The Anti-Frat

Proverbs 27:17

Higher education has always been a valued commodity in my family.  Both my parents loved learning and teaching. My father had a rather unusual approach to college, however. Whenever we lived in driving proximity of a college, he would register for classes. He didn’t put much stock in things like degree plans or prerequisite courses, though. Rather, he would peruse the course offerings listed in the current catalog and decide what he wanted to learn.  He served as his own adviser and only signed up for subjects that interested him. The result was he never earned a degree, although he had well over 120 semester hours credit. He was a bit of a maverick, and I inherited that.

One of the colleges he had planned to attend, but never had the opportunity, was Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.  When my sister graduated high school, she enrolled there, and I followed her lead a few years later. Humorist Grady Nutt (of Hee Haw fame) once quipped, parents liked  Wayland because they could send their kids 100 miles off to school and sit on the front porch to watch every move they made. He further observed, Wayland was “eight miles from the nearest known sin.” It proved to be a good fit for me in multiple ways. The college was affordable, had a small student-teacher ratio, and boasted a  strong Religion department for training young ministers. More importantly, Wayland was not pretentious, like Baylor. (Yes, I judged Baylor unfairly, but it was my perception at the time.)

As in any college, there were many students who enjoyed being part of a fraternity or sorority, but that just wasn’t for me. While Wayland did not allow fraternity houses, there was still a sort of segregation in living quarters. The freshmen resided in McDonald Hall, the athletes and more affluent students lodged in Atwood or Marshall Hall (Caprock Complex – the newest dormitories).  I found myself in Brotherhood Hall, the only dorm not named for a wealthy benefactor.  We were the misfits, the “others,” and we basked in that identity. There was a camaraderie that developed among those of us who lived in “The ‘Hood.” We also relished any opportunity to satirize the fraternities. One particular practice we developed always sparks a wry smile when I think of it… Robe Walking.

Part of college life is intramural activities, and intramural basketball prompted a strong representation from the fraternities. Most of them had custom uniforms AND custom warm up suits! We Hoodies had the perfect response. We appeared at the games in our version of warm up suits – bathrobes. We played in sleeveless t-shirts and cut off blue jeans. I honestly don’t remember if we ever won a game, but there was something extremely satisfying about “dis-robing” before a game in front of a full house. We enjoyed the practice so much, in fact, that we continued it beyond the season.  Late at night, we would don said robes and simply walk around the campus. We may or may not have had any other clothing under those robes.

While other men’s organizations had chapter meetings, we developed a different kind of male-bonding. Brotherhood Hall had two floors of rooms above ground and one hall of rooms in the basement. For some reason unknown to me, the basement rooms were closed for business. Only the laundry room was accessible. One day while I was in the laundry washing both pair of blue jeans and all three of my shirts, I noticed a key ring hanging on a nail in an obscure corner. I had some time to kill while waiting for the spin cycle, so I decided to test my hypothesis that those keys fit the forbidden chambers. Indeed they did. I took one key, and over the next few weeks, I created a true man-cave. I had a bed, a chair, a chess board, a radio, reading material, and some candles (the electricity to those rooms had been disconnected). It was my private personal squatter’s  retreat. I would occasionally invite trusted friends to my hide-away for the purpose of sharing cigars and adult beverages while contemplating the meaning of life. I must say, that far surpasses reading of the minutes, approving the budget, and questions of parliamentary procedure.

As iron sharpens iron, my life was positively impacted by my fellow miscreants. These fellows were good at heart and down to earth. I’m sure there was much true benefit for those who chose to participate in Greek life. Whether in a structured or unstructured manner, though, men interacting with men, doing manly things, has something of a biblical blessing. I am privileged to have enjoyed that time with my fellows of the Hood.

wayland

“May we ever keep thy spirit strong, thy courage bold.

Pioneering Wayland, hail thy blue and gold.”

 

 

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Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

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