HISTORY OF THE WOODROW WILSON HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEARTS
The First Half-Century
In the Spring of 1956, before the opening of Bryan Adams and W. W. Samuell, Woodrow Wilson was one of the largest high schools in Dallas. It was then that administrators declared “Woodrow’s spirit demands the best” and decided that a girl’s drill team was to be formed to compliment the band. The uniform, including tilted red hat, and contrasting white gloves and petticoats was an immediate hit. The style, characterized by precision high-kicks and sharp military movements was emulated by other schools - and has endured.
Woodrow consulted famed Kilgore Rangerette director Gussie Nell Davis in the new endeavor. Davis is credited with having invented the drill team concept, which at the time was part majorette and part Radio City Rockette. By the mid-1950s her Rangerettes were world famous and the growing popularity of drill team was apparent, particularly in Texas. Davis assisted in the selection of Woodrow’s original 64 girls, which were chosen from over 200 finalists. According to the 1957 Crusader yearbook, in addition to rhythm, applicants were considered based on poise, posture, neatness, and style.
For the first two seasons, in reference to their sharp movements, the drill team was referred to as The Woodrow Wilson Dolls, until 1958 when The Woodrow Wilson Sweethearts became the official name. The name “Sweethearts” stems from the key word in the school motto, “Keep Thy Heart With All Diligence” - as is described in the 1959 Crusader. The ’59 yearbook also adds, “Sweethearts is a combination of two words. One holds all the qualities that the ideal drill team girl will possess. The second means the vital part of life, as drill team is a vital part of each member’s life.”
Jean Terry was the faculty sponsor for the inaugural season. Helen Parsons was director from 1958 until 1961. Willadean Bless sponsored the team from 1961 to 1969 and solidified the enduring Sweetheart style and traditions. Bless cultivated a standard that made The Woodrow Wilson Sweethearts one of the best drill teams in the city. In 1969-70 Nancy Perry and Connie Eldridge became co-directors. Perry sponsored until 1972 when Gay Addington began her five years with the team. Addington was followed by Gayla Collinsworth who held the position fron 1977 to 1987. For the next 17 years, Ruth Pendergrass was the guiding force behind the Sweethearts, having the longest tenure of any director. Leading the team from 1987 to 2004, Pendergrass is responsible for bringing the Sweetheart style into the 21st century. We salute the women in leadership who established and helped maintain the first half-century of Sweetheart tradition.
The Woodrow Wilson Sweethearts Booster Club (WWSBC) is a non-profit (501-C3) organization that is committed to support the Woodrow Wilson High School Sweethearts 63 years of beauty, excellence and tradition.
The WWSBC’s goal is to fulfill its Mission Statement by supporting the Woodrow Wilson High School Sweethearts program by funding areas of need that are not able to be covered by the school or DISD. We’ve chosen to focus primarily on tradition, enhanced competitiveness, team unity and capital improvements. We believe that it is better for necessary equipment, and uniforms to be purchased when needed and not relegated to a “wish list”.
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