Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue & Golden girls: Original Bomberettes will be back on the field to perform at halftime during Saturday's game

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It seems once a Bomberette, always a Bomberette.

More than 100 women, including some who last raised a pompom in the 1950s and 1960s, will dance and cheer once again for their favourite team at this weekend's alumni game.

The Blue Lightning, the Bombers' current cheering squad, invited the original Bomberettes back to perform -- and they answered by the dozens.

On Saturday, the current cheerleading squad for the Blue Bombers will clear the field for 129 of the former cheerleaders at halftime during the Bombers' game against the Montreal Alouettes at Canad Inns Stadium.

"Yes, we are very pleased with the response!" Stacey Stone, head coach of the Blue Lightning Dance Team, said in an email.

"I'm so excited. I can't even speak," said Linda Reichert, who was a Bomberette in the 1970s. Reichert works in the Winnipeg Free Press marketing department.

The response underscores something special and innocent about the early squads.

Postwar boosterism of the 1950s created the Bomberettes in the first place. These women raised families of fans, children and grandchildren and set the course for generations of season-ticket holders. They made lifelong friends of fellow squad members, raised money for charity and even ice-skated with torches of real fire every March of Dimes, an Easter Seals fundraiser.

Good memories explain part of the fervour, said several who recalled their time with the Bomberettes as some of the best days of their lives.

Bomberettes from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have been practising under their original coach, Donna Fiala.

At 80, Fiala still sports the lithe figure she had in the 1950s when she first led the Bomberettes as coach. Her daughters, who were child mascots with the squad -- they are returning, too -- smiled as one returning member observed Fiala hadn't gained an ounce since her publicity stills shot 60 years ago. Their mother still wears the same dress, too, they said, laughing.

Fiala is the official record-keeper for the Bomberettes' history; her collection of snapshots, publicity stills, programs and news clippings account for probably the most comprehensive souvenir collection of the Bomberettes of that era. It was her passion.

"I loved it," Fiala said. "I loved the teaching. My mother and my sister made all the uniforms. My daughters were the mascots; it was a family thing," Fiala said. "I was in the field for 28 years."

"God, we're good," Linda Peter Boughton joked as Fiala led 23 of the former cheerleaders in a two-step while they simultaneously twirled batons at a recent practice.

Fiala instilled discipline, many recalled.

"We had a plan. No smoking. No drinking and we enjoyed the discipline of the Bomberettes. Donna was a very gentle person, but she had certain expectations," Boughton recalled.

Bomberette members said Donna's combination of good, clean fun and lots of discipline made a lifelong difference.

"It never leaves you. It changed my life, definitely." Boughton said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2011 B3

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