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October 7, 2010

It’s funny how when you’re in college you think that every moment is amazing, hilarious and memorable, and although nearly every moment of college is pretty amazing, I can tell you that when you’re two years out of college you’ll look back and be surprised at the things that actually remain as your college memories.  For me, I’ll never forget Halloween senior year, when my three roommates and I dressed at The Wizard of Oz characters. Of course our costumes were amazing. Of course we had a great night. But what I’ll always remember is coming home from the bar to our town house covered in smoke, and realizing we had left the “spiked” apple cider simmering on the stove…for the past four hours.

Luckily for us, there’s this tradition called homecoming, a time when we are called back to our Alma Mater to recall those treasured memories of college.  The importance of homecoming differs at each institution, but the tradition of homecoming supposedly has its roots at The University of Missouri, which in 1911 hosted a football game and encouraged alumni to attend. Whether you know it or not, Luther College has got some mighty deep roots in the way of Homecoming Traditions.

A few years ago I assisted with an oral history project in which we interviewed “iconic” figures of Luther’s past in order to compile some of their best stories from Homecomings Gone By. This project had us interviewing young people, really really old people,  the supposed founder of naked soccer and local celebrities like Weston Noble.

If you were asking me to list my favorite WWII interviewee Mr. Noble would take the cake, but my two favorite stories of LC Homecoming Folklore come from a man I interviewed just days after his 92nd Birthday, this gentleman was easy to talk to, and unlike many of the interviewees, I didn’t have to try very hard to get this guy to share the more scandalous activities he partook in during his college years. When asked what he thought was most memorable about Luther College homecomings he responded, “Watching the Dean of the College walk into the dining center to find a 1933 Allis Chambers tractor inside.”

I can remember looking up at this guy and seeing the mischievous laughter on his face and for a second seeing the jokester collegiate he once was. He went on to explain that when he was at Luther, him and his three closest friends took it upon themselves to play a yearly prank on the administration. Although he claimed they did a prank each year, he said the first two weren’t worth remembering, just their junior and senior pranks.

For their junior year prank the boys set off on foot in the middle of the night, and walked west of Decorah until they came across a farm. At the farm was a 1933 Allis Chambers tractor, the boys quietly pushed it to the road and then drove it back to campus. After safely reaching campus they disassembled the entire tractor on the college’s library lawn, and carried it piece by piece through the student union and into the dining hall, where they carefully reassembled it. He said the entire project took them until the sun was fully risen, but that it took the administration two days to figure out how to get the tractor out of the building and returned to the farmer.

That one, he said, was his favorite, but he felt their senior prank was just as good and with less legal risks. For the Homecoming Prank of their senior year one of the boys brought three “prize hogs” back from his family farm in central Iowa. The boys hung bells around the pigs necks with twine and then numbered the pigs using blue paint, “1”, “2” and “4”. He said they hauled the pigs across campus and let them loose in the student center. The next morning as administration was arriving to prepare for the Alumni Brunch, they were greeted with a building full of snorting pigs, and instead of hosting the alumni brunch they spent the entire day searching for Pig #3.

Although I confess I’ve never disassembled a piece of farm machinery or stolen livestock to make my homecoming entertaining, I have never had a boring one! Here’s to Luther College and Homecoming 2010!

The deep-rooted traditions of “caf tray sledding”

Preus Gymnasium, which burned down in 1961.

Room in Larsen.


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