Five decades ago, a decorated World War II veteran and teacher at West Monroe High School launched the Rebel Raiders drill team in 1968. Lory M. Frey Jr.’s legacy is expected to be honored this weekend by many of Frey’s “girls,” representing teams from several decades.
Members of Frey’s original team plan to join the current Rebel Raiders and RebeLine dancers, and Frey family members to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary and legacy, and to salute their late founder and his family.
The Rebel Raider 50th Anniversary event on Sept. 28 to Sept. 29 includes a Tailgate Gathering at the WMHS Rebel Boardwalk, half-time recognition at the WMHS-Neville game, and the Celebration Brunch Saturday at WMHS Edgewood Spirit Facility.
Grounded in the kick line tradition, with cultural updates in dance, uniform style, and music, Rebel Raider and junior varsity RebeLine teams have traveled from coast to coast and become known in elite-level national dance team competitions. The 1984 team won the National Super Star Competition in Dallas, Texas. Performances at Superdome playoffs, a New Orleans Saints game, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and marching with the WMHS Rebel Band as the only high school group to be invited to participate in the 2016 Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., are among the highlights.
Changes are reflected in the Raider performances and look, though what remains constant in the Raiders from 1968 through 2018 includes tradition, high kicks and dedication. The team is considered the first kick line in Louisiana, and was inspired by the high-kicking Kilgore College Rangerettes.
Shelby Ainsworth, WMHS Principal, recognized the “Raiders’ hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and loyalty,” as keys to the team’s longevity. “To be part of something bigger than herself, to be part of that legacy,” Ainsworth said, is magical.
“It’s the pride, honor, and dedication to excellence and leadership that our Raiders exhibit that attributes to 50 years of success,” said Ainsworth, of how youth admired the Rebel Raiders.
The Rebel Raider team was the vision of Frey, a decorated war hero prior to his esteemed career as an educator. He served in the U. S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division during World War II, marching through mountains in Italy and spending 60 days of his service in a foxhole at Anzio. (Frey’s wartime experiences and other brushes with greatness were captured in a story written by William Caverlee and published in The (Monroe) News Star in 2011. Until that story ran, most of Frey’s Raiders knew nothing of his heroism and contribution to his country. To his young dancers, he was a kind, encouraging, gentle teacher and mentor who set the bar high for his “girls.”)
After his military service, Frey earned degrees from SMU and Ole Miss before becoming a teacher of English. After teaching at Ouachita High School, he joined the faculty at West Monroe High School. As one of the sponsors of the Rebelette pep squad, he began to lay the groundwork for the drill team.
Leslie Leath Fogger, founding choreographer of the Rebel Raiders, recalled Frey wanting “to provide an opportunity for young women in a different capacity.”
“He and Mrs. Frey felt there should be a formal venue for young ladies to showcase their skills,” she said.
Fogger assisted with the formation of the drill team and conducted auditions in January 1968. She recalls assisting his wife, Bettye Acklin Frey, and Jo Chisholm Adams, mother of first line Raider Vicki Adams Cansler, with uniform design. The iconic style of “red coats” was created, and debuted at their first performance at a school pep rally. Fogger continued her involvement with team selection and choreography for the first three years of the team’s existence.
Frey initiated an earlier effort to form a drill team while on staff at Ouachita High School. That first effort seemed to lack community support and failed.
“He learned that a different approach would be necessary,” Fogger said.
According to Fogger, Frey gave a look “behind the scenes,” (the steps taken prior to the teams’ formation) when he gathered with Rebel Raiders from the early years in 2011. He described reaching out to school administration and staff, community leaders, and members of the clergy, informing them of his goal for the team, and soliciting their support. Fogger recalled his goal for “tasteful routines, tasteful uniforms, with dances not too ‘far out’ for the times.” The team became known as a precision drill and dance team, known for its high kicks. The Rebel Raiders made their debut at the first WMHS pep rally of the 1968-69 school year.
Frey’s selection of Fogger was critical to his vision’s success. Years later, he recounted selecting Fogger as the first choreographer because she was a young woman of exemplary character and a positive role for the team members. Fogger is a special guest at the 50th anniversary events, and will speak at the brunch. Then, and now, Fogger calls the dancers from those early lines her “Raider girls.”
