The tradition of the homecoming football game first began in the 1910s in American colleges such as the University of Minnesota. This game was designed to have alumni come back to their alma mater to support current students and show school pride. Since then, the tradition has evolved into a week’s worth of festivities. A couple of years after the homecoming games started, there was the first homecoming dance, which celebrated the first football game of the season. In the late 1920s, homecoming became common in most high schools across the country. That celebration evolved into the homecoming we know today, full of themed days, pep rallies, and occasionally parades.
At Berkeley High School, alumni return year after year to watch the homecoming game. “Every chance I get, I come to games because I love the team,” said Lavan Patton, a 1957 graduate of BHS. Patton has continued to come back off and on for the past 67 years, because of the environment and the level of competition that the teams at BHS bring.
“Everybody from the whole city of Berkeley comes out. … It’s like the city has its own sports franchise, so the energy is good,” said Lawrence Williams, a 2002 alum, who played cornerback for the football team. Williams has come back to the homecoming game almost every year since he graduated.
“The homecoming game tradition was family, unity, everybody coming together. You know BHS is the only public school in Berkeley, so there are a bunch of different ethnicities here that bring everyone together and I think you only find that in Berkeley,” said Patrick Davis, a 1984 alum who played defensive and offensive lineman. Davis started playing football his freshman year and was undefeated. He regularly speaks to almost all of his teammates, even 40 years after graduation.
Given that alumni come back to watch the homecoming games year after year, they get to form unique perspectives about the ways the BHS football team has changed and progressed. “It’s changed tremendously, you guys have a lot, a beautiful facility. Back then we were playing on grass with holes and sand, and overall it just seems like it’s a lot more organized,” Davis said. Williams shared the same perspective speaking about the changes in facilities, fields, and uniforms. However, Williams noted that the biggest change is the heightened excitement and camaraderie surrounding the football team. “It’s progressed a lot and it’s way better. You want your kids to come here,” Williams said.
The resounding advice given by BHS alumni to current BHS students is to be involved with the school’s community and programs. “Just keep improving, be yourself. You know Berkeley is a creative place … so don’t worry about nothing else but being yourself and being the best version of that,” said Williams. Davis’ best advice was to “try to join a club or a team and get that kinship with your fellow students.”