Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Homecoming Mums: A 90-Year Tradition With More History Than You'd Think

by Bryan Whitledge

Homecoming, that wonderful autumn rite, tends to coincide with the blooming of chrysanthemums. So, it goes without saying that deep maroon and vibrant gold mums are the perfect match for the festivities at Central each year. In the early 1930s, less than ten years after Homecoming football was a part of the fall social calendar (the first Homecoming football game was in 1924), flower shops around Mount Pleasant began taking out advertisements in the local newspapers announcing, “Mums for Homecoming.” By 1936, a student group, the Lucy A. Sloan Literary Society (later named Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority), began selling “mums” during the Homecoming celebrations for ten cents each as a fundraising activity. The "mums" were not actually flowers, but crepe paper blossoms in “rust and yellow” colors.

Homecoming mums sale, 1968

Through the 1940s and 1950s, the sale of “mums” seems to have continued, coordinated by student groups such as the Women’s League. But mums were not a major part of Homecoming with only a few advertisements from local flower shops announcing the arrival of “Homecoming Mums.”

By the 1960s, things had changed and “Homecoming Mums” became a highlight of the festivities. Sororities took responsibility for selling the mums, which were real blooms and often decorated with the Greek letters of fraternities and sororities across campus or a “C” for Central.

As time moved on and the 1960s turned to the 1970s, student organizations stopped selling mums. Local florists took their place, selling mums to current members of the Central community and the alumni who came back for Homecoming. The florists continued advertising “Mums for Homecoming” in the student newspaper through the mid-1980s, but the tradition was never as vibrant as it was during the 1960s.

Mums planted on campus, 2013. Image courtesy of Steve Jessmore.

Today, even though they are not sold as part of the plethora of Homecoming happenings, CMU’s campus is awash in “rust and yellow” chrysanthemums – a symbol of Central’s Homecoming dating back nearly 90 years!