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NOVEMBER 4, 1989

Mike Kavanaugh

    Ladies and gentlemen, it is with considerable pleasure that I welcome you to this most unusual event, a reunion of members of the Alpha Tau Omega or Alpha Tau Omicron fraternity who inhabited that well worn edifice you saw last night between 1959 and 1967.   This event is the brainchild of one David Collins, class of ’64, who almost single-handedly pushed the idea, organized it, and sent his company into a third quarter slump as he used a considerable portion of his staff and other resources to collect, collate, and publish this mountain of information on the “bros of the 60’s”.   Truly, an inspiration, and an achievement that could only have been carried out by a complete maniac!!!  But David, our hats are off to you tonight for your persistence, and we’ll get back to you later for a more appropriate recognition of your success in pulling this off.  While I am at this, let me also thank the people who helped with the details, getting the locations, hiring the caterers, etc.   This illustrious group includes Doug Garner, Bob Garner, Don Gray, Duncan Ross, Bill Stark, and Dave Kennedy plus associated spouses and significant others.      Please, a round of applause.

Reunions are a peculiar affliction that hit many people as they approach their midlife transitions, crises, triumphs, or what have you.  I am sure many of you have attended some of these events, 20 or 30 years after the fact.   They can be fun, poignant, surprising, illuminating and sometimes boring.   This one on the surface looks something like reunions you might have been to, cocktail parties, dinners, football games, tours of the campus, the joy of seeing old friends that you may have lost track of, the surprise at what old man time has or has not done, and the exhilaration of remembering those unique years when we all changed from awkward boys to awkward men.  

The difference from other reunions is, I think, the fact we shared in some unexpected events during those years that changed us all.  And as I read the short histories and memories collected by Dave, and published in Version 2.0, I was struck by the recurring themes.  On the one hand, the total zaniness of crazed bros refusing to grow up, and on the other, the confrontation with the ‘establishment’, and our rejections from the national fraternity for following  our convictions, or perhaps more correctly, our instincts.   These were our friends, and their religion or race didn’t matter.  It wasn’t a question we asked.  It was, for some, and I speak personally here, our first encounter with adult hypocrisy: read the immortal words of ATO Grand Worthy Master Gerald K. Johnson, “We don’t exclude Jews if they embrace the Christian faith, - - - we merely restrict our membership to whites-Caucasians-who embrace the Christian faith.”   Words that are almost painfully embarrassing today.  Who can forget that day at Rickey’s when the Grand Worthy Master in all his wisdom looked down on his former “brothers” (I think I may have shared the handshake with him, and the secret word, but then again, since I remember neither of these, that may be a crazed alcoholic vision), and declared us guilty as charged – we let the infidels in the kingdom, and we got our punishment.   Well, as heroes go, we were certainly reluctant ones.  No one wanted to go local:  we were fearful of the impact on our viability as a fraternity, and argued long into the night about the pros and cons of various strategies.   But in the end, we did the right thing – and can be justly proud of it.  And that was followed a year or two later with our first black brother, another first I think in Stanford fraternities, and another statement that we can be proud of.  One of my favorite memories that one of you wrote about was seeing Louie’s expression when he first saw Ira Hall as a new member of ATO.   I wish I had been there to witness that.  

That’s on the positive side of the ledger.  There was more, much more, but I will let you read some of the memories, and judge for yourselves whether you would have wanted to be associated with these wild things.   We were definitely a different group – iconoclast, wild, and constantly pushing the scientific boundary of non-lethal alcoholic consumption, (I hate to think what might have happened if psychedelic drugs or grass had be available then  - many of us might still be wandering the quad in search of finals).  We could be obnoxious, thoughtful, cruel (after all, rush always had its bitter sweet side – I am not real proud of our turkey room, especially because people kept sending me there with my zits, bands and glasses), but always zany and rarely boring, at least to each other.
When you ask people to drink Sanko Poko, you definitely ask them to step into a twilight zone.  Most people only remember the first hour of the hog wallows, but they were still unforgettable.  Incredible that no one bit the dust on the way home.    I have these intense but shadowy memories of Sylvester Grisby, bales of hay, dim lights in bath houses, bathtubs filled with nasty looking stuff, a blur of dancing, loud noises, laughter and then the final trek home in buses or trucks with matrices, incoherent bodies in yoga like trances piled nearly on top of each other, hoping to avoid the likely outcome of excess boozing.   A surreal experience to be sure.   And what can you say about a fraternity that runs a pig as queen during “Greek week”?   I don’t think we took it too seriously, or better still, we laughed at those that did.  And then there’s the collage of  events, places, and people, Sunday night in the TV room, the “Beast” with flattened tires carrying 15 of us to Stanford Stadium, the “sleeping” porch, beer baseball, 15 boards at Sears Lake, Rosotti’s, Guthrie, our cooks, the food, Louie and Eula (weecho Eula quit sneezing in the potatoes ummm), Lim, food fights, water balloons, Bas, blue balls, the meat locker, pledge sneaks, spring sing victories, draino-ads on TV, Harry letters from Italy, the shit-splitter, Hump and Duffy epic (???), the Luaus, and close encounters with the local police, it goes on and on.  (A glossary will be provided in Version 3.0 of ATO Memories).   An amazing number of adventures in three short years.  And judging from the memories sections, it kept on going well into the late 60’s.

