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SMU Student Life: Homecoming

SMU Homecoming History

1920- First Homecoming was celebrated (in the spring).

1923 - First fall Homecoming was held on Thanksgiving Day. Twenty-six Alumni and Ex-Students Association members manned a registration booth at the University Club rooms in the Oriental Hotel and organized the day’s entertainment, and a special edition of the Campus was given to all who registered. SMU played against Baylor. Fraternities and sororities held entertainment (luncheons, dinners and smokers, according to Campus article) for the alumni. [sources: Nov. 28 issue of Semi-Weekly Campus and Nov. 28 issue of DMN.] SMU beat Baylor in a 16-0 game with 16,000 spectators.

1926 - Homecoming was held on Wednesday and Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day. Wednesday evening featured a parade of students and ex-students across campus, bearing 2000 torches. This was followed by several cheers and a barbecue. There was a breakfast and events for alumni on Thursday morning, followed by performances by the Varsity Quartet and an orchestra called the “Alley Cats.” There were open houses at the fraternities after the game, as well as a celebration at the Melba Theatre because the football team was SW Conference Champions that year. (Nov. 24 issue of Semi-Weekly Campus) There was already a tradition of parades by this year; the program for the 1926 homecoming states: “The biggest parade ever had by a group of Mustang supporters will begin promptly at 11:30 Thursday morning. Bring your car, if you have one, decorated with a sign designating your class.”

1931 - DMN mentions an annual tree planting in Alumni Grove and a BBQ lunch in the old gym before the Baylor game. Where is Alumni grove, and when did this tradition start?

1932 - DMN notes a tree planting at 11:45, followed by the BBQ, followed by the game against the Aggies. The ex-Student’s Association anticipated 500 former students would attend.

1933 - First annual Pigskin Revue (DMN).

1934 - “Pep rallies, reviews, open houses, a football game, a barbecue, parade, special entertainers, and music” will be featured at the Homecoming, according to DMN. Also, a bonfire was held. When was the first bonfire?

1935 - Bonfire and pep rally held Friday night (DMN).

1936 - “The Back to School” move on Saturday morning, centering around Dallas Hall, was a time for alumni to visit classrooms and reflect on their time at SMU. (SMU Magazine)

1937 - [large HC article in fall edition of SMU Magazine]

1938 - Homecoming program featured a noon barbecue, the game (Aggies) and a dance at the Adolphus Hotel Roof Garden (October issue of Mustang Magazine).

1939 - According to DMN, the Pigskin Revue was held Friday evening before the pep rally and bonfire. Alumni visited classrooms on Saturday morning. Female cheerleaders participated for the first time at Homecoming (leading cheers during bonfire). An annual dance was held Saturday night at the Baker Hotel, where the float winners were announced. When did the annual dance begin?

1940s - No parade because of shortage of transportation during the war (The Daily Campus Special Edition, October 29, 1976 - Homecoming Scrapbook - 60 Years of SMU). There were no floats or parade in 1942 to save tires and expenses (DMN, 1942).

1942 - SMU paid tribute to its 11 war dead in a flag ceremony during the halftime (DMN, 11/8/1942).

1943 - Since selective service took large numbers of the upperclassmen to war, the upperclassmen had to recruit some freshmen to even out the two sides in the traditional freshmen versus upperclassmen tug-of-war. (The SMU Campus 1947)

1949 - Homecoming became a “three-day celebration” according to Oct. 1951 issue of The Mustang. Before he became famous, Aaron Spelling performed comedy routines during this year’s Pigskin Revue (source: Sept-Oct 1973 issues of The Mustang).

1951 - Homecoming weekend began with the “traditional” tug of war between the freshmen and upperclassmen over fountain in the main quadrangle on Friday afternoon. A barbecue was held that evening. There was a pregame picnic at the Fairgrounds including entertainment. There was also a childcare service at Park Cities Kindergarten on Friday and Saturday called Peruna Club. Tours of SMU on all three days of Homecoming in tractor-drawn Dinkey-cars. Religious services on Sunday.  (Oct. 1951 issue of The Mustang has a series of articles)

1958 - First year that the Pigskin Revue was held in the Coliseum. Homecoming worship service held in Perkins Chapel, and a concert by the SMU Symphony Orchestra that afternoon (Nov - Dec issue of The Mustang).

