CHARTERING OHIO GAMMA OF SIGMA ALPHA EPISLON
THE NEW HOUSE
There just happened to be a classic Georgian mansion on upper State Street that would be perfect, what with its imposing four storied brick stature highlighted by four white pillars. Two sisters had supposedly built the house for a sorority, which went depression-broke before the girls could rent it, so the ladies moved into it themselves. The story was that almost every Greek group on campus had tried to rent it but the sisters always turned them down. It seemed hopeless but we Tri-Gams felt nothing ventured, nothing gained, and decided to take a shot. A committee chaired by brother Chuck Wyckoff was designated to contact the old-maid siblings.
Maturity and ability paid off for Chuck who came back with the good news that the owners would consider renting to us "older guys". Seems the two had been living in separate sections of the huge house for twenty years, which made negotiations difficult. The executive committee finally got together with them and a lease was drawn up for us to occupy 57 E State in the fall of 1951 was signed. That house, with additions, is still the chapter house, now in the twenty first century.
The problem was, the old place needed repairs and painting badly, had no furniture and, of course, we had no money. An appeal to the alums got enough donated to get the restoration off the ground and having gained some professional painting experience, when still a teen', I agreed to arrive a month early that fall to supervise the paint project. Many of the brothers and pledges that didn't have to work all summer joined in and the plans were laid.
Every one showed up in early August and we worked, around the clock, until school started. Here are seven actives and pledges working just on the outside. We sanded, primed and re-enameled four stories of windows with French frames, fireplaces, doors inside and out. Inside, we refinished the elegant Cherry-wood staircase to the second floor. We painted all the walls in the house, which had never been painted and the bare plaster soaked up gallon after gallon of paint. Having the paint store just across the street became most convenient. The work was very hot in the summer heat of Southern Ohio but, when it was done, the result was nothing short of majestic. Some 24 actives moved in as school started.
WOW, WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?
The entire Greek population at O. U. was stunned, returning that September to discover this "new" castle, with the four huge white pillars standing shoulders above almost every existing fraternity house on campus. The fraternity "dream house" had been taken over by those "party boys", from that upstart "local", who called themselves the Tri-Gams! But it was only the tip of the iceberg.
That December we got the house all spruced up and decorated it to host our first "Winter Formal". It was the first big event in the new house and was a smashing hit, providing the perfect way to showcase our new quarters for the college community. We had "arrived"!
Before long, Brother Bill Cook volunteered to start a boarding club at the house and we endorsed it wholeheartedly. Bill did everything, outfitting the old garage as a dining room, building the kitchen, lining up the waiters and buying the food. We served two meals a day, lunch and dinner, and many just caught breakfast at the snack-shop on the corner. The food was reasonable, wholesome and provided warm fellowship for all the brothers, including many who didn't live in the house but chose to eat with us residents. The old garage was fixed up nicely and doubled as the Chapter Room for our weekly fraternity meetings as well.
Hard to forget was the night Bill Cook went to great lengths to detail how he had just made a big wholesale deal with Smuckers for all our jams. Many of us had never heard of the company at that time. I told Bill at the 50th reunion, I still thought of him every day. I explained that whenever the NBC Today Show does the weather forecast, the Smuckers commercials remind me of that night and the scores of peanut butter and Smuckers sandwiches I enjoyed at our club. Another humorous venture was ordering a hundred hot dogs, which arrived as 100 cases! We ate hotdogs every day for a long time, in one recipe or another, courtesy of the creativity of Bill and our lady chef.
Next: The Founding Fathers