Recently a genealogist blogger friend of mine, who did not grow up in Texas, asked about homecoming mums. Back when I was in high school in Houston, in the early 1970s, a homecoming mum was a corsage made with a large, real chrysanthemum, and decorated with ribbons in the school colors. Pipe cleaners were used to put the school's initial or initials (or, if you were dating a football player, his jersey number) on the flower, and sometimes your name (and your date's name) were spelled out in glittery letters stapled to one of the ribbons. There might be a tiny cowbell.
In the photo at the top of this post, I'm wearing the homecoming mum my date (let's call him Bill) gave me on November 15, 1974. You can see the "S T" in red on the mum, which stood for his school, St. Thomas (an all-boys Catholic high school in Houston).
In the black-and-white photo below, Bill and I are at the St. Thomas Homecoming Dance the following night, November 16. To make it easier to dance, I transferred the mum corsage to my wrist. You can also see my name spelled out on one of the red ribbons. In the background of the photo is another girl with a bigger mum, almost as tall as she is. Back in 1974, that was considered a little gaudy - but apparently, it was a portent of what was to come.
Nowadays in Texas, homecoming mums are a even bigger deal. Silk flowers have replaced real ones - although some "mums" don't seem to have any flowers at all, instead a stuffed animal of some sort is the centerpiece. They are also so huge that one wears it with a cord around the neck (instead of pinned on), and some of them completely cover the wearer. With all the ribbons, feathers, glitter, beads, animals, and other trinkets, these monstrosities can weight up to 12 pounds and cost up to $500! Apparently, in many areas, guys wear them too, in the form of an armband (called a garter though). Frankly, I think most of them (for guys and girls) are way too big and gaudy and (often) ugly and ridiculous.
Nowadays, of course, with the flowers (if there are any at all) not being real, the homecoming "mum" is often a keepsake. Naturally, my real flower mum died, but I saved the glitter letters spelling my name on their red ribbon, and the red pipe cleaner S and T, and put them in my scrapbook.
At left and right: peewee football "home-coming"
mums, November, 2007. These are homemade and pretty tame (and tasteful) compared to many today.
Homecoming "garters" (worn on the arm) for guys, 2012; and a homecoming mum from 2007:
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