“A place that goes on whether your there or not, that you come back to and find waiting with welcome. “
As many of our brothers were packing their things to move out of The Castle in order to serve our nation in a global war of maddening, dark complexity: World War II. They did not know whether they would return, and the brothers living in the house continued on with their classes and fraternal life, but the fraternal emptiness caused by the departure of so many brothers was ever-felt, a sobering, clouding quiet that would only end with the end of the war. The emotional impact was immediate and hard. It was not easy time for any of them; it was life-changing time for all them because their sense of place in the world was altered. To tweak our Fiji motto a bit, it was a period of difficult determination and perseverance.
Omega Mu Brothers who served our country during World War II
Sumner Waite, 1911
Cecil J. Cutts, 1925
George F. Kehoe, 1927
William V. Bratton, 1933
Gordon R. Heath, 1936
James F. Dow, 1937
Hamilton H. Dyer, Jr., 1939
Alfred P. Mallet, 1939
Fred M. Cogswell, Jr., 1940
StewartW. Grimmer, 1940
George H. Jewett, Jr., 1940
Joseph S. Boulos, 1941
Robert M. Irvine, 1941
Malcolm G. Nichols, 1941
John D. Utterback, Jr., 1941
David W. Warren, Jr., 1941
Frank R. Williams, 1941
Laurie J. Greenleaf, 1942
Arthur L. Teall, 1942
Charles D. Allen, 1943
Fletcher A. Hatch, Jr., 1943
Charles L. Pfeiffer, 1943
Frederick J. Sheppard, III, 1943
Charles E. Stickney, Jr., 1944
George B.Walker, 1944
James F. Donovan, 1945
Frank W. Danforth, Jr., 1946
The brothers remaining in The Castle extended their deepest gratitude to the brothers who were leaving to fight on various battle fronts overseas. Although they felt the empty space of their departed brothers, life went on for the brothers in the house like all previous generations of Omega Mu brothers, never giving up. They reacted with maturity to circumstances. The long-living bred-in-the-bone strengths and emotional inheritance of our Omega Mu traditions, fraternal, social, academic, philanthropic, and athletic, continued the brotherhood forward. That is one of our corps fraternal values: steadiness and diligence of fraternal character that leads to steadfast loyalty. In truth, definition and meaning, one could even say that it is our soul, our historic soul that is relentless in looking forward in order to grow and improve in order for future young men to continue to enjoy the fraternal journey of our Omega Mu brotherhood. And the fact is we will.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.”
The brother’s in the early 1940’s were willing to accept the challenge of moving forward resiliently with so many brothers gone because there is always the same movement and fluidity of work and more work in keeping the brotherhood and the house in good, harmonious order, and it is the same fraternal narrative today. The sun came up every morning on chilly fall mornings, snowy winter mornings, and clear spring mornings. They still woke up in the RAM, with the windows always wide-open, with the firm shake of a Zobie without any elegance or ease. They awoke, as we all did, often times quite sleepy, grumpy, and other self-imposed conditions to the promise of another fraternal day in living in The Castle.
They showered quickly, and they made it to breakfast served up by one of the kitchen stewards. They probably scanned or read the front page of the Bangor Daily News for the war news in Europe and Asia and envisioned their fraternal friends. The shock effect of reading or skimming the daily headlines must have been considerable in reading about the horrors, defeats, and successes of the daily grind of military progress on various battlefronts. They also gathered additional war information by listening to Edward R. Murrow, William L. Shirer and Eric Sevareid over the radio as events were actually happening, live, such as the Blitz of London when Murrow reported from various rooftops around London. The bits and pieces they read and heard gave them significant facts of the military developments, and when they received news that an Omega Mu brother had been killed in action the pain must have been unfathomable for the brothers. Their fraternal roots ached with the loss of each brother, just as they had ached during the Spanish-American War and World War I. All their names are reverenced to this day. No illusions remained for the brothers in the house about war and its ultimate cost to preserve the true value of liberty and freedom. It was maintained with the fraternal body and soul of many of our brothers.
“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded…I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed…I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.”
On the lighter side of the news, they certainly red or heard about the deaths of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, that Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby had integrated baseball, that Joe DiMggio’s hitting streak ended at fifty-six games, and that Count Fleet, Assault, and Citation won the Triple Crown in the Forties, and that the Bruins had won the Stanley Cup. They certainly may have read the new superhero comic books that were on the stands in the early Forties: Captain America, and the Green Lantern. The covers of the first editions of both of them were thematically clear about confronting and defeating evil during World War II, as clear as the American propaganda posters that covered public walls across the country.
Typically, as our tradition has always been, they walked to and from campus in groups.
When they returned to house, one of Tom Tear’s outstanding dinners was prepared for them, meals that he had faithfully been making for Omega Mu Fijis since 1927, and that he would continue to do so until 1960. He was generous with his time and always giving toward the brothers for thirty-three years. And surely, he still stands tall in our Omega Mu history because he believed Omega Mu was pretty special. Dinners were warm, friendly, and cheerful, and discussions could be heard of every assortment, with the exception of any cafe style literary, sociological, or philosophical discussions, say, on Thoreau, Whitman, Frost, and Heidegger’s key thoughts on ‘being.’ There were plenty of inside jokes and withering, skewering phrases aimed at each other during dinner, a live comic strip filled with sights and sounds that brought continual laughter. The simple processes of fraternal community life simply continued, operating the same as it has for decades upon decades, as it does now, 120 years successful, and improving for our fraternal future. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to live in The Castle in commitment and fraternal traditions with friends while an undergraduate, and it is about continued life with all Omega Mu brothers for the remainder of your life.
“The acid test of any dynasty, nation or institution is time.”
After dinner, they hung out with each other in the living room, library, and every where else in the house, and we continue to embrace that degree of fraternal community today.
The atmosphere of their parties were leisurely and enjoyable, and they were spirited-filled, literally and figuratively. A few rules may have been stretched, maybe, but on the whole their social life created memories, stories, and friendships. Their stories and fraternal friendships became part of our living fraternal history. Like all of us, in our lives and times in The Castle, stories, memories, and friendships shaped us in ways that we could not have achieved on our own. Socializing occurred in all quarters of our grand Castle because it is in our fraternal genes to enjoy ourselves. The delightful sign-in drawings for their parties were deliberately and richly drawn with grace, humor, and wit. They were a dignified reflection of this time in our history.
The warm tone of the parties, within the welcoming space and form of the Castle, was enthusiastically appreciated by all the sororities that migrated down 79 College Avenue to socialize, dance and enjoy the company of neatly dressed, groomed, and coiffed Omega Mu brothers. The house rocked with the best music emerging in the Forties at these parties for the enjoyment of everyone: “As Time Goes By” by Rudy Vallee, "Baby, Its Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser, “Till the End of Time” by Perry Como, “Good Morning Heartache” by Billy Holliday, “Don’t Fence Me In” by Cole Porter, “Buttons and Bows” by Dinah Shore, and “Strip Polka” by Johnny Mercer. At the Christmas party they heard several new songs: “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, and “I’ll be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby. To be sure, they definitely heard the emerging jazz music of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk. Besides listening to music on the radio, brothers would often played the piano in The Castle. Certainly the social life in the house continued to be rich and enjoyable, and when they went to the movies, they saw some remarkable films in cinema history: Miracle on 34th Street, Casablanca, Grapes of Wrath, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Citizen Kane. Unquestionably, they probably saw some of these movies again and again. The brothers had a full-blooded fraternal life with all the necessary staples of life to do so.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
The intellectual life of the brotherhood, on average, was not weak. Although most of our brothers were not nerve-worn and tightly coiled fanatics about grades, many of these brothers enjoyed diving deep into knowledge and thinking, questioning, and exploring their academic interests in an engaging, thoughtful manner. They studied in their rooms or Carnegie Library. They studied for prelims, typed many papers, did endless surveying assignments on campus. When it snowed, they created festive snow sculptures, and they continued the Omega Mu Christmas tradition of feeding the underprivileged children of Orono and Old Town in the house and giving them gifts.
“There is no can’t nor can't to them.”
And, not to be overlooked or overstated, our brothers continued to lead boldly, and tenaciously succeeded, in many endeavors within the University of Maine community throughout the 1940’s. Many brothers were masterful performers in many Maine Masque theater productions. John Berger was the president of Maine Masque, and John W. Ballou had a large physical presence and stature on the boards because he had a love-of-life personality in everything he did; consequently, he often played the lead male role in many of the plays. Robert Preble, Dick Buck, and George Garland also starred as the lead or supporting role in many Maine Masque plays. Many brothers had fine musical ability and performed in the University of Maine Band.
Brothers continued our rich athletic tradition in their involvement on many University of Maine athletic teams in the Forties: “Windy” Work, Robert Nutter, Frank Danforth, Philip A. Coulombe, Robert Hanson, Donald Card, Sherwood Gordon, Arthur Charles, and Adelbert Norwood, and Richard Preble, to name only a few. They were capable, aggressive and enthusiastic.
In 1948, the University of Maine honored the oldest alumnus of the university, George Hamlin, ’73, our QTV brother who surveyed the land where our Castle is now, and he oversaw a great deal of the painstaking work to assure that it was done well. It was work, but it was fascinating architectural work, and he loved doing it, and was thrilled when the house opened for the Omega Mu brothers in 1925. His great effort will never be forgotten because it was intense and absolute in commitment to see it through. The brothers in the Forties certainly knew that George Hamlin was one the finest, most dedicated brothers in our fraternal history because lived to very end of his life the QTV objective: “enjoyment, sociability, and the best interests of its members through life.”
