Historic Homecoming The Road to The Big Shebang Paved with Tradition
The Big Shebang, Wittenberg's first combined Homecoming/Reunion Weekend, offered many opportunities for alumni to reconnect with their alma mater. It also provided a peek at the traditions of yesteryear for the hundreds present.
The concept of Homecoming first graced the pages of the Torch on Oct. 26, 1916, with the headline "Gala Day for College." The day, the paper reports, was to be set-aside for the dedication of the newly remodeled Myers Hall.
"It is the idea to make this an alumni home-coming event," according to the article, which also discussed the planned festivities, including a procession across the athletic field and a farce about college life performed by students.
A "dainty football game, staged by the Glee club, one team wearing full dress suits and the other dressed in white flannel trousers," was also on tap. The teams would be encouraged by "a delicate bit of cheering indulged in by the Phi Psis assisted by 20 men from Myers Hall," and the "Alpha Taus would handle the annual freshman-sophomore tug-oí-war." An exhibition football game between the freshmen and reserve teams would complete the day's entertainment.
By 1928, planners of the annual Dad's Day celebration added an alumni reunion that was reported to be "the greatest homecoming" ever. Signs posted along all the roads leading to Springfield advertised the event, which included the dedication of the new health education and field house building. Social organizations decorated their houses, and a program of pyrotechnics, complete with exploding shells and banners, would introduce the football game against Miami of Oxford.
"The whole student body plans to board a special train ... to Springfield," for the highly anticipated game, and men who had won the "W" for athletic achievement in the past were to meet in front of the stadium at half-time to be recognized.
The following year 1,800 alumni registered for Homecoming, and in 1930, the first Homecoming queen was elected. Social organizations held a house-decorating contest that year, and the new Beta Theta Pi fraternity house was dedicated. A radio party was also held in the field house so alumni could listen to the National Broadcast Company¹s coverage of its Homecoming celebration.
In 1955, the 48-member marching band was big news on campus. It performed a tribute to moms titled "A Woman's Work Is Never Done" during halftime in front of the 5,000 fans at the game. Parades, displays, floats and barbecues were now familiar, anticipated Homecoming fare, but the main event was "The Game," between the Fighting Lutherans and the Otterbein Cardinals. They tied 13-13.
Next year, the Class of 1955 will return to campus for its 50th reunion, and if history is any indication, the class will certainly enjoy a big celebration.
"This year's event exceeded our expectations," said Patricia Richmond Benne '68, director of alumni relations. "We expect it to get even bigger and better."