Homecoming through the Decades
Augustana first welcomed its alumni for an official Homecoming celebration in 1920. The Observer had promised "a brand of fall athletics that has never been excelled," and the Augustana football team came through, defeating Illinois Wesleyan 28-10 before a boisterous crowd at Ericson Field.
In the 1920s, Homecoming celebrations boasted a grand banquet with music in the big gym, a carnival in the little gym's canteen, and tennis and field hockey, in addition to football. The 1925 Rockety-I reported, "The Hockey game played during Home-coming between the Freshman and Sophomore teams was an interesting display of girls' athletic prowess." The winning team was not named.
Students expanded Homecoming festivities in 1926 to include a pep rally bonfire on the athletic field and a parade in which every campus organization was urged to enter a float. The following year, the campus crowned its first Vi-King and Vi-Queen, and Augustana shut down St. Ambrose 12-0 in front of 4,000 football fans.
During World War II, some students and faculty wondered if Homecoming should take place. According to the Sept. 30, 1943, Observer: "Some say no because present conditions make it difficult to arrange such a weekend. Food rationing prevents the holding of a banquet; gas rationing and travel restrictions decrease the number of alumni who can return; male shortage makes a football game impossible; extensive social activity has no place on a wartime schedule." But, the editorial writer noted, "[The] significance of homecoming isn't in a banquet, a football victory or a weekend of hilarity; the significance goes much deeper. Homecoming is a milestone in the progress of Augustana; homecoming is a symbol of unity and fellowship among all students, present and former, and homecoming this year will be a force to keep traditions and ideals in a time when war is splashed across the headlines and things of lasting value are lost."
Homecoming did happen that year at Augustana, and has every year since. Organizers of the first celebration would be pleased to know the annual reunion has indeed passed "into the realm of hallowed traditions, and become a time-honored festivity," just as they had hoped.