Youngsters compete in
The The Tahlequah
Press recently had an article about the "Little Olympics." How
many of you remember the "Little Olympics"?
I remember when I was in grade
school back in the 1950's, when Sequoyah still had grades 1 thru 12, we
would compete in the "Little Olympics" held in Tahlequah. I remember
how we'd get excited about going to town and competing against all the
other grade schools in Cherokee County.
We would practice for the big
day by getting down in the starting position and practice starting the
races, then move to the high jump pit to see high and how far we could
jump. We'd run laps around the football field to get ready for the longer
races. I don't remember any coaching, just a bunch of us running barefoot
in the cool clover that covered the football field in the spring. It was
great, but every now and then someone would step on a honey bee and get
stung. We'd run until we were tired then lay in the grass looking for a
lucky 4 leaf clover.
On the Saturday of the
Olympics, Ms. Meigs would make us sack lunches for supper and we'd get
on the school bus and be off to the races at Northeastern's football field.
There were kids from all the schools in the county and of course their
parents were in the stands while we had Boys Adviser Tommy Thompson, our
dorm matrons and a few school employees. Some of the high school
boys came along to keep us organized; with over 50 kids between 6 and 12,
I'm sure we were a handful at times.
We were divided into age
groups and either chose our events or assignments were made by the big
boys who were usually someone's older brother. Because we grew up
together, they were aware of who was faster or stronger or could throw
the farthest. We all got to participate and we ran heat races
until only the best made the finals.
We ran on the grass field
instead of the real track because we ran barefoot. The track had
lanes marked and was 50 or 60 yards long, I seem to remember we had a race
called the 60 yard dash. We ran the relays back and forth rather
than in a circle. This would cause a few mix-ups during the change
over when someone passed on the wrong side. I don't remember ever practicing
the exchange before the Olympics; I think we were instructed on the sidelines
before the races and of course we watched how the racers in the early heats
made the exchanges. I can't recall if we touched hands or used a
baton. I think we used a baton in the older age groups.
I remember the softball
toss, chin-ups, push-ups, relay races, 60 and 100 yard dashes, the high
jump, standing broad jump, long jump, hop-skip-&-jump and of
course the grand finale, the tug-of-war. Someone with a better memory will
have to confirm the 3-legged and wheelbarrow races.
It was a celebration,
usually several events were happening at the same time and of course the
kids not in the those events, were on the side lines doing the things grade
school kids do. It was one of the few times in grade school that
instead of competing against each other, it was "us against them" and it
made us feel closer and it didn't hurt that we usually won the team awards.
The last event was the
tug-of-war, single elimination with teams of 8 or 10 members. Loud
cheering with contests lasting several minutes gave us a real team feeling,
which was a good way to end the evening.
We were awarded individual
ribbons in each event, blue for 1st place, red for 2nd, white for 3rd;
and by the end of the evening most of the kids had a ribbon and many had
several. I think small medals were awarded in some years. I
can't recall whether team trophies were awarded or not.
The next morning at breakfast,
you would see kids still wearing their ribbons. Big brothers and
sisters as proud as parents, of their little brother's success.
Most of us were true charity
cases; everything we had was provide by the government or donated by local
charities. Even after we stopped wearing identical coveralls, we
wore basically the same thing, only in different colors because they bought
dozens of each item in various colors and sizes.
For some of us, winning
a ribbon in the "Little Olympics" was the first time we had earned something
as an individual, something to stand out in the crowd, something to make
I wonder whatever happened to those ribbons? Does anyone still
Without any personal storage
space, very few mementos of our childhood have survived; we only have the
memories. Real mementos get tarnished, broken or lost, but we can
relive our memories at anytime and share them with friends and loved ones.
Sometimes those memories are better than mementos, because they get better
as we get older.