“I think he was looking to start an organization that gave young women a place to belong; to work together as a team, grow their character and leadership skills, and to make a difference,” said Lori Frey Sherba, of her father.
“He had high expectations for his ‘girls,’ Kathy Hart, a lifelong friend of the Frey family, she said.
Hart, a student teacher at WMHS in 1969, said Frey knew “fifty years ago that this group would pioneer the drill team concept in this area.” (Later, Hart sponsored the West Monroe Junior High drill team, the Cadettes.)
“My years sponsoring drill team have provided me with rich memories and lasting friendships,” she said, of preparing eighth graders for a future as Rebel Raiders.
Hart retired after a career in education, and continued to tutor and mentor students in the community.
“Mr. Frey was a real visionary. He wanted these girls to maintain high academic standards, high moral character, dedication to the entire team, and a realization of the importance of this organization to the climate at WMHS,” Hart said.
Academics, ability, appearance, poise, and character were included in the criteria for team selection of that first team in 1968. Raider alumnae from Frey’s tenure remembered his continual belief in them, calling them “the cream of the crop.” Sherba said her father always focused on the positive.
The Rebel Raiders team was a family affair.
“Mr. Frey, Mrs. Frey, Lori, and Lisa (Frey Miller) were there at every practice, meeting, and performance,” said Gloria Williamson Tergliafera, first line member and captain of the 1970-71 team.
Sherba was the first Rebel Raider mascot and later, danced as a Rebel Raider for three years in high school. Lisa Miller Frey, Sherba, and Sherba’s daughter Shelby will be special guests at the 50th anniversary events.
Kathy Kelly Young, a teacher at WMHS, reflected on those early years as “a time of innocence.” Young was a Rebel Raider 1969-1972, and serves on the core team planning the 50th anniversary events.
“We were very proud to be Rebel Raiders. All the while the world was turning so fast, the Vietnam War, Woodstock and Hippies, war protests,” were occurring, said Young.
She said Raiders have a “huge advantage: we are one group of ladies, whether you danced in 1969, decades in between, or now, who will have friendships for life. We owe so much to the man who made it happen.”
She gives further credit to the leadership of sponsors and the support of school administration over the years for the team’s longevity.
“It’s the pride, honor, and dedication to excellence and leadership that our Raiders exhibit that attributes to 50 years of success,” Ainsworth said.
Over time, the Rebel Raiders team grew in numbers and dance styles. Eighteen Raiders were on the inaugural team. They learned a new routine each week of football season, and later, performed at basketball games. Today’s Raiders number 48, with another 22 RebeLine dancers. From the precision, traditional dance and military movements, and high kick performances of the early years, to jazz, hip hop, contemporary movements, Raider teams execute intricate, award-winning performances. Since the 1980s, Rebel Raider teams have established a winning reputation in the dance team competitions.
Debbie Crew Bourg, Raider ’73-’74, coached the 1984 national championship team. She recalls spending some 12 years as a Raider coach from late ‘70s through mid ‘80s, and later ’97 through 2001.
Bourg made another mark on Raider history. Under her leadership, the Raider Cadence was developed. Bourg said the cadence was designed to complement Raider entrances, to create a “wow” factor, and to complement the WMHS band in their joint performances with the dancers. Raiders from Bourg’s years were invited to perform at Six Flags over Texas and at a New Orleans Saints game. As with red coats, and high kicks, the Cadence is part of the Rebel Raider experience is in place still.
RebeLine debuted in 1995, the creation of Shea Rhymes Crew, who had collaborated with Hart with the WMJH Cadettes to prepare girls for the high school team. Crew believed a freshman (junior varsity) team was needed. She moved to a faculty position at WMHS, and with the support of Principal Buddy Reed, Crew set RebeLine in motion with Hart’s assistance. In its 23-year history, RebeLine has flourished in competitions, traveled to New York for lessons at the Broadway Dance Center, marched in the New Year’s Day Parade in London, and performed in the New Orleans Superdome at playoff games. Crew incorporated the Frey influence in RebeLine development.
“I met with Mr. and Mrs. Frey to create the uniform design,” she said.
