“The flowing line between the past and the present.
And so, once again, just as many of our Omega Mu veteran brothers did at the conclusion of World War I, many of our World War II veteran brothers, who had served with valor, courage, and distinction in the European and Pacific theaters of operations, returned to The Castle to resume everyday life, academically and fraternally. They had helped achieve something of profound historic consequence for the entire world, and they were exuberant and grateful for being alive and home again. Their joy, however, was tempered by the heartrending-knowledge that many brothers did not return to The Castle because they had paid the ultimate price in the war that had taken the lives of over 400,000 Americans. The missing brothers had been killed during bombing runs, artillery engagements, and infantry combat in far-flung places from Italy, North Africa, England, Germany, the far east, and numerous places in between. Their absence was a brutal wound and daily reminder of the steep human cost in fighting against tyranny to restore the good, and time and memory will never cease in honoring them for their unfailing duty, devotion, and sacrifice in service to our nation. The memory of each World War II veteran remains illuminating, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable in our linked brotherhood. The truth is, of course, we hold dear all of our Omega Mu veterans, and that will never change. Utter respect, always.
“They gave the last full measure of devotion.”
In the broader historical backdrop of the United States, beyond the rising living standards for most Americans, there were growing challenges in the United States and around the world. There was a growing moral outrage aimed at the longstanding social and political injustices that had plagued American society since Jim Crow and ‘separate but equal’. Without apology, preeminent religious and political leaders, through their thought-provoking speeches and unremitting non-violent action, were growing in power in challenging the entrenched orthodoxy of racism and segregation in American society.
The world was presenting some unprecedented, and unexpected, challenges. There was growing turmoil, unease, even paranoia, at the not so silent Cold War saber-rattling with the Soviet Union, and with the growing proliferation of nuclear weapons, and with Mao ascending to power in the 1949, fear and apprehension only intensified in the United States, and it was viewed as a threatening menace. A spark could ignite anywhere.
Through it all, the binding sentiment of the Omega Mu brotherhood was one of hope and optimism that the new decade would be a decade of sustained stability, prosperity and peace. That, after all, was what everyone needed since the conclusion of World War II. Even so, almost immediately, another war commenced when North Korean forces invaded South Korea in the summer of 1950. Undaunted, compelled by military necessity and characteristic virtue, many of our Omega Mu brothers were called to serve our nation in the latest development of the Cold War. Once again, it seemed, in the world of power contests between the superpower blocs, Omega Mu brothers might pay the ultimate price. However, thankfully, no brothers were killed in the Korean War, but one brother, William P. Keenan, was captured by the Chinese and handed over to the North Koreans, and he survived all the physical and emotional abuse, the abject conditions of the camp. Below he describes his experience.
Omega Mu Brothers’ who served our country during the Korean War
Merrill D. Bartlett
John D. “Jack” Hawley
John L. Hone
William P. Keenan
Carlton M. Lowery
Donald L. Mooers
William A. Oliver
The young men who pledged Omega Mu in the late Forties and early Fifties had grown up and lived through, with gritty endurance, the catastrophic sweep of the Great Depression and World War II. Consequently, their values, outlook, needs and motivations had been profoundly shaped by had been shaped by both. They entered the ordered harmony of the Omega Mu brotherhood, with the returning veterans, with a definite knowledge of the past and a hopeful sense of the future. They all understood the self-evident truth of responsibility and accountability. In remarkably short order, the hallowed rooms and well-walked halls of the Castle were filled with fraternally cohesive sights, sounds, emotions, and activities of what it means to be an Omega Mu Fiji. Friendships were started and forged, and soon all things were moving in the right direction, uncompromisingly so. Accordingly, the Omega Mu brotherhood celebrated its fiftieth year in 1949 as Phi Gamma Delta, and its 75th combined fraternal history with QTV in providing a life-changing fraternal experience and dedicated service to the University of Maine community. With resolute hope in the present and perseverant belief in our future, the brotherhood entered the 1950’s with meaning, happy, and full of life: our Omega Mu character.
