Last weekend I went to a reunion at the University where I received my Engineering degree. The College of Engineering was celebrating their 100th Anniversary. The Fraternity I was part of celebrated their 75th Anniversary.
Yes, fraternity, not sorority. There were no girls in Engineering when I was there – or at least not enough to have a sorority – although there is one now. As an engineering student you spend the first two years with your class. There was one other girl in my class – she was in electrical engineering however, so not in any of my classes. There were a couple other girls in classes behind me, but I do not recall any of them ever being in any of my classes (well, there was one once, but on the first day, when the professor stated that women have no business being engineers, she ran out in tears, never to return).
After sophomore year, some of the students began to co-op, so then you might be in classes with students either one or more years ahead of you or one or more years behind you, so you got to know a bunch of other students. Most co-ops took 5 or more years to graduate since you worked every other semester. They also held graduation 3 times a year, so even someone graduating in your year might not have graduated with you. I was the only girl graduating when I did – there were about 25-30 of us graduating at that time.
There were 3 of us girls that were part of the frat, first me, and then two a couple years behind me. We were allowed 'crest' privileges. We were allowed to wear clothing with the crest on it and were allowed to eat off china with the crest on it.
The fraternity house was this great old house about 20 blocks off campus. The house was built in about 1910 and the frat bought it in 1934. It was a huge stone, 3 story house. It had a cooper roof and gutters. It had a huge porch and huge yard and tennis court. They had 9 bedrooms. The house had a huge grand staircase in the huge foyer. It was very wide and went to a landing with a sitting area that opened out onto a balcony. From that landing the stairs went either way and the railing curved around so that if you looked up from the ground floor it formed an oval and was open to the second floor ceiling. They had the stairs carpeted in red, so it reminded me of “Gone With The Wind”.
The woodwork in the house was awesome. All carved dark wood. The walls in the foyer were paneled about 8 feet up. The ceilings were about 12’. To the left was a ‘parlor’ that had two huge windows and the rest of the wall space had bookcases with leaded class doors. The door way was huge, closed by two huge solid wood pocket doors about 8’ tall. On the right was the ‘living room’, also with those pocket doors. There was a grand fireplace. Off the living room was a dining room that also connected to a butler’s pantry and a sun room, those doorways had pocket doors with glass in them. The huge dining room had a trayed ceiling and in each corner there were built in hutches with stained glass doors.
The butler’s pantry had 3 walls of cabinets and hutches with leaded glass doors, and marble counter tops. That led to the kitchen which also had a large walk in pantry. They had a huge commercial stove/oven.
The bedrooms were all a good size, there were 2 – 4 guys living in each of them. Most of the rooms were connected by bathrooms. The bathrooms had those huge claw foot tubs. One bathroom in the hallway had been transformed into a shower room and bathroom. The third floor had 3 bedrooms and then a couple other rooms were used for storage and studying.
The basement had a huge ballroom, with hardwood floors. There was also a band stand stage. They had a pool room and a large bar room with a large horseshoe bar – and a tapper. They also had a laundry room and a tunnel leading to the coach house in the rear.
The coach house was over a large garage and it had two good sized bedrooms a large kitchen and large living room.
Looking back, I found it amazing that 25 college boys were allowed to live alone in this house with no ‘adult’. They did pretty well, having cleaning assignments, and a few cleaning parties during the year. People were coming and going at all hours of the day and night. None of the doors were ever locked.
I was there almost every day and later I lived in the coach house. I am told I was the first girl allowed above the first floor. I am sure I have been in every room at some time. We would watch TV, play cards & drinking games, etc. Lots of pranks occurred as well. I joked with my friends when the movie Animal House came out, that I had lived that!
The drinking age at that time was 18. They would have a semi from the local brewery come and bring kegs of beer. I became quite the expert at tapping a beer with little or no foam! At most times, the beer was on the honor system, you’d tap a beer and leave money in a mug. There were weekday events – ‘smokers’ where students were invited out to learn about the frat. There were a lot of parties. Nearly every weekend. A couple times a year they had huge open parties with a live band where they charged admission. People would come from all over the city. Those were the biggest parties on campus – or off. They were great times. The most fun I ever had.
This past weekend, they had a lot of old pictures out for everyone to look at. It brought back a lot of memories, some I had forgotten, some stories I did not know. It was great fun to remember and laugh about those years.
A number of years ago, the frat sold the house and built a house on campus. I was very sad to hear that grand old house had been sold. Worse, it was sold to a guy who divided the house up into offices.
As part of the reunion this past weekend, they also had tours of the old house. I did not go on the tour. I could not bear to see the house that way. I was so glad to hear from someone that the house had been sold again, and this time a family owned it. This family is trying to restore it to it’s original grandeur. I heard much of the woodwork was lost, but is being replaced. Those hutches in the dining room had been ripped out and sold, but the new owner found them for sale in an antique store and bought them. The stained glass doors are missing however. I am glad the house it being restored. I am still glad I did not see it in it’s current state. I prefer to remember it as it was.
They built the new house with some of the same details as the old house, and I could see that. They could not build that grand staircase since it would not conform with code. They have a lot of the old furniture in the new house – the original stove, many tables, including the dining room table. They built in hutches and bookcases. It is a really really nice house for the students. Most college off campus housing is nowhere near as nice. It’s just not the grand old lady.
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