drawers, each containing hundreds upon hundreds of cards with the names and contact information of all the people he’s met and worked with over the course of his life.

When I went to Lincoln, it was sort of divided between kids from the heights, and the kids from South Portland. There was a lot of spirit because we were the only high school on the west side.

— Gerry Frank, Class of 1941

Frank graduated Lincoln in January of 1941, after which he attended Stanford University, and then went on to graduate from Cambridge University following his time serving in the U.S. Army.

“I think I concentrated most on studying,” Frank said when asked about his experiences at Lincoln. He says that his favorite class while attending the high school was journalism, where he wrote for The Cardinal, as the newspaper was titled then. After high school, Frank’s writing career continued with him writing a column for the Oregonian for over 28 years, and writing a book titled Gerry Frank’s Oregon, which has been edited into four different updated versions since its original release.

From his time at Lincoln, some activities Frank connects to the idea of school spirit include school assemblies, dances, and horseback riding events. Frank was an avid horseback rider in high school, and says that he and his friends would, “meet out at the riding academy on Saturday mornings and either ride out there or ride out in the woods in Garden Home.”

“When I went to Lincoln, it was sort of divided between kids from the heights, and the kids from South Portland,” Frank explained. “There was a lot of spirit because we were the only high school on the west side”.

Lincoln’s 150-year long history holds traditions which have shifted as the school has gone through periods of both war and peace. In all of this time, the spirit that can be heard in the voices of Dana Cress, Violet Heezsel Larkin, Frieda Gass Cohen and Gerry Frank, and witnessed in the hallways of the present Lincoln building, lives on.