The tradition is timeless.
Unlike many rituals that Shorewood High School students used to do that are fading away, the practice of seniors and sports teammates toilet papering freshman homes has stood the test of time. Meant as a testament of comaraderie, the early crunch of leaves blends with the sunny breeze of lightweight streamers dangling from the trees.
Not limited to sports in Shorewood, any freshman is fair game to the friendly sport of the drape and roll.
This rite of passage in Shorewood sometimes comes as a surprise for families not steeped in Shorewood tradition. But rest assured, it is an act bestowed upon the incoming crew by an affectionate upper class.
The sentiment is, "Welcome, young freshmen, this is going to be a wild ride! Welcome to the club."
Other traditions in Shorewood used to ring in the new year with sound and cheers but those have faded away (or been rendered dangerous and/or illegal).
For many years, the good people of Shorewood would awaken to and some would take their coffee outside to hear the exhuberant honking of cars, as all the seniors in the class packed themselves into vehicles and circled the district and commenced in audible whooping. This practice has been outlawed, but there was something that made me at least smile inside to hear the excitement of so many teens all at once, up early, and excited about the first day of school.
Another tradition that has gone but may return is the ceremonial putting on and subsequent wearing of the Shorewood dink. This tradition ended in about 1993 (someone commenting on Patch will likley correct me if I am wrong), along with the frequency of student-run in-school assemblies.
At the first assembly of the year, freshman watched in newbie awe as seniors were told the infectious and golden words, "Seniors, don your dinks!" and in unison stood, put on the red beannies with grey 'S' stitched to the front, and sat back down. Many freshmen in that moment learned a lot about Shorewood — it has a grand auditorium, it has traditions, and it has class.
Assemblies were something that brought together the student body almost weekly in the 50's through 70's, and tapered off in the 80's and 90's. Today, there are no regular assemblies and they are not scripted by students. David Zucker, SHS Alumnus, has said that he honed his craft (and figured out how to dodge censors) by preparing material for many student assemblies.
"Most of my material for Kentucky Fried Movie was written as we walked to school," he said, "then tested for real at assembly."
From a long-time Shorewood resident who raised three kids and has a third generation growing up Shorewood, Jane Gebel Prentice said, "For me, I love the Shorewood traditions, even the TPing of trees, though I know that's frowned upon."
"I miss the days that the SHS marching band would parade down Murray Avenue, and the seniors would drive their cars around the village early on the first day."
Those traditions have been lost, but the affordable paper streamers remain.
"It's so important," said Jennifer Kringel, SHS Alumnae and teacher at a nearby district, referring to the tradition of the TP. "It is something special, very visible, and kind of sneaky but full of an 'insider' feeling. I hope people realize how important self-initiated school traditions like this are. It is so hard in my district to create community across the student population for anything but a very competitive sporting event. I hope the administration realizes what a genuine gift it is to have high school students welcoming incoming freshmen in this fun way, entirely on their own."
And, I'll admit, sometimes just as an act of affection, and not relegated to the first day of school.
Someone will likely bust me anyway (Steve Crossot, Jennifer Kringel)..but I might as well admit to TPing the Crossot home when I shared an acute crush with another student and the two of us went nuts on his house. Unfortunately, it was rather awkward trying to explain to his mother that this is an affectionate tradition and honestly, we did a great job, and I hadn't counted on the rain making it such a mess. Maybe that's what is compelling me to remind all in the village — a primer for the uninitiated — that it's not vandalism that drives this one, but affection. Not that I'm planning a spree (heh). It's not just me, either.
"It's really a long-standing tradition," said SHS Alumnae Jennie Roth Dickens, referring to TPing. "I will admit to having done it. I remember TP-ing Kathleen O'T's house following a challenge from her mom ('We haven't seen a good TP job since we moved here!')... we made the front of their yard look like they had an enormous, pastel weeping willow (when you could buy pastel TP)."
Not that you should unleash a roll on a neighbor you fancy, but smile inside when you pass a house that's been hit — those are kids, welcoming the new ones into the fold.