Vol. 9 No. 1 THE MAGAZINE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH Summer 1999
HERE'S TO U! HOMECOMING '99
It's the party of the century!
Shed those cocoons (offices, classrooms, homes) and be a part of the University's 1999 Homecoming, "Here's to U," September 13-19. Even the most fettered alumni will find lots of reasons to come back, from standard Homecoming favorites reunions, Best of U, the football game, a dance, Songfest to some new additions to the schedule, including a performance by satirist Mark Russell and a pre-game concert by the Alumni Band. (For a full schedule of the festivities, turn to the calendar on page 32.)
Many alumni approach this time of year with warm remembrances of the parades, dances, and royalty of homecomings past. From the horse-drawn float of 1926 that circulated through downtown Salt Lake City inviting everyone to the celebration, to the elaborate, huge-float parades of the fifties, for many years parades were a featured highlight of homecoming. The 1931 Utonian speaks of ". . . a spectacular parade. . .with war-whoops and beating drums."
Norma Berntson Ashton BS'38 recalls how hard the sororities and fraternities worked on their floats, songs, and house decorations. "We stayed up very late at night to get our sorority house decorations done," she says, "and got up very early in the morning to practice our songs. And we had to look just right for the dance."
No wonder the 1931 homecoming dance is referred to as "undoubtedly one of the most memorable events of the year." Ted Capener BS'53 was chair of homecoming 1953 (students, not alumni, organized homecoming back then) and remembers how big the dance was. It was held at the Student Union (now Gardner Hall) ballroom, with vocalist Rhett Butler entertaining. "We hired big names then," he says. In some years, a street dance, generally sponsored by the Greeks, was also held.
Capener recalls that 1953 was the first year red block U's were painted on the downtown street corners. In 1998 the committee took the painting of block U's a step many steps further, painting them from downtown up Second South to the U and around Presidents Circle.
A point system was used to determine the overall participation award for Greek organizations for the year. Winners of quartet contests (or Songfest some years), house decorations, skits, floats, and numbers participating were each awarded points. The overall winner was announced with much fanfare during halftime of the homecoming football game.
Selecting a homecoming queen and attendants was a must. In both Ashton's and Capener's years, the royalty was selected by interview and student involvement (photos indicate appearance didn't seem to hurt any, either). Ashton recalls that "the royalty was driven around the football stadium in a roadster." Capener's 1953 queenly trio followed the same route in a convertible.
The Sigma Nu pledge class took the 1965 homecoming theme, "Uteville a Grow Grow," literally when it grew a huge letter "U" on campus. Through the sixties, seventies, and eighties, tradition continued pretty much intact, in spite of a threatened boycott by the Greeks in 1969, which did not take place. Still, the large parades were eliminated, and house decorations and skits became almost extinct.
When alumni board member Karen Newman Johnson BSN'63 MPHE'90 became chair of Homecoming 1996, "Back to ÔU'!," she was determined to revive some traditions and add new spice to the affair. "U-Talk" returned with a new name, "Best of U," giving people an opportunity to see some of the best people, programs, and pursuits on campus. The Gallivan Center band concert was introduced, as were homecoming grand marshals (an alumni couple that has been supportive of the U through the years). ASUU renewed the royalty idea with a new twist a queen and two attendants plus a king and his two attendants. The six members of the court were selected based on their scholastic and service achievements, and their performance in an interview.
This year's homecoming chair, Carol Bench BS'66, has a full slate of new and traditional activities planned. So don that raccoon cap, green beanie, or standard bowler whatever feels nostalgic and see what's new at the U.
Nettie Bagley BA'59 is Continuum Editorial Assistant.
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