The University of Missouri is celebrating 100 years of Homecoming! With a tradition stretching back to 1911, Mizzou’s Homecoming is one of the oldest, biggest and most famous Homecoming events in the nation.
A look back on Mizzou’s Homecoming pasts, as depicted in MU’s yearbook, The Savitar, reveals generations of Mizzou students caught up in the Homecoming spirit. What makes the record particularly fascinating is how each Homecoming, in turn, caught the spirit of the current generation: To review Mizzou’s 100 years of Homecoming is to review a 100-year history of the university — and the nation — from the perspective of MU students.
A lot of memories get made in a century; here are some of the high — and low — lights to celebrate Mizzou’s unparalleled Homecoming history.
In 1911, for the first time ever, the MU football team and the KU football team had to meet on the MU field. Usually, the two rivals had held their match in Kansas City, but a new Missouri Valley Conference rule required conference games to take place on college campuses. Chester L. Brewer, MU’s director of athletics and football coach at the time, was concerned that alumni would see a trip to Columbia as too inconvenient. After all, in 1911, transportation was not as simple as jumping into a car and hitting the Interstate. Brewer was worried not just because he wanted a strong alumni cheering section but because the game was an important fundraising event for the Athletics Department. And so Brewer encouraged alumni to “come home” to see the big game. The 1912 Savitar, which covered the 1911 football season, provides this account of the response to Brewer’s call:
“Old students and graduates began to assemble at Columbia the middle of the week, and on Friday night the biggest mass meeting ever held at M.U. took place in the auditorium. A few Kansas rooters appeared Saturday morning, but the streets were swarming with Tiger supporters. The Missouri bleachers began to fill up at one o’clock, and by the time the game started every seat was taken. The crowd numbered about nine thousand. Kansas sent only one hundred and fifty rooters. The Tigers arrived on the field first and the rooters gave them a glorious welcome. Every player was in good shape, and Hall punted the ball seventy yards in practice. This looked mighty good to us.”
The Tigers and “Jayhawkers” would go on to fight a hard battle resulting in a 3-3 score. Nothing in the 1912 Savitar indicates that Brewer or anyone else at MU realized that something big had started that week. In fact, the word “homecoming” doesn’t appear in The Savitar until 1918. But that crowd of 9,000 certainly was witness to the start of a “mighty good” tradition.
A Close Call For Homecoming
In December 1913, The Missouri Alumnus, forerunner of MIZZOUmagazine, ran a story entitled, “Where Should The Game Be Played?” The introduction announced that the Missouri Valley Conference would take up the question of whether the rule that brought the 1911 MU-KU game to Columbia should be reversed to allow football games to be held off college grounds. In the article, equal space was given to those on “The Kansas City Side” and those on “The College-Grounds Side,” and readers were asked to share their views, preferably in a letter but if too busy for that, using the voting post card supplied in the magazine.
The Kansas City Side asked readers to consider the difficulty of reaching Columbia versus the ease of reaching Kansas City, Columbia’s lack of accommodations versus Kansas City’s ample facilities, and the fact that the game with Kansas would, for Missouri fans, become a biennial affair, as Missouri reunions at Lawrence were impossible.
“The University can not depend for its support on the alumnus who comes in touch with the University life only occasionally,” The Kansas City Side argued.
The College-Grounds Side, after graciously acknowledging the other side’s sincerity of motive, argued the following, which offers several fun insights into what the earliest Homecoming celebrations were like:
“In a large city the majority of people who attend have little if any interest in college ideals. The game becomes a great spectacle and its educational value is subordinated to other features, some of which are very undesirable.
“In the city it is not possible to have the rousing mass meetings, informal receptions, alumni and class parades and other features which not only develop college spirit among the undergraduates but enable the alumni to renew their college experiences and friendships and come again into direct touch with the activities of Alma Mater.
“In the city the students from the two universities do not come into contact with each other except in such a way as to accentuate the worst aspects of institutional rivalry. In college towns the relation of hosts and guests has eliminated the bitter hostility and has developed a spirit of respect, friendship and true sportsmanship.
