By Sabrah Shipman
The big homecoming game is coming up — spirits are high, and every ear on campus is being filled with the sound of a constant drumbeat.
The tradition of the drumbeat started in 1948 and has been going on consecutively ever since. Legend has it, if the drum never stops beating before the kickoff of the homecoming game, the Apache Football Team will win.
Don Fraser, director of Alumni Affairs at TJC, is well-versed on the history of the drumbeat.
“Only a couple times have we allowed it to stop. The first time we allowed it to stop it actually ended up raining, hailing and thundering during the entire game. We didn’t actually lose, but it took six hours to play that game. So a lot of people blame that on the fact that we didn’t keep the drum beat going,” said Fraser.
When the tradition initially started, the drumbeat lasted for only 48 hours. Now, it lasts the entire week of homecoming.
“It was started by the Apache Belle Guard, a spirit organization that we have on campus. The organization used to be 30 to 35 men on campus, and their job was to build school spirit. This was just one of the things they came up with,” said Fraser.
From the time the drumbeat kicks off at noon on Monday, until the kickoff of the football game on Saturday, the drum will have been beaten for just over 120 straight hours. This is possible because of all the student organizations on campus. Each organization is responsible for signing up for shifts to keep the drumbeat going, whether that be in the middle of the day or the middle of the night.
TJC graduate Taylor Griffin signed up for the midnight shift once. Due to some complications, rather than beating the drum for just an hour, she beat it for seven whole hours that night.
“That was one of my all-time favorite TJC memories because that’s where I got to know some of my lifelong best friends. Had it not been for that night, we wouldn’t have been as close as we are now,” said Griffin.
Students who aren’t involved in an organization, as well as members of the community, can also sign up to beat the drum — Even faculty and staff sign up.
Marian Jackson, director of the Learning Resource Center at TJC, is also very knowledgeable on TJC traditions and lore. She remembers the drumbeat back when she was a student at TJC.
“When I was a student here, I beat the drum for an hour one time. I decided it was a good thing I played the trumpet and not the drums,” said Jackson. “It is continuosly drummed, even at three o’clock in the morning in driving rain, if that’s what’s going on.”
Apart from the students, TJC also relies on its alumni to participate in the 67-year-old tradition.
“This year we’ve got alumni who are going to come in at some of the odd hours and help keep the drumbeat going,” said Fraser.
Traditions like the drumbeat tend to build the atmosphere of a college. It’s a unique way to connect with other students and partake in activities that will create memories for a lifetime.
Jackson, who believes it is all a cycle, said, “We get the students here, we give them that college experience and then later on their fond memories of going to Tyler Junior College bring them back up on campus. Then, they see opportunities to help the next generation of students.”
It is also a great tie-in for the college’s 101,000 alumni. Graduates have gone off to other colleges, but they tend to remember the specific traditions that they experienced and participated in at TJC.
“There is a lot of pride at TJC that a lot of other colleges might not have,” said Griffin. “A very big part of TJC’s DNA is tradition.”
To sign up to beat the drum, visit http://www.tjc.edu/homecoming and fill out the form. A confirmation email should be sent back to each volunteer.