CHRISTY AND TIFFANY,
(SEPTEMBER 12, 2010) It wasn't until my sophomore year that I decided to join a fraternity. Some of my friends had joined fraternities. One friend from Beckley had joined Kappa Alpha Order, and had invited me to join. I declined because I couldn't envision myself dressing up in a confederate uniform on "OLD SOUTH WEEKEND" and being in a fraternity that lacked diversity. Another friend had joined Sigma Tau Epsilon, a popular frat on campus, but again, I didn't want to join because it was made up of mostly athletes and right winged conservatives.
I went to several frat parties during the fall of 1968 and decided to join ZBT because it was diverse in nature (ZBT had been, traditionally, a Jewish frat, but in the hard times of getting members in the late 60s and early 70s, had taken non-Jews by a great number). It was also the first traditionally white frat to pledge black students on the Marshall campus. My pledge class had the first two black members - John Shellcroft, a brilliant student leader, and Dennis Blevins, a star on the football team (he died on the tragic flight that killed most of the football team in November 1970 along with another brother, Mark Andrews). We were very close to Delta House in the movie "Animal House" in many ways, except we were more diverse.
Though the frat was a fraternity that partied, we were also very civic active in the Huntington community heading a number of charitable events each year. Such events helped to foster brotherhood and cooperation among the brothers.
As a pledge, I spent most of the semester at the frat house, cleaning, running errands, and working, pretty much, as a slave to the members. I took my "serfdom" seriously, doing whatever I was asked to do. A couple of the rituals I recall from the pledge semester were the following:
1. We had to carry a box of matches with us, and for the brothers who smoked, be ready to light up their cigs. In addition, any member could approach us and require us to light a match and recite the "revised" Greek alphabet (the Greek alphabet has 24 letters; the revised one has a 25th letter - "SIR") twice before we could extinguish the match. No prob, and I did learn the Greek alphabet that way.
2. One week we were required to carry an umbrella everywhere we went - it had to be opened outdoors, even on the sunniest of days. I have a scar on my left index finger from tripping over the umbrella while riding the escalator up to a class in Smith Hall.
3. HELL WEEK. One of the longest weeks of my life. Each evening we went to the frat house, had supper, and then worked at cleaning the house from top to bottom while being harassed by the brotherhood. Some of the brothers were very kind, while others were real - sons-of-guns. One was the "Miss Hannigan" of the brothers, and I never learned to either like him or respect him. Once I was a member, though I lived in the house during the spring semester of my Sophomore year, I was always kind to pledges.
I did live in the house for one semester (on 5th Avenue in Huntington - the house is no longer there having been torn down to build a university building). Had I stayed in the house longer than that, I would still be an undergraduate at Marshall. It was a fun semester, but my GPA suffered, somewhat, even though our frat remained the one on campus with the highest GPA. We did have tutors in the house and also a "test file." I enjoyed the semester, but was glad to get back to my own apt. for the chance to have some solitude, something not very possible in the house.
My "big brother" was Conley Grimes, a great guy who was one of the "kind" brothers. I have, unfortunately, not kept up with him (the result of my own pitiful choice, not his). He is in Richmond doing some kind of business work. Here is a link to a recent pictures of my brothers that includes Conley (he has changed, as have I). Just looking at this pic brings back a lot of memories about the brothers. Again, I have been delinquent in keeping in touch, not having done so. Perhaps that needs to change :).
As with "Animal House," there were some given names to members. I was dubbed "Red Whale," one brother was "Jeep," another "Wild Hair," and another "Hose." We had a mixture of members from jocks to the president of the Student Body (plus he was also editor of the yearbook - he, Gary King, died in the late 70s or early 80s as the result of a skydiving accident near Charleston - he had a great deal of potential as a leader, and would have likely gone on to some high elected office in government). We also had some pot heads, student newspaper photographers, and musicians. Of the frats on campus, we had, perhaps, the most talented in the greatest number of areas.
One event I recall was on Mother's Day, 1970. There was the traditional "Mother's Day Sing" that was held by the frats and sororities on Mother's Day Sunday. My mother and father were there. We were dressed in hideously "gay" outfits, carried helium filled balloons and sang "Windy," a song by the Association. We won.
I found a 1970 pic of my brothers and me. I am in the fifth row from the top, the second pic from the left.
I enjoyed the frat while I was at Marshall. It was a good group of friends and proved to provide wonderful social opportunities while there.