A look back at the history

How EWU homecoming has progressed over the years


Photo by Melanie Flint

EWU Cheerleaders with Swoop

By Lelia Thatcher, Staff Writer

Homecoming a century ago was not much different than it is today: pep rallies, dances, parades, kings and queens, tailgating and more all leading up to a football team’s first home game after being on the road. Sure the music, clothes and certainly dancing styles have evolved, but the idea of celebrating school spirit with students, alumni, family and community remains the same.

It is largely disputed where and when homecoming originated, but many scholars as well as the NCAA, Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit acknowledge the University of Missouri’s 1911 football game as the first official homecoming in the nation.

According to the Mizzou Alumni Association, the story goes that Chester Brewer – MU’s director of athletics – wanted to raise awareness about the game between Missouri and their rival Kansas that was to be held in Missouri’s new stadium, so he encouraged former students to “come home”. There was a spirit rally and parade and over 9,000 fans showed for the game.

Both Baylor University and the University of Illinois claim to be the first as well. By the 1920’s, homecoming had become a common tradition at colleges and high schools across the United States.

Eastern’s first homecoming was Oct. 25, 1924, when the school was still named State Normal School of Cheney. The football team defeated their rival Ellensburg.

Cecil Dryden was an assistant professor of History at the State Normal School of Cheney during the time that homecoming emerged. She wrote a book titled “Light for an Empire: The Story of Eastern Washington State College,” in which she recalled the events surrounding the first homecoming.

“Three years of talk … and as many years of urgence by coach Alvin Eustis, the decision was made to risk all on a first homecoming. Events began with the pep rally described as something ‘long to remember.’ Around the brilliant bonfire, there was jolly and banter. As students, alumni, faculty and townspeople gathered to celebrate,” said Dryden.

The first homecoming was deemed a “howling success,” according to Dryden.

91 years later and that same spirit engulfs campus during homecoming week. Senior Thor Boutelle said “nothing compares to the sense of community that homecoming brings and I can’t wait for the game.”

Eastern’s homecoming parade, which began in the 1930’s, was previously held during the evening, but in recent years has switched to daylight hours in order to better accommodate families.

Senior Curtis Veium said he loves that homecoming is a way for students and alumni to share college stories and create new memories. “Alumni give hope and show a path to students who are still in college, seeing where their degrees have taken them is truly inspiring,” said Veium.