The Great Homecoming Float Hoax of 1971

In 1971, I, and a few others, helped dupe the town of Fallbrook in what I like to call, the Great Homecoming Float Hoax of 1971, but in today’s vernacular would probably be translated to FloatGate just to be catchy and cute.

I wonder if anyone even remembers this event? I’ve kept it pretty much to myself all this time, but for historical accuracy, and since it’s well past the statue of limitations, I think I should reveal the facts as I remember them. Understanding of course that I’m old and senile now and some of it might be colored by my foggy memories, but I think it’s 99 percent true, give or take a percent.

As some of you may recall, each high school class, Seniors through Freshmen, designed and built a float for the Homecoming football game halftime show, and the best float was declared the winner and glory was virtually festooned about in great quantities of… uh… glorious festoonery I suppose.

Each class built their float in the utmost secrecy at the clandestine home of a volunteer parent, but opposing classes would send out scouting parties to spy and report back on the other teams’ efforts, and the class of ’71 was the far and away clear front runner. We were so far in front that even the trash talk became lackluster and it wasn’t as much fun. Think of a football game with one team 40 points ahead in the 3rd quarter. No one even stays for the end of the game. In other words, I wanted to keep their hopes alive, and then utterly squash them at the end.

Something had to be done, and I done it.

One evening, about 2 or 3 days from homecoming, when finishing touches were being put on the floats, I and one of my cohorts, went over to the Sophomores float building location, and set our plan in action.  I’m not naming my fellow conspirator for two reasons. One, I don’t have his permission, and two, I simply don’t remember who it was. If you’re reading this, let me know and I’ll either give you credit or keep it to myself, your choice.

Our story was brilliant in it’s simplicity, the key to any good hoax. We started by saying we thought the sophomores float would probably win, and of course the person we talked to, again, don’t remember who exactly, said, “No way, you know you have the best float”, and we said, “Well yeah… but…. you can’t tell anyone this…” That’s the hook, asking a sophomore to keep your confidence, when of course you know he won’t.  “Sure man, what happened?”, he said, swallowing the bait and hook in one gulp.  The story was, that Mr. Burton, the ASB advisor, had come over for an inspection of our float and found no parent on the scene, which at that time was akin to scandal and damnation of the highest order. Despite our protests, he summarily disqualified our float, but he did feel that our hard work should at least be seen, so he was allowing our float to be shown at home coming, but it  would automatically be judged last place. This covered why we were still working on the float if anyone came to check, and believe me they did.

We told the same story one more time, to either the Juniors or Freshmen, I don’t remember which, but that was it; two recitations  of the tale. The next morning I got to school extra early, and met Mr. Burton at the parking lot. I told him the entire tale, and asked him to just say, “I can’t talk about it” when asked. Bless his heart, he rolled his eyes and said, “Okay, I’ll do it, but I’m sure I’ll regret it”, and he wasn’t wrong.

Later, as more students arrived at school, the first person I saw said, “Hey Dwight, did you hear your float got disqualified?” “What? No way!” He went on to tell me how Mr. Burton came over, found us cavorting naked on our half finished float, smoking pot and plotting the overthrow of the Government, or some such inflated story. I knew it was going to be a good day. As the day went on, the story grew and morphed. I heard several variations, all ending in, “…and their float will be judged last place!”

Later that day Mr. Burton caught up to me and said, “Dwight, don’t EVER do that to me again! I’ve had calls all day from irate parents, school board members, and everyone of them wants to know what kind of idiot I am to disqualify your float!” But Mr. Burton was true to his word, and kept the secret, long enough at least, because at homecoming, when it was announced that the winning float was the Class of 1971, at least half the people in the seats looked at each other and went, “Huh? But I thought….”

That quizzical ensemble double-take was my reward.

Note to Hollywood casting directors: When this is made into a movie, I’d like Homer Simpson to play me, if he’s available. If not, Fred Flintstone.

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