To be a homecoming queen is an honor, but to be the first homecoming queen: that is a double honor.
Donna Zey, an early member of Abilene High School’s homecoming royalty, said she thinks AHS’ first homecoming queen was Viola Gibbs in 1942. Gibbs died in July of 2013.
Rita Horan, of Abilene, was one of AHS’ first homecoming queens in 1944. Horan also served as the first female president of AHS Student Council.
While many homecoming queens stride to the spotlight in heels, Horan was on crutches. She has worn braces and crutches most of her life because she contracted polio at age 5.
Horan said becoming homecoming queen made her “real happy.”
“It was quite a deal for me,” Horan said. “The kids were all wonderful to me. It was a wonderful experience.”
Since then, two of Horan’s nieces, Sandy Willey and Marita Millner, have become homecoming queens at AHS.
Zey was voted homecoming queen in 1945.
She said the most memorable part of the experience was having so little time to prepare for receiving the honor. While homecoming candidates in 2013 learn of their candidacy a week in advance, Zey knew she was a candidate for only two hours.
“I had just gotten home when the phone rang and they announced that I was to be there that evening,” Zey said. “I had to have a white dress and didn’t have it. I borrowed one from my best friend.”
Zey said her mother pressed the borrowed dress and she put it on. She said she had no time to style her hair or make any other preparations before her dad drove her to the athletic field.
About an hour after her arrival, the emcee announced the winner.
“We went to a big dance right afterward, after the game,” Zey said. “It was very exciting to get to be queen.”
This year’s homecoming queen of AHS will be announced Friday at halftime during the AHS vs. Wamego football game at Abilene High School Football Stadium. The game starts at 7 p.m.