“Another strong argument is to be found in the fact that under the present plan every student in the University will see the game twice during his four-year college course. When it was played in Kansas City less than 20 per cent of the students were able to attend …The team is also handicapped by the longer trip. The better showing made by Missouri teams since the game has been played on college grounds is not a mere coincidence …
“When the change was made to Columbia, the writer had some serious doubts regarding the question of accommodations. After two experiences it may be said that the housing problem presents no difficulty. Dormitories, chapter houses and private residences are thrown open to the old graduates, who are thus brought into direct touch with students in a way which would be impossible in a large city. Difficulties still exist in the matter of adequate restaurant facilities, though the situation has improved as compared with 1911 …
“The experience of this year’s game in Columbia strengthens the demand for a continuation of the present policy. Many alumni who had been in favor of taking the game to Kansas City and vicinity became converted and expressed themselves as believing that the game must be played in the environment which exists in the college towns.”
The January 1914 issue of The Missouri Alumnus reported the result of the reader poll: 123 subscribers voted for and 29 against the college-grounds plan.
The Missouri Board of Curators unanimously instructed its representatives to the Missouri Valley Conference meeting to vote for the college grounds rule to remain in force. Five of the conference’s seven schools agreed.
The Spirit of Homecoming:
One Doesn’t Forget
“One doesn’t forget a Tiger crowd easily. Or an autumn afternoon when a kaleidoscopic throng fills the Stadium … when a Tiger team is charging down the field . . . when the benches on the sidelines are eager … when the cheerleaders are waving their megaphones and the band is there … when there’s ‘The Varsity’ to chant, and ‘Old Missouri’ to sing. One doesn’t forget, for in the very experience is a rededication to all that Missouri has meant to her sons and daughters, to all that she will always mean.” — 1932 Savitar
Homecoming Is …
“For the old alum, there’s nothing quite like Homecoming at the old State U. It’s his annual chance to renew old friendships, inspect old trophies, and root for the Tigers, who look pretty much like the same ball club he remembered back in ’09. For the campus wheel, it’s a week of planning, of headaches, of hoping that things won’t go wrong. But for the average native of Mizzou, it’s a fabulous weekend of excitement. It’s rallies and cars and people and mums and no parking spaces and no hotel rooms and no tickets. And then it’s the game itself. And sometimes you feel like pulling your Mizzou Tigers sunshade down over your eyes because the Huskers are getting the better of things. And then you cheer yourself hoarse as the Tigers begin to roll, and when it’s all over you stand proudly with your thousands of partisans and offer your very best voice for Alma Mater. And you trudge happy and weary out of Memorial Stadium, and come back for more at the Homecoming Dance that night. A weekend of happy memories. And why not? … We won!” — 1954 Savitar
For The Alumni …
“Homecoming is for the alumni. It’s like saying, ‘Thank you, alums,’ because it’s the alumni that have made this campus a little better than when they were here.” — 1973 Homecoming Queen Judy Corington in the 1974 Savitar
Just for Fun
Decorations for the 1921 Homecoming included an “electrically lighted T-I-G-E-R-S sign” on the columns: One letter topped each column.
Societal Shifts: “The Strange Taste of Good Liquors”
“The white snow fell quietly and unceasingly in the part of Philistia known as Columbia. The Jayhawks had been defeated but not a sound of celebration was heard. No ribald songs disturbed the quiet of the wintry night. No halfbacks were in the gutter. The stags at the Frolic danced and made merry, refreshing themselves with aqua pura from the basement fountain. Lucas and Tuttle discussed the situation over hot chocolates. Chad Wallin soberly drank limeade after limeade at Jack’s Shack. Barney was driving his taxi. North Ninth was dark. The road to Westphalia was closed. Dean Perdom had decreed that this Homecoming would be a dry one.
“That’s as it would be.
“Three teams were kept busy all day after Homecoming carting empty bottles from the stadium. Thirty-six students left our midst. The probation roll swelled by 206. The Tavern reports a sale of $32.14 worth of bottles to a junk dealer. Bottles sold at two cents each.
“All this comes with Homecoming. It comes as sure as the fact that you don’t get to sleep in any bed, and as certain that you’ll get sick from the strange taste of good liquors. If a drink taken with a boy from the ‘class of ought-six’ will aid in keeping up the congenial spirit of good fellowship — who knows the result? Maybe it will influence him to leave a fat check to help the boys out.
“It comes with Homecoming as certain as does the stories of the old timers, and it is relished as much. And the stories — the pranks of the old days — back in the days when Wabash Red was an institution, before there was a Dean of Men, and when taking a girl buggy riding was considered risqué — and was.
“But who will say that they are wrong, these old-timers? They are the ones who contribute to the building of [Memorial] Stadium, to the [Memorial] Tower, and they are the ones who pay the taxes that keep the school going. They have the Tiger Spirit — these Homecomers. May their tribe increase!”