1961 - First Homecoming faculty symposium held on Friday afternoon, in which four professors spoke on various topics related to communication. (The Mustang). The Homecoming queen nominees modeled at a Friday afternoon fashion show, and the Science Information Center was dedicated that afternoon after the faculty symposium (DMN, 10/29/1961).

1965 - 50th anniversary Homecoming featured a campus re-dedication ceremony earlier in the week, and President Tate was presented with a check by Bob Thornton Jr. that funded the building of the RL Thornton Alumni Center. The groundbreaking was held Saturday morning, and the day was proclaimed “RL Thornton Day.” The class of 1915-1916 rode to the pre-game picnic in a wagon pulled by six Belgian draft horses. The Homecoming queen nominees participated in a Fashion show on Friday afternoon (Nov - Dec issue of The Mustang). Homecoming queen nominees “entered the playing area [at the game] inside a float disguised as SMU’s fiftieth anniversary birthday cake” (The Daily Campus Special Edition, October 29, 1976 - Homecoming Scrapbook - 60 Years of SMU). The first annual Women of Achievement luncheon was held, honoring five alumni. Both a Catholic Mass and a Protestant service were held on Sunday. Also, this was the last bonfire before the tradition was abolished (Daily Campus).

1968 - Bob Hope was crowned SMU’s first ever Homecoming King. Bob Hope crowned the Homecoming Queen. The Bob Hope Theatre was dedicated on the Thursday of homecoming week (DMN 11/24/1968).

1970 - Two Homecoming queens were crowned at the game. The Black League of Afro-American and African College Students (BLAACS) asserted that the nominees did not represent them and demanded an opportunity to present their own queen. Controversy ensued, but they were given two minutes at the microphone (DMN, 11/22/1970).

1973 - SMU’s first SWC championship team celebrated its 50th anniversary at Homecoming. The theme for the year was the ‘pfabulous pfifties.” (The Mustang)

1977 - Doak Walker was present and featured at the pregame barbecue and the halftime show. The year’s theme was “Come Home to the House that Doak Built.” (Fall issue of The Mustang) He was also the Grand Marshall, leading the parade.

1978 - SMU’s first annual Run For Fun race, sponsored by the Alumni Association, was held Saturday morning (The Mustang). It offered two lengths: a two-mile and a four-mile course. [It appears that this was no longer happening in the early 1980s.]

1980 – The festivities began on Wednesday, which was dubbed “Red and Blue Day”; freshmen decorated the academic buildings on that day. There was also a fashion show, All-School Picnic, parade and post-game dance at the Dallas Convention Center (Rotunda; good pictures on p. 37).

1981 - Bus tours of Dallas for alumni on Friday afternoon. Box lunches instead of picnic at the Fairgrounds. When did that change? (The Mustang) Actress Morgan Fairchild served as Grand Marshal (Daily Campus).

1982 - Model Cheryl Tiegs was the Grand Marshal (SMU News Release).

1983 - President Jimmy Carter spoke on the Tuesday before Homecoming in an event advertised to alumni in conjunction with Homecoming (during this period SMU began to host an unofficial Homecoming week of events on campus). (The Mustang)

1985 - This year the “Student Foundation wanted to continue with the theme ‘SMUsic to Our Ears’ through the parade, but was unable to decide upon one Grand Marshal to lead it. They have, therefore, decided to begin the parade with three ‘Conductors’” (The Daily Campus, 11/15/85). The three men were: Bob Brandenberger, the current director of the SMU Mustang Band; former SMU Mustang Band director Irving Dreibrodt; and Howard Dunn, the director of SMU’s Wind Ensemble.

