136 years of homecoming history at CSU

Sarah Ehrlich

Accidental fires, stolen flags and general shenanigans are just small parts of Colorado State University’s iconic homecoming history.

“I think we are at the doorstep of a new kind of homecoming celebration,” CSU history researcher Gordon “Hap” Hazard said. “When I was in school in the `70s, students didn’t really care about homecoming. They only went out to Hughes to party and not even watch the game. Now, it’s become a thing where a lot of different people are involved, and there are lot more activities.”

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The first known informal CSU alumni reunion took place on July 7, 1882, according to an 1895 issue of The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Since then, homecoming has become one of the biggest and most anticipated events at CSU and in Fort Collins.

Here are some memorable homecoming moments at CSU, according to Hazard’s research:

11th Annual Reunion of the College at CSU- December 23, 1892

A literary and music reception was followed by a midnight dinner and a night of dancing at the Tedmon House Hotel in downtown Fort Collins. The partygoers could catch the early morning train home, the 19th-century walk of shame. The alumnus and current students enjoyed interacting with each other and sharing experiences. These reunions soon evolved into being called “homecoming” 15 years into the 20th century.

Professors beat varsity team- October 3, 1914

The Colorado Agricultural College hosted an Alumni Day that featured a football game between the varsity football team and the faculty members of the college. Surprisingly, the faculty team won 3-0. “1944” was the evening banquet’s theme, when attendees, among them President Charles A. Lory, dressed as if they were 30 years into the future.

Two-storied brick building with a wide porch curving around the left side with pillars supporting the roof; the house has been decorated with a large letter “A,” crepe paper streamers, and signs, “Beat Utah” and “Welcome Home Aggies.” Homecoming 1930. (Photo courtesy of University Historic Photograph Collection)

Aggie vandals cause a commotion- November 11, 1920

The Aggie students held a pep rally and parade before the football game against the Colorado College Tigers. The Aggies won 28-0, causing some enthusiastic students to travel to Colorado Springs to paint the letter “A” on some of the opposing college buildings. The Student Council issued an apology, although that

didn’t exactly fix the faint “A’s” that were now a part of the Colorado College campus.

Greek life celebrates homecoming in a gross way- October 26, 1929

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Greek life had become more involved with homecoming by doing normal things like decorating their houses and not so normal things like making pledges of Sigma Chi and Phi Delta Theta participate in an annual rotten egg fight. The two fraternities would meet at the present-day Weber building and hurl about 1,100 rotten eggs delivered from Denver at each other, within a span of 20 minutes. Usual homecoming festivities continued with a bonfire, a performance by the Dramatic Club and another losing football game. CSU was notorious for losing homecoming games. 

New Aggie fight song relieves depression blues- November 19, 1932

People celebrating in front of of the 1948 homecoming bonfire. (Photo courtesy of University Historic Photograph Collection)

The usual Homecoming festivities such as the parade, bonfire, banquets, Greek life decorations and football game were all held. President Lory encouraged the college to “forget our troubles in a glorious homecoming,” despite the Great Depression being in full swing. Three weeks later, Dr. Richard F. Bourne, DVM presented the “Aggie Fight Song” performed by the Aggie Band. This tune, with updated lyrics, is still used 85 years later and can be found on YouTube.

A lit dance, literally- October 14, 1950

After a winning football game, “Johnny Haws and his Orchestra” of Denver performed at the annual Homecoming Dance. A small fire broke out during the dance causing the Fort Collins Fire Department to clear the room and discover a casually tossed cigarette had been smoldering before turning to flames. One year prior, the same room was caught ablaze yet no one considered to ban smoking or improve fire safety.

Tormenting freshman in kangaroo court- October 20, 1961

Freshmen had a “frosh bible” of rules they had to follow such as wearing a ridiculous beanie, and if not, they were to be tried and punished in a kangaroo court. Kangaroo court is a term for an unofficial court, often used as a joke. The morning of the homecoming game, court was convened. Major crimes included “walking on the grass, failing to wear the Beanie and not responding with enthusiasm to the orders of ‘Tassel Toots’ and ‘Button, Frosh!’” The punishment for these crimes? Getting your head shaved.

Trudi Morrison reacts as she is declared 1970 homecoming queen. Morrison was the first African-American homecoming queen at Colorado State University. (Photo courtesy of University Historic Photograph Collection)

CSU’s first black homecoming queen- October 31, 1970

Trudi Morrison became CSU’s first black and/or African American homecoming queen. Someone threw a brick through her living room window, and someone attempted to run over her with their car. She went on to become an advisor for U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Morrison returned to the 1984 Homecoming as a featured speaker.

CSU’s first homecoming person- October 18, 1974

Voting for the homecoming queen was done by putting money in jars with the candidate’s name on it outside of the bookstore. Theron Abbott, an elected male contender, had more money in his jar than all his counterparts combined and was announced the 1974 Homecoming Person. This showed that students were tired of the homecoming queen stereotype. University officials showed their disapproval by pulling all support for further homecoming queen elections. This ended the homecoming queen tradition. 

A messy homecoming parade- October 22, 1988

The members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon managed to sneak their way into the family-friendly homecoming parade. Their “floats” were nothing more than old cars with the roofs removed and slogans such as “drink till you puke” and “party vehicle” painted on the sides. As the floats passed the SAE house on Laurel and Howes, members emerged from the house to provide their brothers with more alcohol to publicly consume. Done like true gentlemen. 

The fallen were honored- September 22, 2001

Eleven days prior to homecoming, the horrific attack on the World Trade Center occurred. In addition, the Fort Collins community had lost legendary Thurman “Fum” McGraw. All those who were lost were honored with a 21 gun salute at the pep rally before the football game.

Stolen 90-year-old flag returned in glory- October 19, 2014

During the homecoming game of 1925, the Aggie flag was stolen straight from the flagpole by a CU student. Being kept in a trunk for nearly nine decades, the flag was finally returned and proudly carried onto the field by the CSU football team. Perhaps due to the luck of the revived flag, the Rams beat Utah State.  

Looking back at this University’s colorful history, CSU was no stranger to making homecoming a memorable and sometimes unruly event.

“Homecoming is one of our most beloved traditions at Colorado State University,” said Kristi Bohlender, executive director for CSU’s Alumni Association. “As the keepers of those traditions, the CSU Alumni Association takes pride in bringing it to life each year for our alumni, community and Rams fans. It’s a chance for us to welcome everyone home to celebrate CSU’s past, present and future, and there’s something so sacred about that.”

More history of CSU can be found at the Archives and Special Collections office on the second floor of Morgan Library.

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twiter @SarahEhrlich96.