Fast forward to Homecoming 1990: Following a “disastrous” Bid Day Bash in August — at which at least 35 people were injured, including a high school student who was seriously burned by an electrical wire during a drinking game in which he had to climb to the top of a telephone pole — no open containers of alcohol were allowed in the streets of Greek Town, even for those 21 years of age or older, during Homecoming. It would prove to be a major turning point in the emphasis the Homecoming celebration placed on alcohol.
By the early ’70s, the women’s liberation movement was strong enough to compel the 1972 Savitar staff to offer this rather conflicted apology for including a chapter on campus queens:
“In these days of women’s lib we might be rather cautious about presenting a chapter devoted exclusively to queens. We would be especially reluctant if the queens pictured were chosen just because of body beautiful. Needless to say, that is not the only criterion. Our own Savitar queen must go through interviews before a panel of faculty judges. The Homecoming queen finalists are selected only after interviews and talent skit … These girls are chosen for their self-confidence, character, poise, personality and talent. The competitions stress all aspects of womanhood, not just body beautiful. But the queens always turn out to be pretty good looking, too.”
In 1985, Marvin Cobbs and Vivian King became Mizzou’s first black Homecoming King and Queen (the first black Homecoming Queen was Jill Young Menears, crowned in 1972). Savitar coverage of the milestone was bare: A text box in a “Brief Report” spread, which covered everything from Super Bowl XX to a U.S. visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales, made mention that “for the first time, Mizzou had a black Homecoming King and Queen,” and the staff offered congratulations. And there was the usual full-page photo of the king and queen. But missing was any discussion of the shameful reception some members of the Homecoming crowd gave o the Mizzou royalty: boos.
Certainly there were racial tensions expressed at Homecoming prior to 1985, but those tensions also did not make Savitar’s pages. Coverage of the 1990 Homecoming, however, includes an article with the headline “Wake up! LBC Makes Its Voice Heard.” The article describes how some 200 students from the University of Kansas, Lincoln University, MU and UMKC participated in a peaceful Legion of Black Collegians-organized protest in the Homecoming parade.
Timothy Smith, LBC communications chairperson, deemed the protest a success.
“I feel that the demonstration definitely got heard,” he is quoted as saying. “We had (media) coverage from Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia. I think that the people who weren’t aware of how black students felt are now aware.”
That didn’t mean, however, that no more action was needed, Smith said. “American society is ignorant of racial issues,” he said then. “People are under the assumption that life for blacks is like the ‘Cosby Show,’ which is far from the truth … We need education on certain topics that deal with race and the plight of blacks in this country.”
The 1991 Savitar article concludes: “This education and awareness was what the 200 protestors demanded during the Homecoming ’90 parade when they shouted, ‘Wake up MU! Wake up!’ ”
“The Silent Evolution”
The 1973 Savitar included an article entitled “The Biggest Change of All,” which described an emerging attitude of apathy among students, labeled “the silent evolution”:
“No one can really say what happened or why, it just seems a majority of students find it hard to care about anything anymore.
“A general apathy has taken over. Everyone has become disconnected and uninvolved. Along with this they feel less responsible to the University and responsible only to themselves, which at times is even questionable. They are guided by what they feel is right or by their own whims …
“It is an interesting paradox. Today’s students say they are above things like Homecoming displays, University-sponsored dances and other traditions, that they have better things to worry about. That’s where the paradox lies, because the energy is not being redirected but rather merely diffused. Hundreds of hours and dollars used to be spent on Homecoming. Now little effort is put into it. And unfortunately, the energy has not been redirected in to charity projects or the such but rather the whole thing has been forgotten.”
But just one year later, the Savitardescription of Homecoming shows that the apathetic tide was turning. The 1973 Homecoming Queen, Judy Corington, is quoted as saying: “Perhaps the best part was that the attitude toward Homecoming this year was fantastic. I’ve worked on Homecoming every year I’ve been here, and I’ve never seen the participation so high. The team seemed more united than ever and there was a bigger turnout at the bonfire than I’ve ever seen.”
Also quoted in the same Savitar Homecoming chapter is the 1973 Homecoming Steering Committee chairman: Claire McCaskill. This future U.S. Senator is quoted as saying: “I wish people would get out of the feeling that Homecoming is rah-rah, high schoolish and rinky-dink … There’s a lot more Homecoming can accomplish if people just would give it a chance. For example, I feel the students should get more of a chance to talk and interact with alums. The alumni aspect is the focal point of Homecoming. I don’t think students realize how much alums contribute to this University; they don’t realize that if we didn’t have alumni contributions (through money grants, foundations and scholarships) this University could not function.”
