Revisiting a Queen Tradition
By Heather Hickerson
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One float, two queen candidates and a bucket of red delicious apples were the main attraction of the first homecoming parade at the University of Central Missouri in 1938.
The agriculture department built the only float, a Horn of Plenty, which carried UCM's first homecoming royalty. The candidates threw the apples to the cheering crowd along the parade route to the football stadium where the winner was chosen at halftime of the football game against the Kirksville Bulldogs.
"Miss Willa Mae Fellhauer, chosen by popular election as homecoming queen, was crowned to reign in a throne of honor over the remaining festivities..." reads the 1939 Rhetor yearbook.
Willa Mae McKean, who turned 90 years old in 2008, remembers what it was like to be named UCM's first homecoming queen. "I wasn't surprised; I had a secret tip from an insider," she says.
Celebrating beautiful students was not out of the ordinary for the university at that time. UCM has crowned beauty queens, most popular boy and girl students and Rhetor queens since the early days of the college. Celebrity judges, including Jimmie Fidler, a radio commentator for Fox Movietone News and a syndicated columnist, chose the three annual beauty queens. The student body voted for the most popular male and female students as well as homecoming queen.
McKean celebrated 70 years of the homecoming parade last fall when she rode down Holden Street with her two daughters in a convertible. She says she enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces, and her daughters really encouraged her to take part. She says, "I think they had more fun than I did. But it was neat to hear comments like, '70 years, that's awesome!'