A Century of Coming Home to BaylorSept. 16, 2009
By Randy Fiedler
Homecoming, one of Baylor's oldest and most cherished traditions, turns 100 this year with a number of special events planned.
Baylor's first homecoming was held during Thanksgiving Week in November 1909 and included a campus bonfire and a football game against Texas Christian University, which was still located in Waco at the time and was Baylor's biggest athletic rival.
The first Homecoming parade included 60 automobiles and about the same number of horse-drawn carriages, all decorated with green and gold bunting and pennants and carrying Baylor alumni. The Baylor band marched, led by its 6-foot, 6-inch drum major wearing a bearskin cap, and the entire parade procession stretched 25 blocks.
Five thousand people came to Carroll Field, located where the Bill Daniel Student Union now stands, to see the Bears beat TCU 6-3 in the first Homecoming football game.
In its earliest years, Homecoming was not held every year. The next time alumni were called to campus for Homecoming after the 1909 debut was in 1915, when the first parade featuring floats was held. In 1924, Baylor's alumni organization began hosting Homecoming as an annual event.
As Baylor's Homecoming grew in size over the years, new traditions and changes were observed. Junior Elaine Cross of Gatesville was chosen as the first Homecoming "princess" in 1934. Because of restrictions during World War II, the 1942 Homecoming banned motorized vehicles from the parade, and all Homecoming celebrations were canceled from 1943-1945 because of the war.
Homecoming is a time when students from rival schools have sometimes decided to pull pranks on their Baylor opponents, leading to the tradition of Baylor students staying up nights during Homecoming week to guard the campus.
It's also has been a time for Baylor to break ground on or dedicate new structures, such as Moody Library, the Sesquicentennial Walkway, Robinson Tower, North Village, Brooks Village, the memorial lamps on Founders Mall and the Immortal Ten monument.
Remembering the Immortal Ten, the students who died in a bus-train accident in 1927 en route to a basketball game in Austin, is one of Baylor's oldest Homecoming traditions. This year will mark the 27th consecutive year that 1975 Baylor graduate Neal Knighton has told the powerful story of the Immortal Ten to new students during Homecoming week.
"It's always very moving to me, because the students react strongly, with the idea being that the Baylor spirit is carried on throughout the years, and that the friends you make here will last forever," Knighton said.
Special attractions are planned for this year's centennial celebration of Homecoming. A special exhibit at the Mayborn Museum Complex called "100 Years of Baylor Homecoming" will run from Sept. 16, 2009-April 24, 2010. The exhibit, put together with the assistance of the Baylor Chamber, will feature Homecoming memorabilia and memories.
"To put together the exhibit we did research in old Lariats and Roundups and at The Texas Collection, getting a lot of information on how Homecoming has grown and evolved to what we know today," said Hayley Gibson, an El Paso senior who serves as the Chamber's Homecoming chair.
The Texas Collection will host a Homecoming history exhibit of their own, to be on display Oct. 1-Dec. 1.
During the events of Homecoming Week (Oct. 19-25) such as the Bonfire and Pep Rally on Fountain Mall, the Baylor Chamber will also have special tents set up that will allow participants to learn more about Baylor Homecoming history.
For more information and a complete list of Homecoming 2009 activities, visit www.baylor.edu/homecoming.