By Heather Soltis
Homecoming week is upon us. A time of celebration, of school spirit and tradition, Homecoming is more than just float-building and a football game. It’s a chance for alumni to “come home” and reconnect with old friends and revisit fond memories of their college years.
Homecoming 2012 is special because it is the fiftieth anniversary of the class of 1962, which was the first freshman class to live on the new campus. The class of 1982, celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, witnessed the opening of Paladin Stadium in their senior year. I spoke with alumni from the class of ’62 and ‘82 to find out their favorite Homecoming memories and the biggest changes they have noticed.
To paint a picture of Furman in the past, picture it without any trees. In 1962, it was not uncommon to see a freshly dug hole in the ground one day, and the next day see something resembling a broomstick in its place. Eventually those broomsticks became the oak trees that line the mall today.
Then, picture campus without any women. Female students still lived downtown on College Street at Greenville Women’s College, at what was affectionately referred to as “the Zoo.” They arrived on campus in 1961, living in Manly for the first year and taking over Lakeside the next year, leaving the guys in South Housing. Curfew at “the Zoo” was 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends, and gentlemen callers were announced on the speakerphone in the dormitories.
The Rainbow Drive-In was a popular stopping point between downtown and the new campus, and Dr. Richard Hewitt, ’62, recalled that every Friday and Saturday night around 11:15 p.m., there would be a crowd of Furman guys getting a bite to eat. The modern-day equivalent, of course is Waffle House.
During Homecoming the floats were actually mobile and used in the Homecoming Parade. Since the football stadium was still downtown, the Homecoming Parade began on campus and went all the way to the stadium.
Janet Huskey, ’62, remembers stepping up to help feed the rush of hungry, tired students during the final hours of float building.
Alan Boda, ’82, said he loved to watch the marching band parade from McAlister to Paladin Stadium before the football game, partly because his future wife was playing in the band, but also because it was a festive way to start off the game.
The South Carolina Baptist Convention outlawed dances and fraternities in the early ‘60s after Greenville high school girls were found at a fraternity formal, but they had been reinstated by Boda’s time and were an integral part of Homecoming.
In the ‘60s, Huskey said that most of the students were Southern Baptist and from South Carolina. She was happy to see a much more diverse student body in recent years. “Furman was probably even more of a bubble when I went to school there,” she admitted. I assured her that this aspect of Furman had not changed too much, though it was comforting to hear that classes were just as rigorous and demanding as they are today.
It was inspiring to hear about the changes Furman has undergone in the past 50 years, including the admission of black students in 1963, the break with the Baptist Convention in the early 90s and the growth of the study abroad program.
As a senior, I have been reevaluating my experiences at Furman and thinking about what I will treasure the most after graduation. After hearing about the fond memories these alumni have about their college years, it is becoming clear to me that the experiences you have and the friendships you make are always with you.
As Boda succinctly put it, “You’ll find when you leave Furman that the Furman experience doesn’t end. When you come back to Furman each year and go through the front gates, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
Now, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to it.