The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

ENMU's first homecoming a memorable event

 

September 25, 2019



As Eastern New Mexico University celebrates its homecoming this weekend, it seems fitting to look back to the first one that was held 85 years ago — on Oct. 6, 1934.

That first gathering didn’t include alumni. There weren’t any yet.

Eastern New Mexico Junior College had only opened for business a few months earlier. The 17 students in the first graduating class wouldn’t receive diplomas until the following spring.

But the day-long event on the first Saturday of long-ago October was memorable for several reasons.

It marked the inauguration of Eastern’s first president, Donald William McKay.

It marked only the second appearance of the school’s newly formed football team, described in an article in the Clovis Evening News-Journal as “large, husky boys,” with coaches who had been “rapidly whipping them into shape.”

(Interestingly, in an article later in the season, ENMJC football coach D.H. Reed noted that the players on his squad averaged 175 pounds, so “large” and “husky” may have been an optimistic description intended to intimidate opponents.)

No mention was made of whether anyone was whipping McKay into shape to take the oath of office, but the Sept. 27, 1934, Portales Valley News shared detailed biographical information on the New York native, including, curiously, “height, six feet; weight, two hundred and sixteen pounds.”

New Mexico’s governor Andrew Hockenhull was in attendance that day (although local accounts failed to record his height or weight).

As the fledgling campus didn’t yet have a space that could accommodate an indoor public gathering, Hockenhull’s address on “The Challenge of the Junior college in its Service to New Mexico” was delivered across town in the Portales High School auditorium.

The first homecoming parade followed that speech, letting celebrants work up an appetite for a barbecue lunch served in the basement of the old Portales Methodist Church, another common assembly spot because it was within walking distance of the college.

Less than two weeks earlier, that basement was the setting for a “heated discussion by students,” according to the Portales Valley News, as they chose the mascot for their school.

McKay announced to the Portales Chamber of Commerce shortly afterward that “Greyhounds” had prevailed. (I’ve long wondered what the other contenders were.)

During the same gathering — and apparently with less contention — green and silver were chosen as Eastern’s colors and the school newspaper was christened, “The Chase.”

As for that 1934 homecoming game, well, those large, husky boys had an excellent day, trouncing the New Mexico A&M Aggies, 34-0.

“Football fans of this region need no longer travel 100 miles or more to see good college football,” the Clovis Evening News-Journal reported, “for now they can find it at their own doorstep.”

The Portales Valley News said the 1934 homecoming marked “the entertaining of the largest group of notables ever assembled in this fair city.”

Gov. Hockenhull was quoted as saying that “the college had made a most promising start in spite of the depression and the drought.”

Most promising, indeed.

Happy homecoming, ENMU. Welcome back, Greyhounds.

Betty Williamson is proud to be a Greyhound but wonders what she might have been. Reach her at:

[email protected]

 
 

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