Customs foster a connection between people that allows them to communicate even if they’ve never met. Despite how homecoming has evolved over the years, it remains a language through which alumni of each generation can relate to one another.
For Jeanne Epple, graduate of 1949, the homecoming tradition and the entire campus were still recovering from World War II. MU had been experiencing an influx of young male students taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, which entitled returning soldiers to a college education.
students taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, which entitled returning soldiers to a college education.
“The men coming back were in their early twenties, and many of them had been to hell and back. So they really were not into the collegiate ‘rah rah’ sports scene. But by ’48 and ’49 they were beginning to graduate and the student body was beginning to become more traditional again.”
Epple was part of a student spirit organization called the Tiger Claws, which is similar to today’s Tiger’s Lair.
“We sat together and we had jackets. And our commitment was that we would go to every game and be a leader in that sense.”
A Columbia resident since graduation, Epple’s school spirit flowed into the lives of her children.
“You just didn’t miss taking your family and going to house decs on Friday evenings. You just set aside time for it. That was a family thing — you needed to share that.”
The effects of the G.I. Bill reached into the 1950s, as veterans were still making their way through college. Tom Schultz, graduate of 1956, remembers it as a quiet, happy time. Having been involved with MU throughout the years, he has been able to watch homecoming evolve to what it is today.
“The big thing in the fifties was there were a lot less students, so everyone knew one another more or less, and there was what they called a ‘Romp, Chomp, Stomp.’ In the ‘Romp,’ they did funny things, ‘Chomp’ was when they went to Brewer Field House and had a big buffet, and ‘Stomp’ was usually a dance.”
Other differences reside the royalty. In the fifties, MU had no homecoming king, just a queen who many times was crowned by the governor. Big names in the entertainment industry such as Lionel Hampton and Dave Brubeck graced the festivities as well; and the parade was a mere portion of what it is now.
“This parade can go on for hours,” Schultz said. “Ours went through town and bang, it was over within half-an-hour. But it was well attended by the people of Columbia.”
Today, the football schedule displays the letters “TBA” — to be announced — for a majority of the game times. In earlier years, there were no televised games to consider.
“We always knew the game time was at 1:30,” Schultz said. “It didn’t make any difference what your record was. Students dressed just as they did in class, no crazy outfits. It was just different back then.”
Now Schultz enjoys the perks of being an alumnus involved on campus.
“One of the advantages of living in Columbia, because of homecoming, is all the reunions the schools and colleges have,” Schultz said. “I get to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen for a long, long time.”
During the 1960s, homecoming was a time of rallies, parades and clean-cut crowds.
“You would never see people in jeans,” said Valerie Goodin, graduate of 1967. “Students and alumni both dressed up, and wearing a wool suit or a pants suit was not uncommon.”
Many students used the event as a social outing with a special someone — or maybe just someone.
“You had a date to go to the game,” Goodin said. “You didn’t need to, it was just the style. Now kids ‘hang out.’”
Pre-homecoming activities were heavily based in the Greek community. According to Goodin, residence halls are much more involved today.
“Now, when they have contests and stuff, residence halls compete, and you’re at least aware of it,” Goodin said. “You can’t walk through campus without seeing residence hall banners. But it wasn’t like that when I was in college. If people did it, they did it randomly on their own, not as part of the whole process.”
Post-homecoming activities were non-existent.
“When the football game was over, that was the end of homecoming,” Goodin said. “Now, we still have events on Sunday following the game on Saturday. So it’s actually longer.”
Despite the differences, the tradition itself holds the same meaning for Goodin.
“Homecoming now is much more than a football game,” he said. “That’s just the culmination of it. Whereas back then, it was ‘the thing.’ I think that there’s a deep sense of pride in the homecoming process among the students and alumni.”
For alumni such as Tim Hogan, graduate of 1974, homecoming is a family tradition. His father played football for the Tigers in the 1930s, and he has been an MU fan since he was 6 years old.
“Homecoming was fun and important as a student,” he said. “But it really is a family thing. On Friday night, we would go to the Heidelberg, then we’d go to house decs, and then we would get up early Saturday morning to go to the parade. Some traditions come and go — this one hasn’t for 31 years.”
Having once been an out-of-state alumna coming back for homecoming, Eunice Harris, graduate of 1987, can understand that feeling of reconnection.
“It started out as a way to call alumni back and it’s a tradition that really does. Even living here I still get pumped up about going to homecoming. And the house decorations are very family-oriented. It’s now focused more on what I would want to bring my family to, and let them experience and see the excitement of going to MU.”
MU traditions are a bloodline matter for Lindsay Lopez, graduate of 1993. Two of her older siblings attended the university, and her mother grew up in Columbia.
“I was very aware of all the traditions that existed here at MU,” she said. “And it was exciting to me to know I would come here and be a student and be a part of those things too.”
Lopez is now director of external relations in the College of Arts and Science and through her involvement on campus has had the opportunity to reflect and appreciate her experiences from 10 years ago.
“It’s just so great that all of the old traditions have been carried forth, and that students today still enjoy them as much as when I was in school,” she said. “I think you’ll find that there’s a common tie — that every one of us really loved the homecoming tradition, and being a part of it when we were students and also as alumni. The traditions are something to be proud of, and they’re something to honor.”