“The silent influence of character upon character”
From the start, our fraternal values of responsible duty, motivation, devotion, initiative, hard work, and loyalty have sustained the compelling narrative of our 120 year brotherhood because they do determine and guide what is best in the long run. They are the roots of every Fiji brother, and every Fiji chapter. They are self-evident truths because there are no shortcuts to success, any success, and they carry broad implications in creating innovative and influential leaders and professional success in all fields. Not surprisingly, these fraternal articles of faith, these guiding keys, guided the life and soul of the Omega Mu brotherhood in the Fifties because they did not walk away from a challenge to do well in work or play. Our ideals have staying power.
The generational cohesion and spirit of the brotherhood in the Fifties was outstanding, and everything they accomplished continued to undermine the foolish myths, strange and mysterious, that there is no linkage between head, heart and spirit in fraternity men, that they cannot be clearly directed and rigorously decisive to serve the good in their college community, their nation, and their linked brotherhood. Our fraternal faith is active, not passive, and we continue to defy simple, ill-founded categorization. To the contrary, our Omega Mu brotherhood has maintained a strong, if not always sterling, reputation in all of these areas for the last 120 years. Living and working together demands the best of each brother to create a good fraternal life for everyone, and the compensations are lifelong. Come to think of it, that is what is most rewarding.
The brothers in the Fifties continued to add to it in their practical fraternal commitments and in their valuable, wide-ranging civic, political, athletic and avocational passions within the University of Maine community, integrated richly together, to capture the fullness of college life. The future looked bright for the Omega Mu in the Fifties. They were attracting and holding young men who wished to be part of a first class brotherhood, a proud fraternal family, and live within the unmistakable charm of The Castle; a collective good chemistry. Without a doubt, these things do count in the longevity of our fraternal history, and we continue to maintain that collective chemistry today, and we hold, with absolute certainty, that it will continue for young men in the future.
In remarkably short order, there was a unified sense of team work and purpose in the brotherhood in the early Fifties, and they continued our Omega Mu fraternal legacy of broad and inclusive involvement in the University of Maine community. With a sense of duty and hard work, the brothers continued to volunteer their time, energy, and commitment to the university community with vital depth, intellectual passion, committed civic service, and stellar intercollegiate sports involvement. The more involvement, the better, was standard for our Fifties brothers. They were men with determination and single-minded vitality, and they maintained a solid academic work ethic. As students, the brothers consistently worked on improving their overall academic success because they enjoyed the life of the mind, the classroom regimen of lectures on issues and ideas, the enduring hours of reading and study. Their openness to new academic ideas and experiences was rewarding. Academic success is the most important end in itself, and through the decade Omega Mu’s academic average, on average, remained consistently near the top at the University of Maine, and it was commendable in comparison to many other Phi Gamma Delta chapters across the country. Many brothers were selected to be in Tau Beta Phi, the honorary engineering society, while others were inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, and honorary scholastic society. Furthermore, six brothers were Senior Skulls, and three brothers were initiated into Phi Beta Kappa. Sherwood F. Gordon was admitted into the Business School at Harvard University in 1950 to earn an M.B.A.. Then as now, academics remain important to our Omega Mu brotherhood.
Sherwood F. Gordon
Sports continued to hold a cherished place in the life of our brothers in the Fifties, and the repertoire of their success, on so many University of Maine athletic teams, was exceptionally distinctive in their devoted energy. Their athletic involvement, just like the brothers in all the decades preceding it, helped build, through their successes and failures, the character and community of the University of Maine by providing high notes of athletic fun, yells and screams of triumph, pang and drama of loss, and school spirit that cannot be measured in importance. Implicit in all that they did was a sense of stable, team responsibility, and that communal sense of responsibility created a comfortable and happy way of life for many University of Maine students who were spectators at the various athletic contests. Above all else, their athletic involvement was personally fulfilling, and it was a fraternally life-giving way to live on behalf of the University of Maine community. To serve a larger purpose has always been a primary commitment of Phi Gamma Delta since 1848, and our Omega Mu brotherhood since 1899, and that commitment remains with our brother athletes.
