From The Canadian Press
Sandy Topechka misses the adrenalin rush of the 1980s, running out onto the sidelines at Commonwealth Stadium to lead the Edmonton Eskimo crowd in cheers – but she doesn’t miss Novembers.
It was never warm enough, said Topechka, who was dressed in the velour green jumpsuit of the era at a news conference Monday to announce a 60-year reunion of Eskimo cheerleaders.
“Not when it was -30 C. We had little angora gloves and leg warmers and ear muffs, but it was still really, really cold.”
Still, Topehcka said the three years she spent shaking pompoms for the Green and Gold were the best of times.
“The minute you came on the field, the rush, the adrenalin, the fans cheering, singing ‘O Canada.’
“Going to the Grey Cup in ‘83 was the best.”
Eskimos Cheer Team Alumni Sandy Topechka
Topechka was among 30 Eskimo cheer alumni on hand at Commonwealth Stadium.
On Sept. 26, at halftime of the home game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, representatives from six decades of Eskimo cheerleading will perform to mark the diamond anniversary.
Irene Federuk was there from the beginning. The silver-haired octogenarian said she was recruited in the early ’50s to put together a majorette corps.
“All we did was the batons,” laughed Federuk, who said she signed on because she couldn’t think of a good reason to say no.
“It sounded like it would be great fun. I was only in there for two years but I really had fun.”
The team -dressed then in skirts, cowboy hats and sweaters emblazoned with a serif letter E – morphed from majorettes to cheerleaders by the mid ’50s, said Dianne Greenough, the current head coach.
The ’60s brought in Twiggy-esque green capes and skirts, followed by a lot more skin, satin and thigh-high boots in the disco days of the 1970s and early ’80s.
Three-year veteran Amanda R.
By the late ’80s, the acrobatic and stunt teams featuring co-ed cheerleaders took over, which has endured to the present day.
“The men hit sidelines, first in spandex – which did not go over well at all – and we will not ever be sampling that one (again),” laughed Greenough.
She said the current Eskimo squad is split into a dance team and stunt team, often travelling south of the border to compete in competitions and “show the U.S. that Canada has the athleticism and the moves.”
Amanda Ross, a member of the current team, said the reunion has been an eye-opener.
“Sometimes we don’t realize where we come from and how amazing they were back then,” said Ross, adding she’s partial to the ’60s uniform with the shimmering material and the cape.
“They’re more acrobatic,” said Topechka of the current squad.
“Definitely the stunting has grown a lot. It’s a lot more physical. We did more dancing back then, and now it’s more gymnastics.”
Topechka said something was lost, though, when the high boots of the ’80s were traded in for sneakers.
“To me it lost some of the glamour.”