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Husker cheerleaders from 1940s look back on time at NU

September 15, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — On game days in Lincoln, you can still find Anna “Hink” Sahs among the 90,000 fans in Memorial Stadium, cheering and chanting for the Huskers, wearing her favorite red cowboy hat.

In the early 1940s, Sahs and her sister, Betty Kjelson, were among the first Husker cheerleaders, when the stadium capacity was 31,000.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that a cocktail party for the Fairbury natives was held at The Landing last week, with NU alumni sharing stories of watching the sisters cheer, and current cheerleaders and Herbie Husker on hand.

Kjelson studied art, while Sahs majored in geology.

“Of course, (UNL) was much smaller back then,” Kjelson said.

Sahs said the university was “fabulous” during her time as a student.

She began cheerleading in 1943, a time when fans could enter some sections of the stadium for a quarter.

“We figured if we were cheerleaders, we could get into the games for free,” Sahs said.

She still has her sweater from her time on the squad.

Sahs said today’s cheerleaders are likable and do the chants well, many of which haven’t changed from the time Sahs and Kjelson were cheerleaders.

Kjelson, who was the 1949 May Queen, said the cheerleaders are good at getting the crowd active and ready for the game.

She offered advice to the current squad.

“Have fun, do well and yell the chants as loud as you can, and become good alumni,” Kjelson said. “They’re cute and they do so well. They really make the people yell.”

Kjelson said hearing NU’s fight song still motivates her to cheer.

“I think to myself, ‘Cheer, cheer, cheer,’” she said. “Performing was amazing; eight of us could (lead) and the whole stadium at that time would follow.”

Kjelson said the sisters always respond to the cheerleaders when at a game, and that while the dances and movements have changed, the words remain the same.

″(Sahs) just starts singing right along with them,” Kjelson said.

Kjelson encouraged all the current cheerleaders to continue to support the team, even after they graduate.

“These people should enjoy their time and build an identity with their university,” Sahs said.

Nancy Sinclair, Sahs’ daughter, said her childhood was closely linked with the university.

“We were raised on campus,” Sinclair said. “My mother still owns a house one block away from East Campus, on Professors’ Row. These ladies have spent their entire lives in academia.”

Sinclair said that the top priority for the sisters has always been to focus on having fun.

“These two, their highest core values are fun, fun and more fun,” Sinclair said. “But they work hard at it, and they choose it. A wonderfully rich lifestyle. They didn’t turn into multi-millionaires, but they certainly had more fun.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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