Homecoming History: Hobo Band Parade and Other Traditions

Reproduced with permission from University of Illinois Archives Blog (http://archives.library.illinois.edu/blog)

Parades are almost a given at any Homecoming celebration, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is no different. However, in the early years of the 20th century, Illinois Homecoming weekend featured something other than floats: the Hobo Band Parade. The actual origin of the Hobo Band Parade is lost to history; however, the tradition had already been established on the U of I campus for many years by the early 1900s, actually predating the Homecoming celebration it became associated with. It was traditional for seniors to dress as a hobo, clown, or other character, grab an instrument, and lead the way to Illinois Field for the annual Freshman-Sophomore pushball game. In 1910, the pushball game became part of the program of activities for the First Annual Fall Homecoming, and the senior class Hobo Band came along too (1). In 1913, sack rush replaced pushball (2). The annual pushball game and other “class scraps” fell out of favor in the 1910s (3), but the Hobo Band Parade marched on for 37 years as an annual Homecoming tradition. The Hobo Parade was eventually dropped from Homecoming festivities; no football program or Daily Illini makes mention of it after 1946. It is difficult to say why. It has been suggested that masquerade-type entertainment simply went out of style, and that post-WWII campus culture was a little less silly than before (4). John Franch writes that the Hobo Parade was cancelled in 1934 due to lack of interest (5). Similar traditions existed at other universities, and some even continue to the present day (6). However, after 66 years, it seems UIUC’s Hobo Band is relegated to retirement.

Images

Program for the 1910 Homecoming

Program for the 1910 Homecoming

Daily Illini, October 14th, 1910. Page 1. | Source: Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection View File Details Page

Freshmen push ball team that won in 1910, posing for a picture

Freshmen push ball team that won in 1910, posing for a picture

Image courtesy the University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 171, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Meeting of the “Hoboes Union,” 1901

Meeting of the “Hoboes Union,” 1901

Image courtesy the University of Illinois Archives RS 39/2/20, Box 2, ACT-5 View File Details Page

Senior Hobo Band Parade, Homecoming Weekend, ca. 1926.

Senior Hobo Band Parade, Homecoming Weekend, ca. 1926.

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives Original print is 6.5" x 9.5" ID:0006228 View File Details Page

The class of 1913 and 1914 compete against each other in the push ball contest, which was part of the homecoming festivities, a contest that the sophomores (class of 1913) won.

The class of 1913 and 1914 compete against each other in the push ball contest, which was part of the homecoming festivities, a contest that the sophomores (class of 1913) won.

Image courtesy the University of Illinois Archives Found in RS: 39/2/20, Box ACT - 6, Folder ACT - 6, 1910 View File Details Page

Students play push ball, 1906

Students play push ball, 1906

Image courtesy the University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 164, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Push Ball contest on the football field in 1910<br /><br />
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Push Ball contest on the football field in 1910

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 168, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Ground shot of the push ballers in action, 1909

Ground shot of the push ballers in action, 1909

University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 167, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Competitors hang out between halves at the Push Ball competition, 1909

Competitors hang out between halves at the Push Ball competition, 1909

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 166, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

The Hobo Band parades at the Push Ball gathering., 1909

The Hobo Band parades at the Push Ball gathering., 1909

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives Found in RS: 39/2/24, Box 1, Folder 101-201, Number 147 View File Details Page

The Hobo Band poses for a picture in 1910

The Hobo Band poses for a picture in 1910

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 201, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

The Hobo Band of 1912 poses for a picture

The Hobo Band of 1912 poses for a picture

Image courtesy the University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 196, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Portrait of the push ball marshals of homecoming 1910

Portrait of the push ball marshals of homecoming 1910

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives Found in Box 1, Folder 101-201 Image Number: 170, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

"Ready" - Sack Rush, 1913

"Ready" - Sack Rush, 1913

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives The freshmen and sophomores get ready to start the Sack Rush of 1913 Found in Box 1, Folder 303-389 Image Number: 347, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Sack Rush, 1913

Sack Rush, 1913

Image courtesy University of Illinois Archives The freshmen beat the sophomores 18-0 in the Sack Rush of 1913 Found in Box 1, Folder 303-389 Image Number: 346, Record Series 39/2/24. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Rory Grennan, “Homecoming History: Hobo Band Parade and Other Traditions,” ExploreCU, accessed June 27, 2017, http://explorecu.org/items/show/256.
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