Castle Restoration Blog 1
“History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.”
Several weeks ago, I was in The Castle with another graduate brother and several undergraduate brothers doing some final clean up work in preparation for the interior restoration work in The Castle, and we all started in the cramped, dust-laden library, and we worked hard for two days.
It felt great to be doing this work and thinking, seeing, feeling through the long historical lens of our fraternal history since 1924-1925 when The Castle was built. I thought of all the generational voices and sounds and images within these memorable walls. It was a good time to reflect upon the years I lived in The Castle and to nostalgically think about each and every generation of brothers who had lived in the hallowed walls of our house. And by-and-by I thought about the grass-roots level of support that the Q.T.V brothers played in bringing our home into being, and how we all continue to go on together 120 years later, a continuous fraternal gift that will certainly continue for generations of future Omega Mu Fijis, providing them with the same blessings and lessons of fraternal life that will shape your life. They will, too! It was celebratory to think about all of that as we embark upon the restorative architectural rebirth of The Castle. It is going to look great! It is happening.
As I worked that day, a phrase that my favorite seminary professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, John Stealy, often used in class came to my mind as I helped dust, sweep, and clean our home with tiring vigor: Blessings and Lessons. These words are not elusive words for any Omega Mu Fiji; they are self-evidently true. They are a beautiful lived sermon as to what it is all about. We know the blessings and lessons of Omega Mu life; it’s all one since 1899.
After we removed all pictures and trophies, discarded all the accumulated trash, I started working on the many books and magazines. Needless to say, I got bogged down in the lovely bane of my existence: books. I was sounding the depth of our fraternal history with each book pulled from the shelves. By this time, everyone else was working somewhere else in the house, so it was just me and the growing dust in the light cracking open books. That it is my natural, compulsive impulse wherever I am. It is my ritual. Then again, I have a monastic and academic impulse in me, and this was my scriptorium for the day. It was a good time to remember who we are as a brotherhood with each book pulled from the shelf.
Within five minutes, I pulled out two University of Maine Prisms, and the name that was written at the front of each them was Joseph S. Boulos. It was spooky, my heart-beat skipped more than a little, and my eyes went wide in astonishment, and I smiled deeply in finding them. They were the only yearbooks that were signed, and they had been on the library shelf for seventy-eight years.
The long lens of fraternal and American history became very close as I started thinking about him and the service he gave to our country during World War II, and how our lives were affected for the good by what he and other Omega Mu brothers victoriously did during the World War II. Looking at his yearbooks and his signature, I though of the distinctive, courageous grace it took to serve for the good of all. As I was coming down from the heart-piercing shock of finding his yearbooks, I started thinking about the drawing that Fred M. Cogswell, Jr. drew for a house function in 1938 and how thoughtfully drawn it was, and how fitting it was for the time. If you look at the names of people who attended this good celebration, you will see the signature of Joseph S. Boulos. The historic geometry of events is never-ending.
He would also serve our nation with grit and determination as a top-turrets gunner on a B-17 bomber. They all knew the risks of military service, and they all ignored them, and eleven of our brothers were killed. It is said, all gave some; some gave all, but their fraternal chain with all of us will never be broken. They were, truly, “A light in the darkness.”
Joseph S. Bolous left his yearbooks in The Castle library in order to serve our country. His yearbooks represented the deep sounding depths of American History, our fraternal history, and the memory of Joseph and the other brothers will remain imperishable in our historic memory because their collective energy, their common will, was used for the good of everyone. The good light of their lives’ lives on to this day, just as the embedded architectural good of our historic house is now being restored.
In closing, Omega Mu remains directed toward all that is good because we have a historically rich fraternal spirit that remains relevant and necessary for young men. We celebrate our historically pioneering fraternal story and spirit at the University of Maine. We celebrate the key years in our history: 1874, 1899, 1924, and now. We celebrate our bold visionary embrace of our fraternal future. We celebrate our history, our fraternal values, the aesthetic excellence and dignity of The Castle and, yes, the continued 120 year fraternal existence of our Omega Mu brotherhood. I am glad I was in the library that day; my heart swelled with pride. It was a good time to remember, smile, and be thankful in the heart-beat of our historic house as we begin to make it shine again.
Chip Chapman '82