Crew coordinated the Raider reunion and a night to honor the Frey family legacy in 2011.
“It was really all about him (Mr. Frey) being with ‘his girls,’ seeing the generations of lives he impacted, “ Crew said.
The Freys were honored to be appreciated, Sherba said. “They were so proud,” she added.
The highlight of that evening was the Frey family receiving a standing ovation in Rebel stadium, surrounded by many Raiders from past teams. The next day, members of the early Raider years honored the Frey Family at an impromptu brunch. Each of the former Raiders reflected on how her Raider experience had impacted her life, and expressed gratitude to the Freys. The timing could not have been better: in the next year, Mrs. Frey died, followed by her husband a year later.
Fitted-red satin jacket, blue satin trim with bright gold buttons, white wool shorts and vest, a dickey with ruffled trim and a blue satin tie comprised the original Raider uniform in 1968. White knee boots with 2-inch heels completed the look. Sherba recalls “going to Selber Brothers (with her mother) to get the all-important white boots.”
The 50th anniversary event was the vision of Cansler, who first pitched the idea to her fellow Raider officers from 1971.
“I told them ‘we’ve got a story to tell and legacy and tradition to celebrate,’” Cansler said. These seven friends, who live in four states, gather yearly, sustaining close bonds solidified during their Raider years prior to college, careers, and families.
As she realized the 50th anniversary of Raider founding was approaching, Cansler said, “I knew we had to celebrate and share the memories, tradition, pride, and legacy this enduring organization of excellence has provided” for women and the West Monroe community. She said she regards Raider experience as helping “shape women as they launched their education, careers, and families through instilling confidence, providing leadership development, and encouraging service and support to our community.”
Cansler, lives in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and works in Atlanta, Georgia. She recruited a core team of former Raiders to help plan the event. The group, communicating by conference calls, a few face-to-face meetings, texts and email, embraced the mission of celebrating the Frey legacy and passing it along to the dancers today. Young and Hannah Kelly, the current Rebel dance sponsor have played key campus roles in registration and orchestrating he 50th anniversary event. Approximately 300 Raiders, including current dancers, are expected to gather for the celebration.
Social media has been used to reach former Rebel Raiders. A Facebook group established in 2011 by alumni Lori Watkins has grown to over 450 members. Cansler’s first post on the anniversary celebration on the site two years ago generated an overwhelming response, she said. The energy has continued from Raiders representing all 50 years. Photos and memories posted in this platform have fueled the momentum as plans for the celebration progressed.
Rebel Raider tradition and the Frey influence is evident in today’s Raider team.
“The Friday night uniforms we wear have not changed much since 1992; the red jackets we wear have had minimal adjustments made from the very first field uniforms worn by the first line in 1968,” said Hannah Kelly, current Rebel Raider sponsor.
Mackenzie Salter Grassi coaches the Raider team. RebeLine sponsor is Morgan Reeves, and Kristen Newton is their coach.
RebeLine dancers, as freshman and sophomores, learn skills beyond dancing, such as time management, personal responsibility, and cooperation.
“Raiders are expected to show high levels of character, citizenship, work ethic, and class. We work very hard to pour into these young ladies to build them into strong, hard-working, self-confident women,” Kelly said. “I hope they look back at their Raider years with joy.”
A look at the music behind the Raider performances is a stroll down memory lane. As in 1968, the Raiders’ field performances require a good working relationship with the WMHS Rebel Band. Kelly’s close collaboration with WMHS Band Director Robert Freeman results in elaborate and carefully choreographed half-time performances. As in 1968, the Raiders shine under Friday night lights.
Sherba reflected upon her father’s goal: “I think Daddy knew that young women needed a place to belong and a platform to make a difference and be themselves.. Love what you do, make a difference doing it, and pay it forward… that is the Frey family legacy.”
Kelly sees the family ties as they have played out in Raiders, and the admiration for the team.
“We have crossed generations — mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, and sisters — of women who once saw girls dancing in those unforgettable red coats, wishing to one day be a Rebel Raider when they ‘grew up,’ ” she said. “I know from the determination, strength, and passion my dancers show every day and in every performance, that the Frey legacy is alive and well in today’s Rebel Raiders.”