The absolute biggest mistake I made in my freshman year of college was to join the coolest fraternity on campus. I had no idea what pledging was about but the idea of a network of drinking brothers pushed me to pledge. Daily I was making decisions to go to the frat house or study. To skip study time was flirting with my future that could end in Vietnam or waste away working on the railroad living near my parents.
I was desperate to change my life.
The first Hell Night we had 19 pledges but a month later only eight of us became brothers. There were four Hell Nights intent on weeding out those who didn’t want it bad enough. Shots of pain were a function of demerits minus merits to be delivered to a pledge on any given Hell Night.
The brothers blindfolded me and told me to strip naked. I was led down some rickety stairs into a dank smelling basement. I walked slowly as the floor was covered with sharp chips of concrete. After about 20 paces the brother stopped and let go of my arm. “Don’t move or you will fall and get hurt,” he said.
I was in what was called the “hole” kind of a queue for terror. Suddenly I heard a faint swish then a loud smack followed by a scream. The swish was the swing of a paddle that created a smack when it hit a pledge’s bare ass and the scream followed acute pain. From that point it was swish, smack and yell as the pledge took a “shot” for each demerit without an offsetting merit.
I knew the Executioner room was close as the pledge before me walked by sniffling, kind of crying and in one case he went to the hospital for shock. When I entered the executioner’s room I immediately felt threatened. The room was small with dark drapes all around and one burning candle. I could see there were two guys dressed in black KKK outfits.
“OK. Bend over and grab ‘em.” One said. Then I felt the first of many shooting pains. Subsequent Hell Nights hurt more since the black and blue marks had not healed from the prior weeks’ shots. By the fourth week my body tightened with unimaginable pain after two shots so I told them to stop and walked away.
The final ritual included a sweat shirt, fraternity pin and a three day bender.
Though I met some great guys I shouldn’t have let someone beat me so I could be their friend that just doesn’t make sense today. But it shows how desperate I was to be accepted by drinking brothers.
When it was all said and done I had to drop out of school before I flunked out which gave the draft board probable cause to hunt me down.
NEXT FRIDAY: How life was – Vietnam – new girl at the Inn – 1966
The articles published here by babyboomers.com are small excerpts of a
268 page manuscript titled “The Courage to Surrender” that I would
like published. Call 678.361.4709 for information on the manuscript.