1987-88 - Homecoming centered on a soccer match instead of football during SMU’s death penalty. This caused a decrease in Homecoming spirit and a revival in 1989 when football returned. (Dallas Times Herald, 10/29/89)

1987 - Homecoming featured a swim meet, basketball scrimmage and a picnic instead of a football game. The news Hughes-Trigg Student Center was dedicated on Saturday (The Dallas Morning News, 11/8/87). There was also a 5K “Fund Run” on Saturday morning with proceeds benefitting Student Endowment (SMU Special news notice, 10/31/87).

1989 - The family of the late Willis Tate acted as the Grand Marshals for the parade. A homecoming worship service was held at Perkins Chapel (SMU News Release, 10/18/89). A new tradition begins of selecting a Homecoming king. This was done to “develop new traditions supporting the return of football to SMU” (The Daily Campus, 10/24/89).

1990 - Doak Walker acted as Grand Marshal of Homecoming ceremonies. He was honored at the unveiling of the Doak Walker award. (He graduated in 1950.) (The Daily Campus special edition, November 2, 1990)

1992 - President Pye donated $2000 for Homecoming floats, and the student senate agreed to match that amount. This was the first year that funds were set aside for organizations that couldn’t finance their own float, enabling more than just the Greek organizations to participate (Rotunda, p. 26). The program also offered several free lectures by professors during the day on Friday and a silent auction on Saturday morning (1992 event schedule).

1993 - The Mustang Stampede 5k run/walk was held on Saturday morning this year and in 1994 (program fliers from both years). Congressman Sam Johnson was the Grand Marshal for the parade (events schedule).

1995 - Two new traditions were created: a night parade and a zero-year reunion. Two other changes were a golf tournament for alumni and the freedom to bring alcohol onto the dry campus. The new activities were aimed to increase participation in Homecoming, according to the chair of the Student Foundation’s Homecoming Committee. The night parade brought increased student attendance. (Rotunda, p. 20)

1997 - This year featured the first annual Homecoming concert, put on by the Program Council (Rotunda). 

1998 - The Student Foundation provides each organization with $1000 to create a float after they submit a proposal, if the organization doesn’t have a float in its budget. This year there were 13 floats. Also, Homecoming week featured the ribbon cutting for Fondren Library (Rotunda, p.25). The parade was a lighted parade, and it was held on Friday night (Homecoming mailer to alumni). (1999 also had a lighted parade in the evening). The parade’s Grand Marshal was professional golfer and SMU alum Payne Stewart. There were two religious services on Sunday, a Catholic Mass and a University Worship Service (alumni mailer). There was an alumni swim meet on Saturday morning (but I don’t know when this tradition began) (alumni mailer).

2000 - Grand Marshals for the parade were Pro Football Hall of Fame members Raymond Berry and Lamar Hunt (printed email from SMU News and Information, 10/9/00).

2002 - The parade was held Saturday morning, after several years of having it on Friday evening. (I’m not sure what year it returned to Saturday morning.) A catered barbecue was held on Thursday evening to replace the Manada Carnival, which had lost popularity. (2003 Rotunda, p. 14) Community Service Day, which began in the 1960s, was made a part of Homecoming week (2006 Rotunda, p. 39).

General notes:

  • Homecoming was originally held on Thanksgiving Day. Later it moved to early November or late October.
  • The earlier years of Homecoming were more alumni-focused and also organized by alums.
  • It appears that the DMN stopped writing articles on SMU’s Homecoming in the 1970s.
  • In the 1990s, Homecoming organizers worked to create new traditions to increase student participation in Homecoming.
  • Homecoming began as a small affair spanning two days, but in 1949 it became a three-day event and in the 1980s it expanded to a week of festivities and events on campus.
  • The Mustang originally highlighted Homecoming in its fall issue, but by the 1970s it had relegated Homecoming to the back of the issue and the general events calendar area.
  • The annual bonfire was a popular event, and during several years the Aggies created controversy by setting it off before it was supposed to be lit. But at some point, it was removed from the celebration. When and why?
  • The late 1940s and the 1950s appear to be the golden years of Homecoming.

(Sources consulted: Daily Campus inventory, Dallas Morning News, Rotunda, Mustang Magazine, SMU Magazine)