background

June 1914: The first Reunion Alumni Parade

Sometimes, trying to pinpoint the beginning of a college tradition is like trying to spot the moment of high tide — you only know it’soccurred in hindsight. Other traditions, however, are chronicled from Day 1. For example, Milt Lindholm ’35 invented Mayoralty in 1934. The Puddle Jump owes its March 1975 debut to Christopher Callahan ’78, Scott Copeland ’78 and Lars Llorente ’78.

And the very first Alumni Parade — the Reunion procession featuring wacky costumes and a happy lack of decorum — took place on June 23, 1914.

The more things change: At the 2002 Alumni Parade, the Class of 1957 displays the same zeal and spirit envisioned by the parade founders back in 1914.

Appealing to alumni during May and June, The Bates Student announced “a new feature” of Commencement festivities of 1914, a year marking the 50th anniversary of Bates’ evolution from the Maine State Seminary to a college. The wrinkle would be “a program of merrymaking by the different classes” that would include an “historico-humorous parade of classes about the field.”

To this day, the contemporary Alumni Parade mirrors what was only hoped for 91 years ago. Stop by the Quad on Saturday morning, June 11, and you’ll still see a parade featuring, in the words of the 1914Student, “historical incidents associated with the development of Bates, illustrated soberly or unsoberly; ‘things you did,’ wise or otherwise, will all be eligible to place in parade. Class statistics, mention of members who have won honored places…may well be carried on large cards or any other way. Class banners of olden days…should be there.”

The very first call for a Bates Alumni Parade, first published in The Bates Student of May 7, 1914, went like this:

This year marks our Semi-Centennial. At the Commencement a new feature is to be introduced, not only as a special feature of this Celebration, but with the through of making it a permanent feature, if it seems best, of Bates Commencements. This new feature is a program of general merrymaking by the different classes of the Alumni as is carried on at many of our larger colleges. This Commencement of all Commencements should belong to the Alumni. They should make a supreme effort to be back in full numbers. It should be the GRAND REUNION OF ALL THE CLASSES. Tuesday, June 23d, is Alumni Day. In the forenoon there is to be a program of athletic events by the Alumni on Garcelon Field.

In connection with this the “College Circus” is to be held. This is to be an historico-humorous parade of the classes about the field, with “stunts” by the different classes following. Historical incidents associated with the development of Bates, illustrated soberly or unsoberly; “things you did,” wise or otherwise, will all be eligible to place in parade. Class statistics, mention of members who have won honored places, etc., etc., may well be carried on large cards or any other way. Class banners of olden days, trophies, etc., should be there.

After the “parade” the classes will each present for the edification of the grandstand whatever they have prepared. Burlesques on present national or international matters, or local matters, which lend themselves to humorous treatment, clowns, merrymakers, etc., suggest the idea in the minds of the Committee. The class furnishing the best get-up to win the “prize.” We ask ALL GRADUATES to take up this matter AT ONCE in their respective classes. We have only two months. There is no time to lose. Everybody get busy. Write two or three “leaders” of your class today. Get it started.  And bring your class out on top…. Let all be there, virtually and figuratively….

 

Twenty years after the very first Alumni Parade at Reunion, the Class of 1914 “stagecoach” celebrates the 1934 Reunion with a “roundup” of members at Garcelon Field. Photo courtesy of the Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library.

 

Stepping up first to the challenge was the Class of 1912. In the Student of May 21, 1914, an article noted that class members would dress in all white and assemble “a band composed of the men of 1912 who played in the college band.”

The June 11 edition noted that the Class of 1904 “will be on hand with something good,” yet the class refused to divulge its plan, preferring to “conceal the nature of their program until the ‘psychological moment.’”

The first Alumni Day schedule featured the parade at 9 a.m., then track events for students and alumni and an alumni-student baseball game (Harry Lord, Class of 1908, a third baseman for the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, was to have played). The afternoon, meanwhile, was turned over to a historical pageant presented on the steps of Coram Library.

- H. Jay Burns, Office of Communications and Media Relations