Monday, September 20, 2010

One night in 1975 at a UW Frat house

It was 1975, with winter approaching.

I had found a couple of guys from High School. I no longer remember where I ran into them. But they had told me, they were in fraternity (who shall remain anonymous) at the UW.

We were drinking and we were finding we were friends. Throughout High School, as I remember it, people saw me as a likable guy, but not much of a brain, maybe a lower class type of guy. Yes, my parents had struggled. But I don't know, I was on the fringe, in one way or another, of just about every clique int he school. Everybody knew me or had an opinion about me, it would seem.

That night, when I ran into these guys, they talked me into two things. Taking my SATs at the UW, and pledging at the fraternity, if I got accepted. I wonder what has happened to them over the years? I really have to wonder, what would have happened to me, had I joined in with them?

Well, at least, I tried.

It sounded, fabulous: every Frat had a sister Sorority. What a deal. Look it up. But aside from the girls, the guys helped you graduate, pass tests, and so on. That was a selling point, to a not great student. I had graduated High School, but it wasn't with straight A's.

So, I decided to go. I was out of High School, working at United/Reliance Insurance, in Tacoma. When I started, they were United Insurance. But then they got bought up by Reliance Insurance of Philadelphia (now in liquidation). Employees were horrified that we were being absorbed, and I've had bad experiences with that kind of thing ever since.

But I could see my life going no where at the time. So I considered what my friends were telling me. It was funny and strange, because as I remember it, I was friendly with these two guys, but had never really seen them as my "friends"; though I had always liked them. Now, that we were out of HS, we were apparently, friends. Cool.

Anyway, they set it up for me. I was to go to the University of Washington (UW), that December. I could stay at the Frat. No one would be there, except a few, but I was welcomed to come, sleep over night, then take the SATs the next day. If they were good, if I had the money (if my parents had the money), then I was in. As they were both legacies (they both had older brothers who had been in the fraternity and had graduated several years before); well, basically, I was in.

The date came to be. I drove up in my car, taking a couple of days off in the middle of the cold season. I remember walking through the "U district", the part of Settle nearest to the University. I drove up, excited, found the frat, pulled in, parked. I walked up to the door of this massive house on "frat row". This was a big house. I went in. No one around. So, I walked around. I checked out the kitchen, huge. Finally, I ran into someone who questioned who I was and what I was doing there. I explained, he recognized the names and I was in, and accepted and he gave me a tour.

There was of course, the huge kitchen, there was the living room, there was the party room, a front room with a kind of stage area. They had their own band. Enough of the members were musicians that they actually had the only professional, nine piece band that played local bars and other frats for parties and money. But any time they wanted a party, they had their own professional level party band.

There was the "tap" room, where it was basically a small bar where they could tap a keg and serve free beer to the fraternity brothers, regardless of age. There was the "rec" room, where they had a couple of pool tables, a Foosball table, and several vending machines; one of which, was a pop machine, that dispensed only beer, for twenty-five cents. A quarter, a beer. No validation of age. I was in heaven. In the basement, there was a full sized swimming pool. I was amazed. Blown away. I so wanted to join! I still have photos I took of the frat that day.

He finally left me after having explained that, that night, when I wanted to sleep, I only had to hit the rooms central to the house, above the main floor, where there were multiple bunk beds in each of several of these rooms. There were two frat brothers to a room but no one slept in their rooms, they slept in the common sleeping rooms; mostly they studied and entertained, in their individual rooms.

So that night, I got a bunk. That was where I was, when around 7:30PM, someone entered the room looking for someone; there were maybe, ten bunk beds in the room, with maybe one or two others present. The guy that came in, saw me, didn't recognize me, and asked me if I was the one visiting, that he had been told about. I answered in the affirmative.

He said, "Welcome. I'm the Frat Treasurer. Would you like to join me and the President (of the frat) in his room, for a while?" I was beside myself. Of course! So, he said, "Follow me." We walked around until finally, we entered a corner room on the northeast side. I was introduced to the President of the Frat. He said that few were there over the holiday, but they were the only officers still there with no reason to go home. I thought, "How sad." But how cool they were here. We sat on the rug in the small room with the lights low.

Then they said, would you like to smoke? Anxious to please, I said, "oh sure." They put on Simon and Garfunkel's album, "Bridge over Troubled Water". They lit a joint. We sat there, smoking, listening to this classic album and... smoking. I cannot think of a more classic moment for that time period than this. We sat up late and talked and smoked and listened to albums.

I do not remember any other albums and maybe there were no others as I didn't spend a lot of time with them. I cut it short. I felt...inadequate, in their presence. And after all I had to take my SATs the next morning. But I was impressed at their acceptance; especially of me, someone who had so been on the fringe all through school.

The next day, I took my SATs. In a big auditorium. Many other kids. I don't know where they came from. Maybe they were like me. All spending marvelous nights at fraternities and sororities. Stunned at their good luck and impressive experiences.

After the test, I walked back to the Frat house. I wondered through and then, got in my car and drove off. So then, I finally, reluctantly, drove away.

I do now, remember that when I got there, someone told me I had to move my car out of the driveway, to find a legal place for it on the street. Parking, always, there, is at a premium.

When I got back to my parents' house, I begged them to send me to the UW. I had moved out before this, but then back in, due to a nightmare Jewish lady landlord who complained whenever I tiptoed through my living-room, and thus, was thundering over her living-room ceiling. She would also go through my things when I wasn't home. Just a tad illegal.

About the UW, my mother had told me, no luck. Sorry. We simply do not have any money to send you to a university and certainly not, some Fraternity.

I was crushed. But then a week or so later, I received my SAT results. I certainly wasn't the highest rated tested. Actually, I didn't do too bad, just not so hot on math. The official notification said, I also was lacking a year of foreign language and a half a year of science, like biology.

So, someone told me to petition back saying, I would take these classes on the side somehow. They responded saying, sorry, but no. We are turning down students now, with all the required classes, and, they are 4.0 students from all over the world. Which, I was not. A 4.0 student, that is.

I tried Tacoma Community College for a quarter, dropped out, because I thought I was failing and I was moving to Phoenix with my brother. I found I was acing my criminal evidence for police class and my sociology class. Oh well.

So, that ended my experience at going to University, until I graduated from the school of USAF in my twenties. That proved to me, that one way or another, I could make it through post high school studies.

Eventually I joined the Air Force. Four years of that nightmare, and I got out. A year of wandering and I started back at community college. Then, not knowing what to do next, but following my super smart girlfriend, I applied at all universities in Washington state (only the State universities, as I knew I could afford the private ones, and the same was true for her). First however, I actually drove to all the State Universities. I checked out their campuses.

In the end, I did fall in love with Bellingham's, Western Washington University. Beautiful campus, lovely region, and a different kind of Psychology department than the biggest campus, the UW, had. We weren't counting rats in cages, we were studying human relations to the Universe. Strangely enough, they accepted me. They weren't the only ones, but for the second time in my life, the UW turned me down.

And so, I got my degree in the end, from "Western". And I'm very happy with it and what I learned there. Regardless, of the fact that as it turns out, I later ended up working for the UW for seven and a half years. I finally got to take some classes there too, as I was an employee. So finally they did, let me in.

Summing up, my moments at the UW Frat, was quite the incredible experience. To have been in the Frat, partying with the Frat Treas., and the Pres., listening to Simon & Garfunkle; it captured the essence of that era so well: memories, never to be forgotten.

Don't you think?

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