McCaskill goes on to describe conversations she had with two alums, Grand Marshall Frank Stoner and S.J. Stankowski, who crowned the queen. Later McCaskill is quoted as saying: “Ideally, I would like to see Homecoming be what it is supposed to be. I think it would serve a good purpose if it would promote an exchange of ideas and thoughts between students and alumni.”
She predicted: “I don’t see Homecoming becoming defunct. I think it’s alive and well and will be around for quite awhile.”
The 90th anniversary of Homecoming arrived just 32 days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Karri Palmer, one of the 2001 Homecoming directors, says it was an unforgettable time.
“On the morning of 9/11, I was headed to campus for a planning meeting with my fellow directors. I heard the news of the terrorist attacks once I arrived at the office in Reynolds. Needless to say, we didn’t do much talking about Homecoming that morning …
“There was much uncertainty in the weeks that followed. Initially, there was talk about canceling Homecoming. It seems difficult to understand now, but there were so many unanswered questions then. We weren’t sure it was in the best interest of the campus and community to celebrate in the wake of such tragedy. We were forced to examine our proudest tradition in a whole new light.
“In the end, Homecoming went on and we celebrated as Tigers had done in the 89 years before us. For me, and possibly others in the Mizzou family, it was a time to take a deep breath and enjoy life again.”
What To Do At Mizzou For Homecoming 2011
Oct. 1: Homecoming Day of Service
Gear up for the Homecoming celebrations and help beautify Columbia. While preregistered Mizzou students will be cleaning up campus from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., community members are encouraged to host service events around town the same day.
Oct. 3–6: 26th Annual Homecoming Blood Drive
Save three lives in minutes — no expertise required. Join Mizzou students and the Columbia community in reaching the goal of 5,000 units for one of the largest blood drives in the world at the Hearnes Center Fieldhouse. Schedule an appointment at www.donateblood.com for any of the four days from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Oct. 10-12: Talent Competition
Watch hilarious skits written by students at the annual talent portion of Greek Life’s Homecoming competition. The laughs begin at 6:30 each night; $10 tickets are available online or at the door. The performances will also be streaming live at Harpo’s, the MU Student Center and online at www.ustream.tv/channel/mizzou-alumni-association.
Oct. 14: Alumni Open House
Start planning your Homecoming weekend with friends at Homecoming Headquarters. Stop by the Reynolds Alumni Center on the corner of Tiger and Conley avenues from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for information about the weekend. Enjoy some refreshments, purchase centennial apparel, and take one of the campus tours that will be leaving every hour.
Oct. 14: Campus Decorations And Spirit Rally
Thousands of people come to Greek Town every year to see campus decorations. The night, which goes from 6 to 10 p.m., includes giant sets built by sororities and fraternities with skits that will entertain the whole family. Head over to the corner of Richmond and Burnam avenues at 7:30 p.m. for a rally with Marching Mizzou, the spirit squads and guest speakers. The whole night is free.
Oct. 15: Brewer Breakfast
Satisfy your tiger appetite at the annual Brewer breakfast hosted by the Mizzou Rec Center. Come early to the free event and watch the Mizzou wheelchair basketball team or the Mizzou women’s basketball team scrimmage at 7:30 a.m. Chow down on some pancakes from 8 to 9:30 a.m., then join the rest of Columbia outside for the parade.
Oct. 15: Parade
Find your favorite spot downtown or on campus Saturday morning and watch the 100th anniversary Homecoming Parade. Student floats, decorated vehicles, local businesses and high school marching bands are just a few of the parade entries lined up to entertain Mizzou fans.
Oct. 15: Romp, Chomp and Stomp Tailgate
Immediately after the parade, continue celebrating on Carnahan Quadrangle. With live entertainment, a spirit rally and food, this lost 1950s tradition is coming back to Columbia. Cost is $10 for adults and free for children 10 and younger.
Cheer on the Tigers as they take on the Iowa State Cyclones at the centennial Homecoming football game. The black and gold will be fighting to keep hold of the Telephone Trophy, which has been awarded to the winning team of every Mizzou and Iowa State football game since 1959. Purchase your tickets at www.mutigers.com, by calling 1-800-CAT-PAWS or by stopping by the Mizzou Arena ticket office.
For everything you need to know about MU’s centennial Homecoming, visitwww.mizzou.com/homecoming.