Not surprisingly, over eighty Omega Mu brothers participated in intercollegiate sports for the University of Maine Black Bears. All of them made signature contributions to the respective Black Bear team that they played on during the years they wore the black and blue. Here are a few of our Omega Mu brothers who excelled in athletics at the University of Maine: In football, Tom Golden, Philip Coulombe, Vernon Napolitano, Vernon Moulton, David Rand,
; baseball, Al Hackett, Charles Otterstedt; track, Floyd Millbank, Bradford Claxton, John Nivison; golf, Andrew R. Bunker, Arthur Charles, Albert Noyes, and Tom Golden. Tom earned All-American honors in 1953 and 1954, and he was also on the All-Phi Gamma Delta Eleven football team for two straight years, with other Fijis from Ohio State, U. C. L. A., Northwestern, Colorado, Stanford, Purdue, and Southern California. Philip Coulombe was a notable football player for the Black Bears. “He was a hard-driving back. He had a great reputation. He was regarded as one of the best backs in New England,” said Stu Haskell, a former University of Maine athletic director. Al Hackett was a star baseball player. “Al Hackett was a three-year starter on the baseball team from 1951 to 1953. He held three career records when he graduated including most RBI's, most total bases and most home runs. Hackett batted .386 in 1952 with three triples and three home runs. He had tryouts with the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Sox and was previously elected to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. Later, Hackett worked as Associate Director of Admissions for the University of Maine and handled all of the applications for the student-athletes.” Floyd Millbank smashed records in the shot put against New Hampshire, Northeastern, and Springfield, and he was two inches of breaking the field house record at Maine. Charle Otterstedt was one of U-Maine’s ace pitchers, and Albert F. Noyes was a star on the links. It is a matter-of-fact belief that athletics is important in the quality of life at every college and university, and our Omega Mu athlete brothers certainly played a significant role in helping create wide-spread Black Bear pride and communal joy at the University of Maine in the Fifties. It was an athletic culture of greatness for our Omega Mu brothers in the Fifties, and that is not an idle boast!
No less intrepid were the Omega Mu brothers who had hopes and aspirations of a different nature, but no less important. With unstoppable determination, these brothers made signature contributions to a rich variety of campus organizations and clubs at the University of Maine in the Fifties, and they did a stellar job. Every brother, it seems, was involved, and they brought the same essence of our fraternal commitment in their participation, and leadership, in the Maine Masque, the Maine Campus newspaper, the yearbook, the student senate, the campus radio station, ROTC, and many other organization. With their hands-on energetic spirit and keen leadership skills, they were consistently successful. Maurice Hickey held every leadership position in his involvement with the Maine Campus newspaper. John Murphy was editor of the sports section of the Maine Campus. Don Cookson was the program director for the campus radio station, and he was the sports edition for the campus newspaper, and he was also the editor of the yearbook. Joe McCarthy was a columnist for the sports page. Bud Ochmanski was president of the Sophomore Owls. Pat Dangle was president of the Inter-fraternity Council. Thomas Sullivan was president of the Newman Club. A significant number of brothers where class presidents or vice presidents, served on the Inter-fraternity Council, and many other committees and clubs. Dave Smith was elected the winter carnival king. The collective success of these Omega Mu brothers, with their sure and flexible leadership styles, along with the athlete brothers, and their overall academic drive, arguably forced the point, albeit not perfect, that Omega Mu’s fraternal life was well-rounded in the Fifties, filled with unforgettable Fiji personalities who enjoyed the pleasures and challenges in doing it all. The Phi Gamma Delta ideal is always the same: to always broaden the scope of our involvement for the genuine good of the university community. Individually and collectively, these brothers were resilient, adaptable, and well-prepared leaders, and they were perseverant and determined in all of their endeavors to help grow and improve the well-being of University of Maine community by building strong, meaningful connections in their respective committees and leadership roles. It was a culture of greatness and engaged involvement, on the part of Omega Mu brothers, for the positive and the enduring good of the university community.
The energy of interaction, connectedness, and collaboration that all the brothers maintained in all their campus activities was motivating and inspiring, and it was equally evident in their self-assured life in the house. Or, to put it another way, there was nothing slow and monotonous about life in the house during the Fifties; it was alive and pulsing with brothers having a great deal of fun, laughing uproariously, and pulling off unbelievable pranks on each other. It was always lively and engaging, and, as we all know, it is what happens within the beautiful space of The Castle that makes The Castle such a special place in our fraternal history. Those memories, intense and clear, continue to grow sweeter with time.
