Walk into Lincoln High School during lunchtime and you're likely to see crowds of teenagers lounging in lawn chairs. Lawn chairs?
Since at least the late-1990s, students have stashed folding chairs in their lockers, transforming the hallways before and after class and during lunch into makeshift cafeterias, where students nosh and gab and kick back with their friends.
As with so many things in high school, seniority wins. Today, only juniors and seniors at the Southwest Portland high school can participate. But that only adds to the allure.
"I definitely looked forward to having my lawn chair," says Sammy Gold, a 16-year-old rising senior. "It's kind of a big deal. It's a coming-of-age thing, I think."
How exactly the tradition started is a mystery to current students. By now, though, it's a necessity: Lincoln is so crowded, administrators had to convert a portion of the school's actual cafeteria into classrooms. As Portland Public Schools prepares to possibly rebuild a bigger Lincoln, Principal Peyton Chapman says she'd like to find a way to preserve the tradition. "I like the camp chairs for socializing, small-group work and community building," she says. "Lincoln is a quirky place, and somehow the tradition symbolizes a little of the free spirit we like."
About those bulky chairs: How do they fit in students' lockers?
"You'd be surprised," says Kate Fin, a 17-year-old graduate from the class of 2016. "It takes some forcing, but it definitely happens."