The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Community creates Homecoming

Alumni remember Peruna, parties and football
SMU cheerleaders lead the crowd at the 1975 Homecoming game against the University of Texas. Courtesy of SMU Libraries.

With old Rotunda yearbooks scattered across a table in the DeGolyer Library, stacks of yellowing photos at my elbow and dozens of archived editions of the Daily Campus pulled up on my computer, I thought I knew everything about SMU Homecoming. I had sifted through over 100 years of homecoming history and knew all of the traditions that have fallen to the wayside: the alumni tree-planting, the pre-game picnic, the Friday night bonfire and the annual freshmen versus upperclassmen tug-of-war. Why, I wondered, had these events ever ended?

I asked Joe Clark, SMU class of 1966, about his memories of the bonfire and the tug-of-war.

“I don’t remember that at all,” he said.

I looked at my notes: an image of the 1965 bonfire, a picture of tug-of-war in 1962 and a 1969 WFAA clip on the annual tradition.

Freshmen lose tug-of-war to upperclassmen in 1962, a now defunct Homecoming tradition. Courtesy of SMU Libraries.

Penny Harvey, a friend of Clark’s and part of the class of 1967, said she vaguely remembered a bonfire but doesn’t remember attending.

Maybe the all-school picnic, held before the homecoming game every year from 1951 to 1980, would ring a bell.

“This is gonna look pretty bad,” said Sharla Bush, class of 1977, “I don’t remember a picnic either.”

Neither did her husband, who graduated from SMU a year before her.

It was clear the events that were so consistently covered in campus publications didn’t have the same staying power in the memories of alumni.

“It was really about the game and the excitement,” Bush said.

She was a cheerleader and Homecoming was a busy weekend for her. She remembers feeling pressure to energize the crowd, welcoming alumni into her sorority house and her parents coming down for the game.

Clark and Harvey remember the actual game as the highlight of the weekend as well. Back then, all home games were held at the Cotton Bowl, but there was no tailgating or organized transportation to the game. Instead, dates would double up and drive to the Cotton Bowl together after the parade on the Boulevard, Harvey remembered.

“You wouldn’t think of going to Homecoming without a date,” Clark said.

A decade later, when the game was held on campus at Ownby Stadium, dates were still the norm.

“If somebody hadn’t asked you by Wednesday, you weren’t going to Homecoming,” said Bush.

Now, students seem to go to games in big groups, Harvey said.

She’s returned to many SMU Homecomings as an alumnus and has seen the birth of new traditions, like
Boulevarding, which began around the time President R. Gerald Turner left his position as chancellor at the University of Mississippi and started at SMU in 1995.

“I’ve been to the Boulevard numerous times since they’ve had it, and I think it’s a great thing and a wonderful thing to do,” Harvey said. “And it’s nice that each of the colleges generally have an area or a tent to have their alums come to.”

A staple of Boulevarding is SMU’s mascot, Peruna.

“I’ve met Peruna twice in person,” Harvey said. “Both after I graduated, once with my two granddaughters. They thought it was so cool.”

The little black pony starred in Clark’s homecoming memories. When Clark was at school, SMU was part of the Southwest Conference and the Homecoming game was almost always against a Texas team. Attempted and successful mascot heists affected the Baylor bear, Bevo, UT’s Texas longhorn and of course, Peruna the pony.

“For homecoming, they had to be very careful,” Clark said, recalling one of his friends who was a Peruna handler.

“He would spend most of the weekend in the stable with Peruna, as well as some other people to guard her,” Clark said.

For Clark, Harvey and Bush, Homecoming boiled down to three things: football, Peruna and community. None of them had much to say about the school-sponsored events leading up to the game, but told fond stories about roommates, sorority sisters, Homecoming dates and friends.

While homecoming traditions have come and gone over the past 100 years, Homecoming brings together former, current and future Mustangs, from the football spectators to the toddlers who are more interested in Peruna than the pigskin.

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About the Contributor
Ellen Rogers, Arts & Life + Layout Editor
As arts and life editor, Ellen covers the news and activities that take place on- and off-campus, i.e. movie and concert reviews, lifestyle stories, food reviews, including profiles, trend stories and other in-depth coverage. She also has a keen eye for design and assists with layout for the The DC, the once-a-semester publication of The Daily Campus.  She is studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence for the spring 2024 semester. You can reach her at [email protected].