Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming History Edition

September 20th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of an early KU Homecoming football game, 1910s

An early KU homecoming football game at McCook Field, 1910s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

For over a century, the tradition of homecoming has been observed across KU and the city of Lawrence. Originating as an opportunity for alumni to revisit campus, the first homecoming game was played against the University of Missouri in November 1912, with KU winning 12-3. Over the next decade, the popular event spun off into many traditions. Some – like homecoming parades – have endured to this day, while others – like the annual tiger bonfire and a day dedicated to dressing like hobos – have disappeared.

Photograph of KU students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931

Students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931. The raucous event became an
integral part of homecoming festivities at KU. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/9 1931 Prints: Student Activities: Hobo Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Homecoming mostly continued on in this fashion for nearly six decades – a week of parties, rallies, and promotional activities leading up to the big football game. It wasn’t until 1970 that the next major development in the history of KU homecoming took place. In 1969, senior student Janet Merrick was crowned KU’s final homecoming queen. The selection of the homecoming queen had been part of the celebration since 1925. Protests surrounding the war in Vietnam and a growing sense of student-establishment tension deemed the tradition to be clashing with modern sensibilities. Additionally, frustrated with a process that had never resulted in a black homecoming queen, KU’s Black Student Union first chose its own queen in 1969. The following year was the first homecoming celebration without a queen, and the tradition remains shelved. The Black Student Union continues to crown a homecoming queen each year.

Photograph of KU Homecoming Queen Jan Merrick, 1969

Homecoming Queen Janet Merrick, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1969 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The following year, KU introduced a second Jayhawk mascot. During halftime of the 1971 homecoming game against Kansas State University, Baby Jay was unveiled to the student body after hatching from a giant blue egg. Big Jay and Baby Jay have been staples of the university spirit team ever since.

Photograph of the Baby Jay egg, 1971

Baby Jay egg, 1971. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/25 1971
Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of KU Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints:
Chancellors: E. Laurence Chalmers (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

In 1993 there may have been some consideration in reviving the homecoming court; however, a new tradition began instead. An award was given to students that exhibited academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of service to the Lawrence community. This became the KU Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards, or the KU Ex.C.E.L. Awards. This honor has been given to two students, every homecoming, for the past twenty-eight years.

Homecoming in more recent years has seen the emergence of new traditions. For example, at Chalk ‘n’ Rock, student groups and organizations create elaborate chalk murals along Wescoe Beach. The Jayhawk Jingles continue as a new version of the Jayhawk Follies; students compete in a contest of musical performances.

Photograph of the Jayhawk Follies, 1954

Four women dancing on stage dressed as dolls in the Jayhawk Follies, 1954.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1954 Prints: Student Activities:
Homecoming (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This year, KU faces off against Oklahoma State in the 106th homecoming football game. The theme this year is “Home on the Hill,” a call for alumni to return home to their University as they always have and for current students to further solidify their own homes on the hill.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming Queen Edition

October 8th, 2015

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 6,700 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We’re excited that Homecoming is right around the corner, so this week’s photograph shows 1938 Homecoming Queen Dorothy “Denny” Lemoine (center) and her court, Helen Johnson (left) and Elizabeth Kemp (right). Lemoine was chosen by the football team.

Photograph of KU Homecoming queen and court, 1938

The KU Homecoming Queen and her attendants with campus officials on the field at
Memorial Stadium, November 1938. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1938 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

According to an article on the KU History website, the first Homecoming Queen was crowned at KU in 1925. The “ceremony did not become a tradition until 1933. A new queen was crowned each year until 1969, when anti-war demonstrations and stormy race relations led to the committee’s decision that it was ‘more appropriate to recognize those who embody the academic spirit for which this community was established.'”

From left to right in the photograph are:

  • Colonel Karl F. Baldwin: A career Army officer, Baldwin (1885-1967) was a Professor of Military Science and Tactics and the ROTC commandant at KU from 1936 to 1941. Born in Iowa, Baldwin spent part of his childhood in Kansas. He received a B.S. in civil engineering (1908) and an M.A. (1918) from Norwich University, then The Military College of the State of Vermont.
  • Chancellor Ernest H. Lindley: A native of Indiana, Lindley received his B.A. (1893) and M.A. (1894) degrees in psychology from Indiana University before obtaining his Ph.D. in psychology from Clark University in 1897. He spent over twenty years as professor of psychology and philosophy at Indiana before becoming the president of the University of Idaho in 1917. Lindley (1869-1940) served as the Chancellor of KU from 1920 to 1939.
  • Attendant Helen Virginia Johnson: Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Helen graduated from KU in 1941 with a major in English. While at the university she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.). She also served on the Women’s Student Government Association (W.S.G.A.) and was the Vice President of her junior class. Helen was also a Kansas Relay Queen and a Jayhawker Queen.
  • Homecoming Queen Dorothy Deneise Lemoine: Dorothy graduated from KU in 1940 with a degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Also from Kansas City, Missouri, she was an intramural manager and a Hobo Queen, plus a member of Pi Beta Phi, Sociology Club, the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.), and French Club. She became engaged to star KU halfback Dick Amerine about a month after this photo was taken.
  • Attendant Elizabeth Ellinor Kemp: A member of the Class of 1939, Elizabeth majored in Spanish. The Kansas City, Missouri, native was also a member of Spanish Club and Alpha Delta Pi.
  • Ralph T. O’Neil, Chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents: O’Neil (1888-1940) was born in Osage City, Kansas. He obtained an A.B. from Baker (1909) and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard (1913). A World War I veteran, O’Neil was a long-time attorney in Topeka who also served as the national commander of the American Legion (1930-1931) and the president of the Kansas Bar Association (1939-1940).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants