We all have our personal memories of the traditions that we enjoyed while we lived together in the Castle. First and foremost, they have stayed in our memory, astonishingly. They rise effortlessly and cause us to smile and chuckle with gratitude each time we think about them. They resonate in our memory, still. They glow in our minds-eye, and we do not brush them away, much less suppress them, for each memory is a journey home, a return passage; even better, a homing instinct to a particular place, event, brother, or a group of brothers when you were undergraduate living in the Castle. They all create a great collective story filled with genuine fraternal sentiment, and all the memories cover the emotional spectrum of our years living in the Castle. Take a moment and recall your memories about our Christmas parties, Fiji Island, Pig Dinner, mud bowl, The Fiji 24 Hour Relay Marathon, our formals. Not difficult to do, is it? They give you a sparkle in the eye and an easy smile, I know. It is safe to say that we loved all of them. With each tradition and event, something wonderful happened. These events were the distinctive, fundamental core of our Omega Mu culture. They helped define priorities, daily, weekly, and monthly. Because of the them, we lived with assurance and stability, generatively so. We were deeply tied to these traditions and activities, our uniting chain of events. And, in retrospect, we all believed, appropriately so, that all of our daily and seasonal traditions were structurally important in creating the wonderful fraternal life that we lived in the Castle. They were, and they continue to be the be-all and end-all of our long chain of sustained fraternal good at the University of Maine.
Although there have been many different iterations on our fraternal traditions and activities, all the variant expressions, for the most past, created the basis for the sustained human grace and strength of our fraternal life, all the while knowing that fraternities fare less well when they do not have sustaining traditions. That is painful truth. Our traditions were, and they remain, our sustaining hope because they exist for the common good. The tradition, activities, and duties set the daily, weekly, and seasonal tone of our fraternal life together, in every measured way. Thematically, the traditions, activities, and responsibilities were different. Some were very mundane because the were concerned with daily practical matters, whereas as some were more suspenseful, mysterious and fun like the RAM and Fiji Island, and some were magisterial and dignifying like Pig Dinner and escorting the housemother into dinner. However, all of them made things work within the house and preserved the cooperative and enjoyable world of our Omega Mu life. We enjoyed all of them, and we did not discuss whether they were their relevant, old-fashioned, or out-dated. On the contrary, and I think we would all agree, they were all sensible, reasonable and enjoyable. In retrospect, all of them are the underpinning of our historic success, and they remain relevant now. They established, collectively so, a balanced and cooperative fraternal life for everyone that was satisfying. And, perhaps, it is not far-reaching to say that they shaped us a little for the better. I believe they did. They certainly did not hurt. Simply put, our Omega Mu memories resonate powerfully with all of us, still, because they link generations of Omega Mu Fijis.
Clear and distinct Omega Mu memories still cause us to smile and be proud that we are Omega Mu Fijis. We are, as you all know, an exemplary brotherhood. Upon that fact there is no debate. We remain proud of this fact through life, and we have no problem telling others, with fraternal, evangelical pride, that we lived in a beautiful fraternity home with a great group of men during college, and we continue to champion the fraternal life. Furthermore, I am equally sure that we are all thankful for whatever coincidence brought all of us to the front door of the Castle, our historic fraternal home. Thank God we did not turn back!
We are, rightly so, a brotherhood family. That being said, I believe all Omega Mu Fijis will smile with understanding, in the truest way possible, what Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated about home in Letters and Papers from Prison and; second, what Thomas Jefferson said about lifelong friends:
“Most people have forgotten nowadays what house can mean, though some of us have come to realize it as never before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
“Friends we have, if we have merited them. Those of our earliest years stand nearest in our affections. Our college friends are the dearest.” (Thomas Jefferson)
The Fiji Island Party was an Omega Mu fraternal rite-of-spring celebration, a gift if you will, for generations of Omega Mu brothers, and I suspect that every Omega Mu brother has a Fiji Island memory. It was a signature fraternal event each year, and it is certainly an essential memory, still, with all of us, rich and vital. Starting in the early the 1940’s, one tradition, the Fiji Island Party, was borne out of a simple desire for unbridled revelry, and for over forty years it continued. Initially, the location for the party was in the Castle, but by the 1960’s Fiji Island occurred on the lush, sweeping, boulder-strewn beauty of an actual island off of Stonington. In a primitive existentialist sense, it was a blast from Friday to Sunday with something happening throughout the island. It was a special weekend that we were all grateful for. There was a great deal of wanderlust, loose, casual and free-form, in the intimate environment of the island. Brothers walked everywhere, camped everywhere, and simply enjoyed being together on the island. There was always a relaxed energy that was simply fun. It was a well-spent weekend, and it was certainly worth the boat ride to get there and back. It was a spirited, happy, memorable time. Or, as I see it, an adventurous holiday grace of a special sort in our brotherhood. In any case, it was always captivating, and it never disappointed.
The memories of Fiji Island, like the memories of Pig Dinner, mud bowl, dinner traditions, formals, front lawn and Phoenix Lounge activities, and many others, collectively frame a good portrait of our fraternal brotherhood. We sustained these traditions, and, in so doing, we grew stronger and more unified as a brotherhood. That is the simple truth, historically clear and to the point, and we remain unified. The pictures below chronicle the fraternal mood and emotion of our Fiji Island weekend, and as you do so, recall what Bonhoeffer said about home and what Jefferson said about friends. Surely they are accurate statements about our architecturally beautiful fraternal home at the University of Maine, the Castle, and the congenial, life-long fraternal friendships that were shaped by our well-intentioned, well-functioning fraternal traditions. The seamless gift of both has created an enduring brotherhood that has a unique fraternal character all its own, and we cherish both gifts. That is our Omega Mu way. We remain proud of our distinctive history, but we do not rest on our laurels. We press on and continue into our 147th year with enduring Omega Mu persistence and historic sensibility, always looking forward with a determined, restless enthusiasm. That is the heart and soul substance of our fraternal charisma since 1874, an enduring fidelity. Perge.
....."and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to
1962 Fiji Island Party
Four Omega Mu Brothers on Fiji Island: L-R (males) Pat Ladd (in back, white shirt), Bob Mennealy (holding a cup), Paul Wood (bandana), and Bill Soloby (sunglasses)
“What if the space be long and wide,
That parts us from our brother’s side
A soul-joined chain unites our band,
And memory links us hand in hand.”
(Phi Gamma Delta fraternity song)
Chip Chapman, ’82