The brothers lived a satisfying life in The Castle in the Fifties. But more than simply living, they lived well, even right. They were active in the local community. With talent and empathy, the brothers were welcoming, helpful, and positive in having an annual Halloween party in The Castle to benefit the children of Orono and Old Town. The mood and energy was positive. They had a nice dinner with light-hearted banter and fun, followed by some playful games, and genuine care. They diligently helped the kids. Additionally, the brothers consistently helped out with various local food-banks. What they did was yet another indication of their fraternal pride, confidence, and excitement in doing something well, with singular style, to benefit others. In the end, that is what is most important. That germinal motive of free-spirited goodness remains to this day.
The brothers still woke up in the shivering cold of the RAM, showered quickly, ate breakfast, and then made their collective way to campus. After the academic routine of chalk-filled blackboards in Boardman, Little, Aubert or Stevens Hall, the brothers came home to another wonderful dinner prepared by Tom Tear, chef of the Omega Mu brotherhood for over thirty years. Through the decades, Tom’s sustained passion and commitment to the Omega Mu brotherhood was greatly appreciated by every brother. The conversations were witty, warm, and enjoyable, with the topics generally being the same each day: upcoming parties, girls, classes, exams, and sports. It was a warm atmosphere each evening in the dinning hall. Their collective well-being depended on each brother working together. In their meetings, informal and formal, they attended to the important fraternal details, large and small, practical and financial. They maintained the structural quality of the house by taking proper care if it. There were, from time to time, minor issues, but they attended to them. They carried out rituals to preserve our fraternal legacy. Brothers continued to be thrown into the Stillwater River after getting engaged, and they had beer-soaked afternoons on the river bank. They created prize-winning snow-sculptures. The housemother was treated with respect and honor, and they maintained the tradition of escorting Mrs. Butts and Mrs. Tate to the dining room, and standing and singing the Doxology when she entered. They had skit night, peanut fights, and midnight razoos.
Their Fiji Island parties were consistently successful. There were fall house parties with 200 hundred couples dancing to the music of the Jimmy Hawes Band. As “easy listening” music gave way to the pioneering musical phenomena of rock ’n’ roll, the brothers started to listen to Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. Just as the musical world was changing, the world of popular literature and poetry was changing as well with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Ginsberg’s Howl, and Kerouac’s On the Road. People were sitting up and taking notice to all of these changes, and it would only continue. They were signs of transition. Something entirely new, dramatic, and effective was emerging, and it would develop into a different perspective about the nature of the world in the Sixties, and the necessity to grapple with issues with conscience and integrity.
From start to finish, the brothers in the Fifties consistently bore witness to many good things of purpose on campus, for the surrounding community, and within The Castle. They were serious, fun, ambitious, happy, and they found fulfillment. Something of consequence happened because these Omega Mu brothers, and their many experiences had an enormous impact on them, shaping them in ways in how they view friendship, their career choices, and the world. Their balance between athletic involvement, intellectual pursuits, social service, and campus involvement was outstanding. “You get out what you put in” best describes the Omega Mu brotherhood in the Fifties, and it aptly describes the steeliness of conviction of the Omega Mu brothers who would follow them in the Sixties. The common denominators in terms of fraternal symbolism, ritual practice, athletic strength, civic sensibility, and deep-rooted pride of these two generations of Omega Mu Fijis was identical, a fluid fraternal stream of unusual power. The Sixties brothers had the same common thread of unshakable determination and loyalty to our fraternal ideals as the Fifties brothers, and they achieved the same level of accomplishments with their principled yet contrarian spirit. So, too, they were purposefully spunky and mischievous. They loved rock music, and, above all else, they loved living with each other in The Castle. They were part of the crucible event that started in 1959 and would divide, define, guide, and heighten the emotions of all Americans in the Sixties: Vietnam.
And so, it was a new generation of Omega Mu Fijis who entered The Castle in 1960 with compelling character and formidable power, significant and influential, uncompromisingly proud Omega Mu Fijis to the end. We never give up in our Fiji pride; we can’t.
“I'm not trying to 'cause a big s-s-sensation (talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation, baby”
“A Revolutionary age is an age of action.”
