At the heart of a neighborhood as complex and storied as Orange Mound is Melrose High School, an anchor of pride, legacy and history.
Stepping into any Melrose-centered event immediately evokes a clear sense of belonging there in uplifting the Golden Wildcat name. Homecoming marks a whole week of colorful and emotionally-charged events.
The whole week of events at the school, located at 2870 Deadrick Avenue, and the community are meant to ramp up the spirit for the homecoming game against Raleigh-Egypt that took place on Friday, October 6 -- and ended with an unfortunate 42-6 loss for Melrose.
The annual pep rally and alumni breakfast transcend that design.
Sylvian Acey-Talley, 70, dances with her classmates from the class of 1970 at the annual Melrose High School alumni breakfast on Saturday morning, October 7, 2017. (Andrea Morales)
On Friday afternoon, the school’s gym bleachers buzzed. A celebration of Melrose joy had begun to unfold. Chloe Williams and Quarterrion Moore presided in thrones and velvet capes at the top of the court as Ms. and Mr. Football. The cheerleaders soared through the air and into their squad’s arms. Players on the football team were introduced and swayed and jumped with each other on the court.
The class of 1989, which includes football coach Ron Davis, had brought a bouquet of flowers and plaque to honor everyone’s favorite science teacher, a misty-eyed Deborah McCarroll, for the education and affection she’s provided decades of students.
The majorettes kicked off the dancing and soon after there was a student dance contest that hyped up the audience. When a group of Melrose teachers and staff came out to perform their own choreography, students were so overtaken by laughter and joy they had to keep themselves from running onto the court to join them.
Then the rumors of a surprise guest started reaching a peak. The gym quieted for a half minute until Memphis rapper BlocBoy JB and his entourage’s entrance inspired a swell of screams.
He was dynamic performing with a bouncing huddle of students on the court and darting up the bleacher steps to finish out his track from the top step, marking the end of the rally.
Saturday morning’s energy at Melrose was a little different but just as warm and celebratory for the annual alumni breakfast, a tradition since the early 1990s. Buffet tables lined with volunteers and Southern breakfast staples had people lined up around the cafeteria for the family-style affair.
“The people here in Orange Mound are like no other,” said Frankie Williams, an Orange Mound resident whose husband and children attended Melrose. “The Melrose community is like no other.”
On her way to her seat from the buffet line in her maroon fedora, she joked around with the DJ and greeted folks nonstop. “I think this the most I’ve ever seen.”
Kenny Lackey performed R&B and blues songs on a keyboard for folks in line who would slip out of their spot to join him for a dance. Pauses between his performances made way to sets by the current Melrose majorettes and cheerleaders, who showed off their moves in an ad-hoc dance floor between cafeteria tables.
“The Wobble” and Bruno Mars hits also had alumni across decades out with each other dancing. There’s always a lot of dancing during homecoming week.
While the idea of homecoming partially revolves around football, a glimpse at homecoming week through
these events at Melrose brings a sense of tradition that is alive and vibrant.