At 91, Jim Kressler still has the cheering spirit in him as one of the University of Toledo's oldest surviving cheerleaders. Mr. Kressler was a UT cheerleader until graduating in 1937.
The blue on Jim Kressler's old 1930s University of Toledo cheerleading hat may have faded over time, but his pep and spirit sure haven't diminished.
The 91-year-old will be the oldest participant today in a homecoming reunion of about three dozen former UT cheerleaders - men and women who will retest their skills at clapping and jumping in an afternoon practice and again at the 7 p.m. football game against Central Michigan University.
People can expect to see Mr. Kressler - he's just over 5 feet tall - riding in a trolley for cheerleaders during the homecoming parade that begins at 2 p.m. He also should be on the field for the game, unless of course it's pouring rain.
"I came because of my age," Mr. Kressler admitted yesterday, amid his energetic story-telling and college reminiscing. "And I wanted to see the bunch."
The bunch, as Mr. Kressler describes them, are the "boys and girls" who for years have rallied the crowds at UT athletic events. Some he's met before, some he hasn't met yet, but Mr. Kressler undoubtedly will befriend them today with his tales and even a few cheerleading moves, one in which he slowly moves his hips - just for effect.
During his years of cheering, Mr. Kressler and only two or three other young men - women were not cheerleaders then - would be the ones to energize the crowds with somewhat simple cheers.
"T-O-L-E-D-O was easy to do because it was give me a 'T,' give me an 'O,' Toledo let's go," Mr. Kressler said. "That's all we spelled out; otherwise it was too long."
George Beckett, Jr., of Toledo, has similar memories of cheering at UT, although he was on the squad a decade later and was called off to war in the midst of it.
"We just had a good time. You just needed a good voice was all," said Mr. Beckett, 81.
He recalled that afternoon football games were sparsely attended then, as many people were at work or already off at war.
But that wasn't the problem for Shelly Snyder Jamieson, 42, who was a cheerleader in the early 1980s, when basketball players like Tim Reiser, Barry Sonnenberg, and Jay Gast were on the team. She said the seats were full and the fans were rowdy.
Her squad also was close-knit, she said.
"I wasn't in a sorority, and it was kind of like my sorority. We were together all the time, and we traveled together," she said.
Camaraderie is one thing that comes to mind about cheerleaders for Billie Ogrodowski, who's helped to organize their reunion through the UT alumni relations office.
"The cheerleaders are a tight group," she said. "They bond when they're cheering."
The official reunions planned for homecoming weekend are the 1954 class, as well as classes celebrating their 40th and 25th-year reunions.
The cheerleaders themselves aren't expected to dress in their old uniforms but will receive alumni cheerleader sweatshirts to wear for the day.
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