Friday, September 13, 2013

9/13/13 Mumstrosity or, The Missing History of the Texas Homecoming Mum insanity

It's not often a picture appears in my news feed that makes me stop and stare and discover after a few seconds that my jaw is hanging open. This is photo that my friend, who is a high school teacher in Texas, posted this afternoon. 

It's Homecoming season, so, in Texas, it's mum season. 

What I don't think I fully appreciated was how the high-end mums have seemingly exploded in size. As always, at least in Texas, bigger is better. I've cropped out their faces and readable names on the ribbons for privacy here.

(per Leigh, it also lights up)

I guess this might act as a snuggle deterrent for high school boys getting too. . . grindy at the dance?

Flashback Friday: here's a shot of the biggest of the mums in the 80s, at least that I ever saw, at my high school. 

Kylynne, Erin, and Tiffany, who generously shared their mum picture for the reunion video.

Somehow, over the past 25 years, what was the biggest has turned into the standard. Does anyone just use a single mum these days? Note that the 80s mums were designed to still pin on, possibly tipping you over all night at the football game and dance, but it was possible to pin them (and also to eat...). Now? They have to hang from your neck, and chiropractors all over Texas rejoice. 

I started looking around to find out when this tradition began and, over the course of quite a few clicks, I've realized that the collective knowledge of this bizarre tradition is sadly lacking. The top three factoids I can offer you:

1. This is a decidedly Texas tradition, although it has spilled over the borders to Louisiana and Oklahoma high schools. It is now standard for Pee-Wee football to have mums, although I'm a little lost on who's doing the home-coming there. These tend to be a little more like what they were originally for the high school crowd, perhaps because little Bobbie-Sue doesn't have the weight on her yet to carry around anything much heavier. 

2. Originally, although I am having a difficult time pinning down when (the 1940s, post WWII appears to be a good bet), they were actual chrysanthemums, a real, and relatively small corsage, with a few normal ribbons, with negligible cost.

3. Each decade, from the 50s , 60s the 70s that I can trace, they've started out small and then started to grow and grow and grow, really taking off in the 80s as a status symbol of excess in the Reagan years.  Very quickly, instead of trying to genetically engineer the mum that ate Manhattan, mums were switched over to silk flowers. And nowadays, you're as likely to find nothing even resembling a flower, the mounds replaced instead by substituted teddy bears or other stuffed animals. Ribbons are typically in school colors, with the names of the couple pressed onto them in sparkly block sticker letters and run almost the height of the wearer. The high end mums can run you easily over $300 and weigh 30 pounds. (I saw a couple of estimates for ones running $500, but I couldn't pin down a vendor to confirm this.)

It would appear very little research has actually gone into preserving the History of the Homecoming Mum. I can envision a fantastic glossy pictorial book, myself. All I need is the funding to travel the great state of Texas to every high school and research their yearbook photos. (Donors are welcomed to message me, any time, night or day.)


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