There was plenty of hard, responsible work in establishing routines to keep the house clean and in good working order, as well as keeping the brotherhood grounded in all traditions like chapter meetings.
Very brief but effective comments from chapter meetings:
October 6, 1941
“Brother Allen moved that the chapter chain links be hung over the fireplace.
October 20, 1941
“Brother Pfeiffer moved that the house install a pay station (phone) extension on the basement landing. Defeated.”
“Brother Allen reported for his committee to draft a letter to those alumni who destroyed the peace and quiet to the fall house party. Draft accepted”
October 26, 1942
“Beat Ass tonight.”
November 2, 1942
“Brother Dow moved that we designate a man to collect blanket taxes and buy 3 rows of seats, 8 in a row, for the Bowdoin game.
November 9, 1942
“Brother Chadwick suggested that we pay for pledge brothers work and Bunker’s help during Hell Week.
November 16, 1942
“Brother Pfeiffer reported on the Jewett case in that his address has been found and is in the hands of Ballard Keith.”
November 23, 1942
“Brother Allen moved to take $20.00 for the Christmas Party for the underprivileged children in Orono.
January 25, 1943
“A fine was tacked on a few boys for not paying up their bills on time.”
April 19, 1943
“Brother Chadwick moved that the question of the Peanut Fight be tabled with the proviso that W.E. Spears use his own judgement in regard to the date and time of the game.
Seconded and passed.”
There are no meeting notes for 1944-1945
(There will be a future blog with interesting chapter meeting notes for 1946-1950)
There was the hospitable work of rush recruitment to help young men see the sound, well-balanced proposition of Omega Mu fraternal life, and they did excellent work in promoting the communally good and generous way to live ones college years to young men who wanted something more than a small room in a dormitory. Many excellent young men pledged Fiji in the 1940’s because they saw that it was a lifetime blessing grounded on the broad shoulders of ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’ They saw that graduate brothers and undergraduate brothers continued to extend heartwarming gestures and words for each other as the years of the decade passed, and they continued to work together for the good of each other and The Castle, simply continuing to build upon our historic 120 year chain of ‘we’ with promise. They honored our enduring fraternal spirit to “Hundred Up” throughout the Forties. That is our heritage. Just as the brothers were growing and maturing with responsibility in distant battlefields, the brothers in the house continued to uphold our proud, committed and constructive fraternal propositions for the good of the University of Maine community and our brotherhood.
“It’s perfection and grace.”
Nowhere did every fraternity brother, from every fraternity at the University of Maine, “Hundred Up” even more than enlisting to fight in World War II. There was no thought of self-importance, or gain, in making the decision for the good of humanity. It was a wager they were willing to make, and a wager they were willing to die for. That is the best of the American spirit. The Army Specialized Training program took over most of the fraternity houses at the University of Maine in 1944-1946 to prepare men for combat, and every fraternity but The Castle became a military barracks. Consequently, fraternity brothers from every fraternity at Maine lived in The Castle during the 1945-1946 academic year. Surprisingly, there was only one Omega Mu Fiji who lived in the house that year. In historic myth and truth, it was an unqualified pleasure to live in The Castle with so many wonderful brothers. In marked contrast, many of their respective fraternity brothers continued to deal with death and destruction and loss each day during this final year of the war. Intent on peace, they were battling with life itself in fighting for the preservation of all freedoms around the world, and it was a difficult achievement. They were all, collectively, a heartfelt portrait of the noble and good.
It was a blessing that many Omega Mu brothers returned home after earning all of their points, but the tragic dualism of the Cold War commenced with many provocative conflicts that could have swept both into another war with annihilating consequences. Those were the harsh, threatening realities of the post-World War II period. It would shape the lives of the next two generations of Omega Mu brothers, as well as radically shifting and altering the spirit and culture of the United States, and our Omega Mu brotherhood. The Fifties, the nervous yet confident decade, would be the decade of bomb-shelters, a second Red Scare, cars with wood on the side, and grey-suited uniformity. Whereas the Sixties, The Age of Aquarius, would be a sociologically shifting maelstrom of Woodstock, civil rights, flowers in the hair, body counts, and raised fists of protest.
“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving…” The Fifties and Sixties would be as remarkable and unforgettable as the Forties, and through each decade the luster of our fraternal history would continue to grow as young men continued to walk, without any constraint, up the gentle slope toward the front door of The Castle to seek “enjoyment, sociability, and the best interests of its members through life.”
We all continue to come back to our fraternal home, The Castle, and we all find it waiting to welcome us home again.
“…As time goes by”
Chip Chapman, ’82