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A Homecoming Remembered

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.47.14 AMThe perfect suit hung in my closet. A three-piece wool suit Mom had made. Two-button jacket, A-line skirt, sleeveless top – all lined. We coeds dressed up for Tennessee Tech Homecoming in the late 1960s.

I loved the fabric of my suit – dull, rusty orange with flecks of gold and brown. But I didn’t like that the only dark-colored high-heeled shoes I owned were black. Mom thought they looked fine with my orange suit. My friends agreed with me that I needed brown heels.

During a gathering at Boyfriend’s (who is now Husband) fraternity house the week before Homecoming, I whined that I wanted new brown shoes to wear on Homecoming day. I wore an 11 AA, a shoe size not available in Cookeville, but I knew several stores in Nashville where I was sure I could find the perfect shoes. I didn’t have a car, and Boyfriend, who did, couldn’t take me shopping because he worked on weekends and after classes.

However, Boyfriend’s fraternity brother, Jim “Worm” Miller, heard my whining and offered to help. So on Saturday morning, Worm and I took off to Nashville so I could shop along downtown Church Street. We walked from store to store. Worm was patient and insisted that I try on many pairs of shoes, even ones that weren’t brown or high heeled. Finally, I bought a pair of leather, 1½” heels with crisscross wide straps and the perfect color, not just brown, but dark caramel. I was so proud.

On Homecoming morning when I put on my new suit and shoes, I was happy and felt good about my whole outfit. Even the cloudy, rainy day didn’t dampen my spirits. Boyfriend pinned a yellow rose corsage on my lapel, held an umbrella over our heads, and we walked across campus from my dormitory to the football stadium. Although it rained during the game, no one considered leaving. We put on raincoats and huddled under umbrellas, and my feet, and everyone else’s, got wet. Soaking wet.

Late that night when I finally took off my shoes, I poured water out of them and stuffed dormitory bathroom brown paper towels inside each shoe. I expected them to dry and be as good as new. Days later when my shoes finally dried, the shape was fine and I could wear them, but wavy lines and spots marked the leather. I scrubbed with leather cleaner and shined with clear shoe wax – caramel colored polish wasn’t available – but I couldn’t hide those ugly watermarks. My new shoes were ruined and I never wore them again. I hated that I’d spent so much of my clothing allowance for shoes I wore once, and I was disappointed that my beautiful shoes turned hideous.

You’d think I’d be the only person who’d remember this shoe story, but Worm never forgot. The times that I’ve seen him during the past almost fifty years, he always asks if I ever bought another good-looking pair of brown shoes. And then he reminisces about taking me shoe shopping and how I ruined my brand new Homecoming shoes in the rain. But neither of us remembers who won the football game.

Tech’s Homecoming is Saturday. I hope Worm and many other friends come for the weekend. We’ll laugh and tell stories of our college days. That’s what Homecoming is about now. Friends. Football. Stories. Laughing. Catching up on life.

And it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a new suit or shoes to wear.


Homecoming Suit, Shoes, and Corsage

menu-aboutIf I dressed for TTU’s Homecoming this Saturday as I did as a student, I’d look as out of place as a model wearing white sandals in the September issue of Vogue magazine. Imagine showing up at a football game wearing a matching wool jacket and skirt, nylon hose, and heels. And a corsage pinned to my lapel. But that’s how we co-eds dressed way back when. We dressed up and we wore flowers.

I particularly remember one Homecoming. Mom had made an orange wool tweed suit for me that fall and I saved it to wear for Homecoming. The three-button jacket and an A-line skirt were perfect, but I didn’t have the right shoes. I had black heels and wearing orange required brown shoes. The closest place I could buy shoes to fit my extra long, extra narrow was Nashville, and I didn’t have a car. So a friend drove me to Nashville, I went into one shoe store and bought the perfect taupe-colored, high heel leather shoes, and we came back to Cookeville. It was that important to have exactly the right outfit for Homecoming.

My attire wasn’t complete without flowers, a corsage that showed Tech’s colors, purple and gold. Husband, who was Boyfriend at the time, knew exactly what I wanted. Three yellow roses surrounded by sprigs of feather fern and a bit of baby’s breath. Gold colored ribbon, with just a couple of loops of purple, but mostly gold so the purple wouldn’t clash with my orange suit.

Most Homecoming corsages were yellow chrysanthemums, better known as a mum. Huge, mums, as big as saucers, and heavy. I’d worn one of those the previous year. It was so heavy that not even three long corsage pins held it in place, and the flower petals began to fall out before the final buzzer of the football game.

Most girls wore variations of the basic mum corsage, a plain yellow mum with a purple bow made from ½ inch ribbon. The mum could be surrounded by purple or gold net or a combination of the two colors. The letters TTU could be written in purple glitter on a yellow ribbon streamer or with gold stick-on letters on purple ribbon, but that meant the ribbon was 1½ inches wide. If the mum was exceptionally large, TTU formed with purple pipe cleaners could be placed right in the middle of the flower. Big wide bows made from purple and gold ribbon finished that look.

Homecoming 1967 was a cold, rainy day, but I didn’t give a thought to not wearing my homecoming outfit. I put on my wool suit, my brand new shoes, and Boyfriend pinned on my rose corsage. He held a black umbrella over our heads, we wore our knee-length raincoats, and we walked from the dormitory where I lived to the football stadium. It rained all afternoon, but we didn’t consider leaving. We got wet. So wet that I poured water out of my new shoes, which were ruined forever with water spots.

Did my team, Tennessee Tech, win the game? I don’t remember. Having the perfect homecoming outfit and corsage was much more important than any ballgame.