A Baylor Pageant: Organizing the 1915 Homecoming Parade

By Amanda Norman, University Archivist

Samuel Palmer Brooks to Frank Guittard on Baylor Homecoming 1915

President Brooks commends Guittard for “remarkable tact in winning others to your plans and getting them to do the things that ought to be done.” Guittard’s notes on the parade illustrate how he accomplished those Homecoming plans! (Guittard papers, box 4, folder 9)

The Homecoming parade is one of my favorite Baylor traditions, but I must confess that I never thought much about all the work that goes in to planning the event. Knowing who’s participating, assigning the order, getting everyone into position, encouraging marchers to, ahem, represent Baylor well…that’s a lot of work! These days the men and women of Baylor Chamber of Commerce organize the parade, but back when Homecoming and the parade were new traditions, it was faculty members who made the parade happen.

One of these faculty members was Francis Guittard, a history professor who had been teaching at Baylor since the early 1900s. Frank helped organize Baylor’s first Homecoming in 1909, and President Samuel Palmer Brooks called on him again to serve as one of the marshals for the second Homecoming in 1915.

Frank Guittard's Baylor Homecoming parade notes (page 5), 1915

Note Guittard’s emphasis on the spacing between marchers. He clearly wanted no one stepping on heels or straggling behind–this parade was a tightly run ship! (Guittard papers, box 20, folder 4)

Almost 100 years later, Charles Guittard (BU ’64) was doing research this spring at The Texas Collection for a book he plans to write about his grandfather. In the Francis Gevrier Guittard papers, Charles came across Frank’s notes for his comments to the 1915 parade participants. With the 2013 Homecoming parade coming up tomorrow, we thought this was the perfect time to look back at one of Baylor’s first parades.

First of all, Frank Guittard calls the event a “pageant,” not a “parade.” (The phrases seemed to be used interchangeably at the time in describing this Homecoming event.) Parade participants included student groups like the Baylor band, the Town Girls club, the “B” Association, the senior class (already suited out in caps and gowns), and Baylor’s four literary societies: the Philomathesian, Erisophian, Calliopean, and Rufus C. Burleson organizations. Lillie Martin’s model primary class from the Department of Education provided the cute children for the parade. President Samuel Palmer Brooks, prominent faculty, alumnus of Baylor at Independence, and more rode in the auto section. Bringing up the rear was “Prof Evans’ Human Calliope.”

1915 Baylor University Homecoming: Human Calliope

Wonder how Professor Evans talked students into being part of his Human Calliope–perhaps extra credit? Image scanned from the Baylor Bulletin on Homecoming 1915.

Wait, need some explanation of that last bit? First, a calliope is a musical instrument that produces (very loud) sound by sending steam or compressed air through large whistles. Apparently Evans, a piano professor, had concocted his own version (see photo to the right), consisting of Evans pounding a cookstove as the keyboard and various Baylor men serving as the whistles, “tooting of some popular airs which brought repeated applause,” according to the December 2, 1915 Lariat.

The parade progressed from Austin Avenue to 4th Street, then to Franklin and on to 5th Street, which took them to Carroll Field for the Homecoming game. Guittard heavily underlined in his notes “marchers three steps back of those in front”—perhaps marchers walking too close or too far from each other had been an issue in the 1909 parade. Students were encouraged to enlist all present members of the organization to participate in the parade, as well as alumni—as long as those alumni were “not too fat and wheezy and full of rheumatics.” Evidently Guittard had no time for potential stragglers!

Frank Guittard's Baylor Homecoming parade notes (page 7), 1915

Guittard called on Baylor students of 1915 to realize they were participating in a historic event–indeed, these early parades laid the groundwork for years to come! (Guittard papers, box 20, folder 4)

Despite Guittard’s close attention to detail, he also took the long view—he reminded students that pictures would be taken that could be enjoyed for years to come. And indeed, The Texas Collection sees researchers coming every year just to see photos of early Homecomings.

Guittard also noted that “this pageant is to be representative of the loyalty of Baylor students as well as a graphic representation of Baylor’s strength and influence….Each of you has been given a role in this pageant which will be a long-remembered event in the history of Baylor and it is earnestly hoped that each one of you will act his part nobly and loyally.”

Guittard understood the importance of Homecoming when the tradition was just beginning—it wasn’t an annual event till 1924 (and then World War II disrupted the tradition). But he was right that those early parades would be long-remembered, and the summary of the parade in the 1915 Baylor Bulletin would be an apt description for succeeding Homecoming parades: “it isn’t an overplus enthusiasm nor pride of university or city to insist that few institutions in the United States could have made the showing Baylor made in the parade.”

Check out our latest Flickr set, a slideshow of Kodachrome slides from the 1953 Homecoming parade.

This entry was posted in archival research, Baylor Homecoming, Baylor University, Calliopean Literary Society, Erisophian Literary Society, Historic Waco, Philomathesian Literary Society, Rufus C. Burleson Society, Samuel Palmer Brooks, student life, Waco. Bookmark the permalink.

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