Homecoming in 1964 ushered in a new era

By Ellen Skelly

Homecoming in 1964 meant getting ready for a new era.

The Homecoming theme “Thanks for the memories” fit into the mood of the changing times, both on and off campus.

America was fighting battles in Vietnam, and politicians Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater were fighting political battles around the country.

NIU had an ever-growing student population of 12,672, the skeleton of Grant Towers started to take shape and the last football season at Glidden Field was moving into high gear.

With a record of 4-1, the Huskies needed a Homecoming victory over Eastern Illinois University to shift into overdrive and take a lead in their conference.

A full week of activities for alumni and students were planned to lead up to the game on Oct. 24.

A torch light parade and a “snake dance” (with all participants doing a bunny hop-like dance) were held on Oct. 21.

The band “Bill and the Bachelors” played at the street dance Oct. 22 in the parking lot at University Center, now the Holmes Student Center. A bonfire on the “North 40”, the open field area that runs along the Kishwaukee river between First Street and Anderson Hall, began after dusk on the same night, where the team was introduced, the cheerleaders performed, the Homecoming king and queen were presented and many students roasted marshmallows.

Jack Dean served a dual role in the Homecoming festivities, one as starting quarterback for the Huskies, and another as Homecoming king. Queen Pam Mueller danced with a stand-in for Dean at the coronation dance on Oct. 23 because he had commitments to the football team for the night.

Twenty-eight units participated in the Homecoming parade Saturday morning Oct. 24, including 10 floats and seven marching bands.

The sky was nearly cloudless and temperatures almost hit 70 degrees at 1:30 for the kickoff. Dean threw for 264 yards with 19 completions before a crowd of 12,000 as the Huskies defeated the Panthers, 35-14.

Saturday evening, a Homecoming dinner was held at University Center which consisted of escalloped turkey, giblet gravy, three bean salad and blueberry ice box dessert.

“The Four Lads,” veterans of Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan and Perry Como television shows, performed in the center ballroom.

Various Homecoming awards included the Alumni Trophy for best single entry float, won by Alpha Sigma Alpha. The residence hall decoration award went to Douglas Hall for a paper presentation of an NIU Huskie and a EIU Panther on a football field.

Homecoming bike race winner was Phi Kappa Theta, and Phi Delta Sigma won the tug-of-war competition.