Original Photos and Mostly-True Stories about Football, Glue Guns, Moms, and a Supersized High School Tradition
That Was Born Deep in the Heart of Texas
Amy J. Schultz
Nonfiction / Photo-Driven Memoir / Women’s History / Pop Culture / Texana
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Page Count: 178 pages
Publication Date: April 25, 2023
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The closest you’ll ever get to seeing someone actually wear their heart on their sleeve is in Texas, every fall, at the local high school homecoming game.
They’re called homecoming mums. They are as bodacious as football, as irresistible as a juicy rumor, and as deep as a momma’s love. Over a hundred years ago when the custom began, mum was short for chrysanthemum, a typical corsage that boys gave to girls before taking them to the big football game. But through the decades, mum went from a simple abbreviation to a complicated shorthand for an eye-popping tradition that’s as ingrained in the culture as it is confounding to outsiders.
Through her original photography and collection of stories from across and beyond the Lone Star State, Amy J. Schultz takes us deep in the heart of mum country. You’ll meet kids who wear them, parents who buy them, and critics who decry them as just another example of consumerism gone wild. But mostly, you’ll discover that just like every ritual which stands the test of time, someone is keeping the tradition alive. Someone like Mom.
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Being from Texas and having experienced the tradition of mums for high-school homecoming, I was intrigued by this book. When I started reading, this caught my attention in the first few pages: “To say that Texas high-school homecoming corsages – AKA MUMS -are super-sized would be a pitiful understatement. A Texas homecoming mum precedes you with the power of a juicy rumor.”
“The key to any mum is to own it.“
Part of the book takes the reader back to 1910 when corsages first started emerging in some social circles. A boy would bring one when taking a girl to a special event. Those corsages were normally just a single live chrysanthemum with perhaps a ribbon or two. A great deal of research went into documenting all the factors that entered into how this tradition grew to become what it is today.
“If the only value assigned to a tradition was monetary, there wouldn’t be any traditions at all.
The value of a tradition is mixed up in the sum of its history.“
I enjoyed reading the various stories from high-school students sharing their varied experiences with this deeply-felt tradition. Having those in the book made it personal and relatable.
The book takes a deep look into the business of making mums, and it’s quite interesting to see how it evolved from a florist creating the mum with live chrysanthemums to the multi-million-dollar business by numerous companies. Then we meet women who’ve started their own businesses, as well as the moms who do it primarily for their kids and perhaps a few others.
Mums aren’t just for homecoming. Lots of people make, or buy one for other occasions. If you’d like to try your hand, the book includes a mini tutorial on making your own, including a list of supplies needed. That’s particularly helpful for parents with young children looking ahead to those high school years.
Remembering the mums that I made for my daughters when they were in high school here in Texas, I was shocked when I saw how much bigger and more elaborate they’ve become in more recent years.
The mum I made for my oldest daughter had one main centerpiece comprised of a cluster of flowers and greenery with ribbons in the school colors discreetly tucked in between the flowers. Then eight to ten streamers, embellished with glitter and stars and little footballs, flowed out of that center. That mum was easily pinned on a school jacket with a couple of sturdy hat pins unlike the mums of today that drape over a girl’s shoulders, secured in back with a cardboard brace.
Whether or not you like mums, this is still a book well worth having. The history is fascinating. The photographs are wonderful, and it’s always nice to see young people excited about an important part of high-school life.
Amy J. Schultz is an author and award-winning photographer who explores unique aspects of modern culture that hide in plain sight. When she isn’t talking about homecoming mums, Amy is writing, taking photos, working on other creative projects, traveling, snort-laughing, or vacuuming up dog fur.
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First Prize: signed hardback copy + enamel pin; Second Prize: eBook + enamel pin
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 9/8/23)
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