UWP Homecoming buttons outlast cheering

September 30, 2002

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PLATTEVILLE-Homecoming means much more than parades, parties and a winning football score. There is another kind of cheering that lasts long after the excitement fades.

To University of Wisconsin-Platteville Mechanical Engineering Professor Willard Pulkrabek, that special, long-lasting cheering has meant collecting homecoming buttons that were proudly worn advertising the festivities.

The buttons - on display at the Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce - depict UWP homecoming in all its glory.

The homecoming button has disappeared from the UWP scene for the past several years. "Some students don't know what homecoming buttons are," said Pulkrabek, who recently donated his entire collection of UWP homecoming and Platteville buttons to the Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Executive Director Kathy Kopp is thrilled with Pulkrabek's donation. "It is a wonderful collection that contributes to both the University and Platteville history."

The exhibit can be seen from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Chamber of Commerce building, located on U.S. Highway 151.

The oldest, dated 1968, is orange and resplendent with ribbons. It says, "Happiness is WSUP." At that time, UWP was known was Wisconsin State University, Platteville.

A 1970 button emblazoned "Platteville State" has a picture of the football team on it, and a 1973 button proclaims "Spirit Explosion."

The buttons are more than homecoming memorabilia, they are historical samples to be treasured. "They are pretty unique," said Kopp. "They represent a real piece of history."

One of most distinctive is a 1972 football-shaped button that says, "Pioneer Power."

Pulkrabrek is an inveterate collector, who donated his collection of Platteville postcards - about 470 of them - to the UWP Karrmann Library Wisconsin Room.

"Ever since I was a little kid I have collected all kinds of things," said Pulkrabrek. "I also used to collect political buttons."

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Pulkrabrek has been a UWP faculty member since 1980. The veteran professor is currently on sabbatical, working on a second edition of the textbook he authored in 1997, "Engineering Fundamentals of the Internal Combustion Engine."

UWP has not produced homecoming buttons for the past five years, according to Dan Jendrzewski, homecoming co-coordinator. Next year, there may be hats for judges, though, he said. "People will be able to identify judges by the hats they are wearing - different hats for different contests, such as floats or the tug-of-war."

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