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Manchin Began Homecoming Tradition At HHS

By Staff | Sep 28, 2011

Pictured in the top row from left: A. James Manchin; Carole Watson, 1956 Homecoming Queen; Jean Garrison, 1957 Homecoming Queen; Babs Virgin, 1959 Homecoming Queen. Second row: Nancy Masters, 1960 Homecoming Queen; Tara Varner, 1997 Homecoming Queen; Natalie Varner, 2003 Homecoming Queen; and Mylyn Olayan, 2010 Homecoming Queen.

In the autumn of 1956, the late A. James Manchin became a teacher and coach at Hundred High School. At that time the school consisted of grades seven through 12. In addition to coaching junior high and varsity basketball, football, and baseball, Manchin started boxing, wrestling, and tumbling programs at the school.

There were no assistant coaches and he did all of the work by himself. Manchin was imaginative, enthusiastic, and adept at getting people involved in things. It is said that he had almost every student in the school participating in some sort of sport or sports-related activity. During basketball season, there were pre-game and half-time boxing, wrestling, and tumbling exhibitions, along with various kinds of ceremonies. Visitors from other schools often said that sporting events at Hundred had a circus-like quality about them, with Manchin serving as the ringmaster.

Along with his other innovations, Manchin also established the tradition, which still exists today, of electing a homecoming queen each fall. Several candidates were nominated and the queen was elected from this list of nominees. The unsuccessful candidates formed the queen’s homecoming court. Carole Watson was elected queen in the autumn of 1956.

Carole was in the ninth grade at the time. Her escort at the crowning ceremony was Lloyd Sharrar. She was presented the crown by Bob Smith. Sharrar and Smith were both basketball standouts at WVU. Carole says, “I was only a freshman at the time and therefore I was deeply honored being elected homecoming queen by the entire HHS student body.” Carole is married to Ed Mallory and now lives in Franklin, N.C. She and Ed have a son and one grandchild.

Jean Garrison was elected homecoming queen in 1957. She was a senior. Jean recalls that her crowning ceremony was held on a Saturday afternoon in November. The event took place during half-time at a football game between Hundred and Pruntytown. Phil Milliken, who was captain of the football team, was Jean’s escort. Pat Cosgray, who was principal of the school, placed the crown on Jean’s head and said with a smile, “I crown you Queen Jean.”

At the homecoming dance that evening, her date was Fred Santee. Jean says that being homecoming queen was a very special time in her life. She and her husband, George Martyn, live in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The Martyns have three sons and nine grandchildren.

Babs Virgin was chosen homecoming queen in 1959 when she was a junior. Babs says all she can remember about being queen is that her mother made her wear a suit instead of a gown for the crowning ceremony, because the homecoming queens at WVU always wore suits. She says that it was a warm, sunny day and after the ceremony she had to walk all the way home from Cosgray Field in heels. Then, after she had changed into her cheerleader’s uniform she had to walk all the way back to the field for the football game.

Babs married Sammy Stewart, her high school sweetheart, in 1965. The Stewarts live in New Martinsville where Babs was director of the New Martinsville Public Library for 26 years. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.

Nancy Masters, sister of the author, was elected homecoming queen in the autumn of 1960. Nancy was a senior. She says, “It was such an exciting time in my life. I thought that everything was so glorious and that those days would never end, but of course they did, and all too quickly. I still have my tiara, which I occasionally put on in the presence of my children. They are always amused to say the least.” Nancy’s escort for the crowning ceremony and her chauffeur for the homecoming parade was John Santee, a classmate and the brother of her future husband. She married Bill Santee, another HHS alumnus, in 1961. Bill and Nancy live in Murrells Inlet, S.C. They have three children and seven grandchildren.

Tara Varner was homecoming queen in 1997 and her sister, Natalie, was queen in 2003. At their crowning ceremonies both girls were escorted by their father, Stephen Varner. Tara married Zack Huffman. The Huffmans have two children and live in Waynesburg, Pa. Natalie married Justin Balwanz. Justin and Natalie also have two children and live in Mannington, W.Va. About having been chosen queen herself, Natalie says, “Since my sister was elected queen in 1997, it made the honor even more special to me.”

Natalie conceived the idea of having a homecoming queen reunion in 2007. She, her mother Cindy Varner, and some of their friends set about collecting the names and current addresses of former queens. They went through old HHS yearbooks and consulted several alumni of the high school.

During homecoming weekend in the autumn of 2007, 18 former queens returned for the reunion. A bouquet and sash were given to each one. In the parade, which went from the high school through town to Cosgray Field, the alumnae queens rode on a large float directly behind the current queen and her court.

After the parade arrived at the field, each of the former queens was recognized. There was a large crowd of observers all along the streets of town and many fans sitting in the bleachers at Cosgray Field. The event was deemed a great success by its organizers, by all of the participants, and by folks in the community as a whole.

Mylyn Olayan was chosen homecoming queen in the fall of 2010. She was a senior and graduated in May 2011. Mylyn is attending WVU. She says, “I was very honored and happy to be chosen queen.”

And so for more than half a century the students of Hundred High School have been electing a homecoming queen each fall. After finishing school, former queens have become wives, mothers, and grandmothers. They have engaged in a variety of careers.

Regardless of what has happened in their lives since that time, all of them consider having been chosen homecoming queen a very special event in their lives. They all remember fondly their crowning ceremonies and the other homecoming activities that took place in the autumns of their respective reigns.

Manchin initiated a practice which has become an established, lasting tradition at Hundred High School. Manchin will obviously be remembered for his more noteworthy accomplishments, but to the former and future homecoming queens of HHS, he will undoubtedly be primarily remembered for this particular achievement.