first WHS Charmer drill team

Memories of the first WHS Drill Team Squad

Collectively accounted by Nita Sweatman Jordan, WHS Class of 1962


We had such FUN initiating the first drill team for WHS. It was on a fall afternoon in October 1960, our Junior year, when I walked two doors down to my dear friend’s house, Janet Forest Tenery, and casually said, “Janet, let’s do something SPECIAL for Homecoming.. Let’s have a drill team at half-time!”… (Like it was “NOT A BIG DEAL” to get all of that together, AND knowing us in those years, it was probably less than TWO WEEKS until Homecoming!). We called several of our friends and they all agreed it would be fun to do something since a lot of our other friends were cheerleaders or in the band and we would be contributing to the half-time as well. So, after discussing the possibility of actually performing, Janet and I agreed that the first thing to do was call my sister, Phyllis, that evening and see if she would teach us a good routing when she came home that week end from college. (Phyllis Sweatman Sulcer was in the WHS Class of 1956, a former Kilgore Rangerette, and was finishing her teaching degree at Sam Houston State.) Phyllis agreed to come home and help us.

So, the next morning we talked to our principal, and with his permission Janet made an announcement over the school speaker saying, “ALL GIRLS who would like to be a part of Homecoming Drill Team please meet in the gym after school.” (Unlike today, ANY high school girl who wanted to participate was welcomed to be a part of the team!) We spread the talk in the halls between classes and… THAT WAS IT!! Enough girls showed up that afternoon to make a drill team and we were excited…we didn’t know what we were doing, but excited! Phyllis came home from college that week end and taught a few of us the routine. She also came back the day before Homecoming and we practiced once more after school. We performed at the pep rally and at the game with the band playing twice as fast as we had practiced!!! Four of us were in front of the line, but none of us can remember just how that was determined, because there were certainly no “try outs” for that… probably because we were just the first to learn the routine!!

Our mothers and grandmothers were more than supportive about all of our “projects” in those days and, although some of them worked, they always seemed to have time to help us. My mom, Juanita Sweatman, and Janet’s grandmother, Halloween Sawyer (known as Mama Halloween to all of us) drove to Dallas that week and got white fringe, wide rolls of green sequined bands for headbands, and white feathers. Mrs. Spradling, was the owner of “The Cloth Shop” which was across the street from the college on Sycamore Street. She agreed to quickly order several bolts of green FELT for our costumes. Mama Halloweeen designed the attire with sewing instructions and my mom typed out “carbon copies” of Halloween’s instructions. These were quickly distributed to those who were participating, and all the moms made or had Mrs. Saunders, Judy Patterson Barnwell’s grandmother, make their costumes… in a HURRY! Mama Halloween arranged for Marchman’s Department Store to order enough leather moccasins (instead of boots) for us so we could wear them later. The “costumes” were complete.

We were certainly NOT like the precision Charmers of today, but when we performed that first night, the fans cheered for us and we had a GREAT TIME! That was truly the beginning of the WHS Drill Team.

Obviously we had no idea that the FELT costumes would ever be needed again. But the “drill team” idea was a success at WHS. So, in 1961, our Senior Year, there are some pictures of us marching in a parade wearing white shirts, green skirts, and CRAZY “oil cloth” flaps that went over our tennis shoes with elastic straps, supposedly looking like boots, but realistically WOULD NOT STAY ON!! Pictures relate that we smiled and marched on anyway!

After our Senior Homecoming, in January of 1962 Phyllis’s family moved to Sulphur Springs, Texas and it was not until August of 1963 that her husband’s job brought them back to Waxahachie. When Ms. Blythe, the girls’ PE coach in those years found out that Phyllis was back in Waxahachie and had been paid in Sulphur Springs to start their high school drill team, she met with the school board and they asked Phyllis to be the first PAID WHS Drill Team Director, making Drill Team a PE credit. The girls on that squad voted and named the team “The Cherokee Charmers”. They even had team and officer tryouts! Mrs. Gray, and Mrs. Middleton, the home economics teachers, actually made the first Charmer “uniforms” AT THE SCHOOL IN THE HOME EC ROOM!!! They were designed by Olivia Burton’s mom and resembled The Rangerette attire, except they were green and white, of course.

After conferring with several of our classmates and my sister, Phyllis, this is how we remember the beginning of the WHS Drill Team legacy. However, the fact is that all of this was a half century ago, and someone else might recall some details differently. We are appreciative of their memories as well.

Times have drastically changed, as you can tell by this accounted history, and many of us have had children in drill teams across the state, dealing with rigid tryouts, drill team camps, long practices, and MUCH MORE EXPENSE!!!

However, our desire is that you, today’s Cherokee Charmers, still have as much FUN as we did, whenever and wherever you perform, remembering WE ALL KNOW that your kick line if FAR better than ours was in the beginning,