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A Stationary Parade

In the 1950s and 1960s, UW living units rivaled the parade with their creative displays of Homecoming spirit.

October 21, 2021
Homecoming house decoration from the past

In the early years of UW Homecoming celebrations, students competed to show the most spirit by decorating their homes to show their UW pride. Residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses competed to see who could put on the most creative display. The tradition reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, when the yards of Langdon Street and in front of res halls seemed to outshine the glory of the Homecoming Parade. By the late 1970s, the popularity of house decorating was in decline with the rise of counterculture and the fall of the Badger football team. But once, spectators paraded past floats rather than the other way around.


Photos of decorated houses from 1919

UW Homecoming was just a decade old when this student filled an album page with photos of decorated houses. The theme seemed to be “who can make the biggest W.” That year’s opponent was Minnesota, and after the Gophers beat the Badgers 19–7, perhaps some of those houses turned their W upside down to honor the victors.

Photo: UW Archives


UW Medical School perform "autopsy" ln the Purdue Boilermakers, in 1935

In the 1930s, the students in the UW Medical School joined the fun by imagining an autopsy on the Purdue Boilermakers. The UW won 8–0.

Photo: UW Archives S04713


YMCA "graveyard" of Northwestern Wildcats, in 1948

Though the game came a week after Halloween, the YMCA offered to bury Northwestern in 1948. The Wildcats buried the Badgers instead, 16–7.

Photo: UW Archives S16151


1951 fraternity yard decorations

In the 1950s, house decorating reached its peak. This fraternity had a cubist take on the upcoming football game. The Badgers beat Indiana 6–0.

Photo: UW Archives S14239


Sigma Kappa Show Boat-themed display in 1952

The next year, Sigma Kappa went Broadway with a Show Boat–themed display. The UW beat Northwestern 24–20.

Photo: UW Archives S03548


1953 dorm decorations offer to "flush" I-O-Way

One dorm went with a rhyming pun when the Badgers played the Hawkeyes in 1953. The UW did flush I-O-Way 10–6.

Photo by Tom Pinney, UW Archives S14242


1954 decorations consist of puppet show theme

Gamma Phi suggested that the Northwestern Wildcats were mere puppets and Bucky the puppet master in this extended metaphor. The UW won 34–13.

Photo by Mile Leidner, UW Archives S03606


Sword-wielding Bucky threatens Wildcats in 1960 decorations

When Northwestern returned to town, this dorm suggested putting the Wildcats to the sword. The Badgers had no such luck, losing 21–0.

Photo by Christopher Fortune, UW Archives S16894


Sellery Hall's spider decoration collapsed on truck in 1964

Sellery Hall attempted an elaborate spider theme, but sadly, it collapsed on a mail truck. Michigan State defeated the UW 22–6.

Photo by Jim Sernovitz, UW Archives S03571


1966 Greek house with movie-themed decorations

This Greek house attempted some sort of movie theme. Purdue, unimpressed, beat the Badgers 23–0.

Photo: UW Archives S15936


1970 moonshine-themed decorations at Tau Kapp Epsilon house

By the 1970s, school spirit was less popular than distilled spirits, at least at Tau Kappa Epsilon house. Michigan State topped the UW 28–7.

Photo by Bruce Fritz, UW Archives S03566

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