The letter from the Spring/Summer 2014 issue headed “What Happened To Tau Delta Phi?” brought back lots of memories. That would be a great article for WSQ: When was the SJS honor fraternity founded, by whom, why, etc.? What did it accomplish for the school and student body? When and why did it die out (as it apparently has)?
I have some thoughts on the latter, all speculation. I hope someone pursues the questions for a future article. Meanwhile, here’s what I remember about a Tau Delta Phi initiation:
On the strength of a 3.5 GPA my freshman year (’59-’60), I was invited to join and accepted. For a week (?) before initiation night, we pledges met in the quad at noon, faced the Tower, probably gave a Roman style salute and shouted, “Hail The Tower!”
On initiation night, we gathered in the upstairs room, learned to sing “Gaudeamus” and “walked the plank.” Although blindfolded (with a sanitary napkin), I was pretty confident that we were not being directed outside, and we weren’t. Finally, still blindfolded, we were led downstairs, packed into cars, driven somewhere that must have seemed totally remote to our San Jose-oriented pledge masters, and let out. The cars then departed and we un-taped our blindfolds.
I’d gone to Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, which at the time drew students from as far as the Los Altos foothills. I looked down and to my right. There were the lights of the Santa Clara Valley and San Jose, and I said, “I know where we are.” It was the road above Stevens Creek Dam, our high school swimming hole (and where a classmate had drowned just before graduation). We started walking down the road, thinking it would be a long hike, but as we came to the park by the dam we noticed a fire going and figures around it. Our pledge masters had burgers and beans ready and we were “in.”
Then what? I remember using my key to the Tower room a few times to study or just talk with whoever happened to be there. But as a commuter student I did not participate much in the organization’s life. Then, during my sophomore year, I met the girl I’d later marry, and understandably lost a bit of academic and organizational focus. I really don’t remember; maybe I just drifted away from the group.
In the end I missed graduating with honors thanks to Library 1A, a one-unit mind-number my freshman counselor had recommended to fill out a 16 unit fall semester. I got a “D” and it came back and got me four years later.
Thanks for your patience reading all this reminiscence.
—Ed. Thanks for writing in, Mark! If you have information about Tau Delta Phi, please send us an email.