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Fridays with Fred: Football and floats and carriages, oh my

Take a blast to the past with the history of homecoming rituals.

“What day the Alumni come back, that day will Beloit play Foot Ball,” said past Physical Education Director and Beloit College Football Coach Dana Evans, quoted in the October 1910 edition of The Beloit Alumnus, precursor to the Beloit College Magazine.

That October 29th, Beloit defeated Lawrence 9-0 at Keep Field [present day Hancock Field] before 1,200 people, including many alumni visiting for the college’s first “Homecoming.”

The Round Table reported that “automobiles completely lined both sides of the bleachers.”

“Carriages were even more prominent on the east side of the gridiron; Beloit admirers were massed three deep the length of the field on either side, while small boys totaling fifty strong saw the game from the bluff just outside the gate.”

The student newspaper described in detail post-game celebrations:

“The students were almost overcome with joy at the close of the great game…football men were carried from the field to the rostrum on the shoulders of elated students.

The band, still giving forth strains whenever they could get a little wind, again headed the procession.

At the Rostra Beloitensia a halt was made for a few eloquent outbursts.

Then with coats and hats turned inside out and with various other pieces of wearing apparel in most unconventional styles, the entire rabble, behind the band, went howling down through the city streets.”

Later that night, students lit a bonfire, demanded that each football player give a speech, and conducted a wild snake dance.

Homecoming rituals grew even more elaborate in ensuing years. By the 1930s fraternities and sororities held contests for house decorations and parade floats and students elected a Homecoming queen and her court. This photograph from Homecoming 1948 shows women from the Pi Beta Phi sorority posing on the steps of their sorority house [present day Alpha Sigma Tau sorority] before climbing onto their float.

Fred Burwell ’86
September 23, 2010

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