It was with a stable sense of fraternal direction that out brotherhood entered the Sixties, a complex and beautiful decade, similar in some ways to the spirit of the Twenties. Both exhibited a rising Dionysian spirit that ended with cataclysmic crashes. Our brothers entered the Sixties with the basic building blocks of fraternal success in tact, knowing and collectively incarnating the clear connection between discipline and achievement in all areas of fraternal life, university life, and civic life, and they would all go on to live lives of determined purpose and consequence after graduating. Consequently, the point is obvious, by all the chief measures of success, just as it had been for our brothers in the Twenties through the Fifties. The Sixties brothers’ understood and believed that brotherhood thrives when brothers work together during an increasingly complicated and troubled time filled with spontaneity, reckless abandon, and many questions.
Plainly and truthfully, our historic pageant of success through the Sixties started in relative quiet in the early years, but the element of surprise is that every decade is full of surprises, and there would be many political and social change that would engulf their lives during the Sixties; however, the absolute value of their collective fraternal effort would continue amidst all the changes and social confrontations that were, quite often, face-to-face across the nation, creating an ‘us and them’ social environment, and that was no small achievement in such a polarizing time. It was an important time in our fraternal history and, for many, it remains a timeless time in our fraternal history. With the clarity of their fraternal convictions and the power of their fraternal commitment on campus, our Omega Mu brothers maintained our fraternal narrative of success at the University of Maine on almost every athletic team, campus organizations, and philanthropic causes. The house was in competent hands with a succession of good leaders, and a large collection of brothers’ who made living in the house quite memorable with their distinctive spirits. In short, our rich fraternal history continued to speak for itself because of one variable, the greatest asset: the brothers’ themselves. On that point, there is no debate, and that is, indeed, a generational great grace. There was a strong collection of unforgettable personalities in the brotherhood through the 1960’s, and through thick-and-thin they stuck with each other, including the Baker Island Fire debacle and the aftermath. They were passionate and honest, and almost always, they did the right things, but they also had a great deal of imaginative fun. It was a satisfying investment in life, and it is a relishing joy to hear all of their Fiji stories, and the other stories that cut close to bone to actual events in American History like Woodstock, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The stories never feel distant when they tell them, and they tell them with a purity of sentiment. They are a brilliant, witty, and fun group of brothers; their candor is unvarnished. They had playful yet serious spirit. They held nothing back, and they still don’t. And yet, in the end, what they did was undertaken with the same fraternal spirit, our seamless narrative, that had guided our combined brotherhood since 1874. They had, and they continue to have, fierce Fiji pride, fifty years on! Moreover, then and now, they have remained friends, and that as an Article of Faith of Phi Gamma Delta fraternal life. They clearly show that brotherhood is not an abstract theory. This, I think, is what is important: the good of the past teaches us still, in symbolic traditions and rituals and realistic terms of engagement, and they are, without question, the durable and unifying threads that have sustained us for 120 years, a simple yet profound truth.
Our energetic Omega Mu spirit, strong, determined and flexible, adapted and continued to succeed throughout the decade without having an identity crisis, but it would come early in the Seventies when our fraternal tradition of rituals, symbolism, and practices faltered and detrimentally hurt the chapter and critically hurt our sense of brotherly community, but being fraternally nimble, we were soon past this state of fraternal flux and back on our feet with a re-energized commitment and broad embrace of our life-sustaining principles and traditions, and the human dividend of a good fraternal life was reawakened, with all the rich human treasures that continue for life. That is, after all, what it is all about. These things, in fact, can never be underestimated, and we remain unique at the University of Maine. To restate what I wrote in an earlier blog: “What a difference, whether in all your walks, you meet only strangers, or in one house is one who knows you, and whom you know. To have a brother…How rare these things are.” We are a great fraternal brotherhood, and we are the oldest, the original, the groundbreaking fraternal brotherhood at the University of Maine.
The grace and beauty and spirit of our brotherhood started with a simple pledge:
“Its object: enjoyment, sociability, and the best interest of its members through life.
And it continues with enduring power
“Such a long, long time to be gone
And a short time to be there”
Chip Chapman, 1981