Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's Spring at the Fiji House: Roll Out the Pig and Put on Your Party Hat!

I am a recovering Fiji.

That was my college fraternity and I remain in close contact with several of the brothers I met there. They are friendships that have weathered 40 years.

We always looked forward to spring in the Fiji house at Wittenberg University -- Old Mother WU. Our two biggest events of the year were in the spring: the Norris Pig Dinner and Fiji Island.

As with every Fiji tradition, there is a long, drawn-out story about how Pig Dinner got its start and who the brothers were who initiated the thing. It's enough for you to know that it began before the earth was made of dirt. I won't bore you with the rest of the story.

Pig Dinner is an annual alumni dinner when the old wrecks who graduated 30, 40 or 50 years earlier return, tell lies about their glory days and get all misty eyed over the brotherhood. At least that's the way I saw the event as an underclassman. My take is a bit different today.

It's a time when the graduates and undergrads, as well as the undergrads' fathers can come together, tip a drink or two and talk all things Fiji.

My father attended one or two of these affairs; although, he was firmly against my joining. Convincing him required six months of lobbying. Finally he relented in time for me to pledge spring term of my freshman year.

What you need to know is that he went to college on the G.I. Bill at the age of 35. He had my mother, my sister and me to support. His view of fraternities was that they were nothing more than collections of knuckleheads who chased sorority girls and were drunk five nights out of seven.

When I pledged Fiji, I was really glad to find that the Old Man had been 100% right!

But, back to our story....

The pig part is some 200-year-old tradition that involved some practical joke and a pig chase. A more modern take is a pig displayed at the front of the room. It's a complete pig with an apple in its mouth and the whole nine yards. At some point all of the brothers initiated since the last Pig Dinner must file to the front of the room and kiss the pig on its snout or ass -- I can't remember which, but it's the snout, I think. Don't ask, I have no clue what the significance is; everyone just does it.

The dinner is a somewhat formal affair where brothers are recognized, awards given and a keynote speaker delivers a few words of wisdom. I was the master of ceremonies for this event two or three times after I graduated. At these affairs the M.C. is called the Symposiarch. I think it translates to "this guy gets his meal for free."

I ran the thing like a Friars Club Roast. Nothing was sacred. As usual, I probably thought I was funnier than I actually was, but some of the lines I used are still repeated back to me today whenever a few of us get together.

The oldest brother attending was always seated immediately to the left of the podium, making him the ideal foil for some ill-conceived humor. One year, as I was making my welcoming remarks, I noticed the oldest brother sitting there looking down at his salad. He was notoriously hard of hearing. I leaned over and yelled at the top of my lungs, "It's Thousand Island, Curly!" I'm lucky he didn't go into cardiac arrest.

Another year as I was introducing the oldest brother, I told him he should head over to the cemetery to lie down and wait. Yeah, sometimes I crack myself up.

May included our biggest party of the year -- and back then, that was saying something. It was Fiji Island. Today alcohol isn't permitted in the house; back then we were awash in it.

What Fiji Island morphed into since the political correctness dimblulbs have forbidden drinking, I can't imagine; but in the late 1960s and early 70s, it was a three-day, two-night free-for-all.

Inviting a date required boiling the flesh from an old cow bone that we would then paint the invitation on. It was a big deal running around passing out the bones.

Other Fiji chapters would have to go off site to throw their Fiji Island, but our house was off-campus on a sprawling piece of land. Using sandbags, we would create a lake in the parking lot and build a bridge over its narrowest end.

An entire tent city would appear on the lawn where most of us and our dates spent the two nights.

A different band entertained each night and we drank gallons of Blow-Your-Lunch Punch, beer and whatever else we could get our hands on.

We would kick off the festivities on Friday afternoon with a marriage ceremony. We wanted to make sure our dates struck the proper attitude.

I served as the High Priest my senior year. It was my role to bond each couple together in holy mattressmony.

Before it was all over, usually someone's sofa would wind up in the pseudo lake where it would be set on fire as a volcano.

If anyone reading this can tell me who the young lady is I'm with in the above photo, I'd appreciate it. I remember her, but can't place her name.

Yep, big fun.

I still love spring.

No comments:

Post a Comment