The History of Homecoming
Everything has a beginning, and the college tradition of Homecoming is no exception. The tradition began early in the 20th century, with that held in 1911 at the University of Missouri commonly regarded as one of the first. While there was a tradition of alumni events at Brockport going back into the 19th century, and a spring event called Color Day each year from 1902 to 1938 that featured many of the typical events of a homecoming — a game, a dance, and so on — the first actual homecoming at Brockport took place the weekend of October 24, 1947.
This was when football was first being revived at Brockport. The school had had a team for some years before WWI, but between controversy over injuries and a drop in the number of male students, the sport was dropped. After WWII, the number of students, including male students, was expanding, the nature of the game had been modified since earlier years, and it was decided to restart a team.
Bob Boozer was brought to Brockport to coach the team by physical education chair Ernest Tuttle. It isn’t easy to start a sports team from scratch, but Boozer approached the task enthusiastically. (Another of Boozer’s contributions to Brockport sports was to lend his middle name, Ellsworth, to our college mascot, which debuted in 1956!)
In the photograph above, we see the team of 1947, who played against Mansfield on Saturday, October 25. In the front row, left to right, are Roy Daugherty ’51, Angelo Scappa, James Baker, Louis Avino ’49, Elton Fairbank, Ernest Winterhalter ’50, and Joseph Piccirillo ’49. Second row, left to right, are Dennis Wood, James Butz ’49, Francis Longhini ’50, and Richard Hansen. The green Brockport team gave it their best, but as the Stylus article said, the “potent Pennsylvanians displayed grid might,” and Brockport lost 48-0.
An interesting athletics footnote from that fall is that we might have been something other than the “Golden Eagles.” In a vote held on October 1, 1947, students chose from the following list: Golden Eagles, Braves, Badgers, and Golden Bears. The name “Golden Eagles” was the overwhelming favorite!
On Friday evening of that first official Homecoming, there was a pep rally with a bonfire and speeches given by Tuttle, the coaches, and team captains. After the pep rally, there was a “snake dance,” a sort of parade, to downtown, where other events were held. Saturday evening after the game, the “Junior Dance Committee” held a “Kick-Off” dance in the College Gym. The Stylus reported that “the dance will be a ‘dress-up’ (dress and pumps) affair.”
It was a very different school then, in many ways. At that time, Hartwell Hall was the primary building on campus. The sports fields were to the west, where Drake/Allen and Tuttle are today. The gym that the dance was held in was the gym in Hartwell. It was a far smaller school, focusing exclusively on teacher training. But the school spirit was certainly there, and a tradition was launched that continues to the present. In 2022, we will be celebrating our 75th Homecoming!