Band alum Jimmy Verdone ’09, is interviewed in High School Today about high school traditions, where at Northbridge High, his students sing the Beefaroni theme song.
From Postgame Rituals to Pep Songs, High School Traditions Stand the Test of Time
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Traditions are a defining aspect of the high school experience. Freshman eagerly – and sometimes awkwardly – learn them, seniors knowingly teach them and alumni look back on them fondly.
Traditions, whether they originate in athletics, fine arts or some other activity, serve a variety of purposes. They are inspiring, unifying and heart-warming. Some traditions are amusing; some are downright strange.
As in the case of Rye (New York) High School, many traditions have been passed down from senior to freshman for decades. The Rye football team has one such tradition, and it involves jumping into a nearby brook upon the defeat of local rival Harrison High School.
The tradition is an old one. Rye head coach Dino Garr is an alumna of the school, and the tradition was around when he was a running back for the Garnets. Garr estimated that the tradition began when Rye first won against Harrison during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
He himself never jumped into the brook as a player because his team never beat the Harrison Huskies.
“I always wanted to do it, and it’s something I missed,” said Garr, who has been head coach for Rye for 27 years.
Recently, Rye has had its chance to take a dip as the school has defeated Harrison for the past seven years.
Rye Athletic Director Rob Castagna said the prospect of the postgame ritual gets the team “revved up.”
“Before the games, they say their ‘brook-bound,’” he said.
Although Garr never had a chance to jump in the brook, which is about 10 yards away from the football field in the center of Rye’s campus, he has taken part in the tradition as a coach.
“The players expect the coaches to jump in, too, so the coaches get pretty doused,” Garr said with a laugh.
Castagna said the tradition is very well known throughout the community, and the 80-year-old rivalry between the two schools, which Garr said is one of the biggest in the state of New York, attracts huge crowds. According to Garr, the games usually draw anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 fans. And when Rye wins, the fans know what’s coming.
Hundreds of people gather to watch as the players and coaches jump into the shoulder-deep brook.
“Cheerleaders get thrown in and alumni are jumping in with you,” Garr said. “It’s really terrific for the whole community.”
Garr said the tradition doesn’t stop for away games either.
“When we get off the bus, we find all of our fans waiting for us to jump in the brook,” he said.
It is clear that the tradition is important to Rye coaches, players and fans alike. Garr said seniors look forward to beating the Harrison Huskies, and freshmen first learn of the tradition when they are toddlers.
“It’s what high school football is all about because that’s what kids remember is being a part of that camaraderie and common bond,” Garr said. “It’s memories you have for a lifetime.”
Not all traditions originate in the locker room or on the playing field. For example, at Northbridge High School, one of the school’s long-standing traditions belongs to the band.
Every Friday, Northbridge’s band plays the school fight song, “Happy Friday.” This spirited custom has been ongoing for at least the past 25 years, but there is a rather odd addition to the tradition: after performing “Happy Friday,” the students sing the Beefaroni theme song.
Music director Jimmy Verdone, who is in his first year at Northbridge, has no idea why the students sing the Beefaroni song, but he presumes that that part of the ritual began around the time the song became popular.
The students even gave the band director a can of Beefaroni to keep on his desk. Verdone said when he began at Northbridge, he insisted on a new can of Beefaroni as the current one was 10 to 15 years old.
Senior Julia Switzer said each year the upperclassmen teach the incoming freshmen the words to the songs.
“They are embarrassed at first, but by the end of the year, they are just as geeky as we are about it because we all love it so much,” she said.
“When I first got here, I thought these kids were crazy, but they love it and I’m all for tradition,” Verdone said.
Verdone decided to add a little twist of his own to the long-standing Friday tradition. In the past, band students played “Happy Friday” in the band room, and occasionally administrators would stop by to clap along. But Verdone said he thought it was time the band was seen by the whole school.
One day, he told his students they were going to go to the administrators instead of having the administrators come to them. So all 24 band members went down the foyer and began to play the school fight song.
“They started playing and everyone came pouring out of rooms,” Verdone recalled.
“The principal came running out and clapping his hands.
“I thought I was either going to get a promotion or get fired. But the principal took me aside and said that needs to happen every Friday.”
And so, a new tradition formed from the roots of the old. Every Friday, the band students celebrate the arrival of the weekend by playing “Happy Friday” and singing about Beefaroni in the hallways.
We’re having Beefaroni! It’s beef and macaroni!
Beefaroni’s full of meat. Beefaroni’s fun to eat.
Beefaroni’s really neat.
For Chef Boy-ar-dee!
“It’s a great thing that the kids look forward to and sends everyone off in a good mood every Friday,” Verdone said. “It gets the students excited about the weekend.”
To Switzer, who plays the clarinet, the tradition is an essential part of the week.
“We have to do it every Friday or the week is not complete,” she said. “Everyone knows it.”
The Northbridge faculty loves the Friday ritual as well. Verdone said that on a recent Friday, Principal Michael Gauthier was in a meeting with several school visitors. “He stopped the meeting and said, ‘Come with me,’” Verdone said. “Then he took them out to watch us.”
The tradition, with the help of Verdone, has improved school spirit at Northbridge, a relatively small school of about 620 students. “I’ve made it a Northbridge law that when you hear the fight song, you have to stand and clap along,” he said. School spirit doesn’t die down after graduation either. Verdone said returning alumni always remember how everything goes when they stop by to visit.
“It sticks with students when they leave,” he said.
Rye football head coach Dino Garr summed up his thoughts on tradition well when he said, “People graduate and people come and go, but tradition never graduates.”