And here we are again, I hope rediscovering and even reaffirming some of the reasons why we chose to actually live together for those years.  How many other living decisions have you made in your lives where you interviewed your prospective roommates and vice-versa over several days?   Not many I suspect but maybe it wasn’t a bad model for future choices of that nature.   Which brings me to the present, and one of the real joys in having this event happen.  Let me just say that I loved reading your brief biographies, and your memories – there is a lot of history there, and a lot of the essence of living – successes, failures, surprises, confusions, a veritable odyssey with surprising turns.  Some lives have been linear in direction, at least on the surface, others amazingly labyrinthine.  I would personally enjoy hearing about each of your adventures in greater detail – it continues to be my contention that one life is not enough – and since I don’t expect to be back, I am content on being a complete voyeur, and getting some of my jollies from reading or hearing about your stories.

Of course, to hear all the stories just might be beyond our capacity tonight or any night for that matter.  For example, Jack Urquat could keep us there for hours, judging by his loquaciousness I the “new yearbook”.   Suffice it to say that this group strikes me as having covered a lot of ground thus far in the grand adventure.   And on top of providing wonderful material for the aspiring novelists out there, don’t overlook the amazing network the 60’s bros represent.   For example, if you have any legal problems, there’s at least 17 bros out there who can get you out of or into as much trouble as you can handle.   And if that causes you ulcers, or other health problems, there are at least 14 doctors who can take care of your skin, bones, and most organs a help you overcome most diseases you might encounter.   I regret to say that one specialty apparently not represented is gynecology.  This surprises me – after all it is certainly not due to a lack of interest on the part of the bros in that part of the female anatomy.   I have to ascribe the cause of this fact to Stewart Mintzer, Msr. soisante-neuf, who once had the audacity to present the membership with a curious cream pie complete with a real crust, whipped cream, and human hair – from some part of the body.   Since at that time most of us were all talk and little experience (that excludes you Floppo), this was our first look at the genuine article.  It took me a long time to get over it.  I finally figured years later what the jazz singer meant when he sang “hold tight, hold tight, give me some sea food honey”.

So the list of expertise goes on.  You can have your money managed, your house designed and built, your dirty water cleaned, your children educated, your insurance programs set up, your travel arranged, your drug rehab program established.   You can be married or buried by a minister, and you can have your own personal police protection, all from within this network of 150 guys.  And who knows what some of the others are up to who didn’t respond?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Steve Weisbluth, Mac Chapin, and many others, where are you?

The Bros have been adventuresome too – five joined the Peace Corps, one was a Vista volunteer, more than 25 served in the military, and most of those had a tour in Vietnam, another event that changed so many lives, in so many ways.  And perhaps not surprisingly, there is a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit in this group, with all it attendant risk for tremendous success or mind-boggling failures.  As I understand it, we have some veterans of Microsoft, Apple, and many other organizations yet to be heard of.  The Bros seem to have absorbed lots of languages in their numerous travels as well at least seven by my count (I can understand Dan Bays knowing Chinese, he was rather scholarly, but John Tennant, the sow-banger speaking Japanese?  Too weird for me) – and I am sure there are other surprises out there, not revealed in the short biographies.

And most of you have married, had kids, or are just starting a family, gotten divorces, are getting divorces, or happily entering 20 plus years of marriage – again so many different pathways in the relationship trenches.  Of course, don’t forget what great training you got a s a member of the ATO brotherhood for relationships with women.   Three years of sleeping porches, meat lockers, blue movies, obnoxious drunken behavior which you never remembered so naturally it was okay, food fights, and so on – just the right training to enter into marriage – “Honey, where is the meat locker, I mean the bathroom?  Boy, this food really looks good – you don’t mind if I throw it at you, do you?  It is a sign of affection.   Excuse me dear, you don’t mind if I BA that person who just cut in front of me do you?”    Well you can think of it as a three year delay in your psychological development.  It only cost me a few thousand in fees to various self proclaimed specialists – a small price to pay for years of great memories.

All in all, this is a rather extraordinary group of people, and I am really happy we have had the opportunity to rekindle old friendships, and to establish some new ones.  I want to take this opportunity to let a few of our bros give us some brief recollections of then and now – and following them, anyone who is interested is welcome to provide us with an anecdote of yesterday or today – Our first flash from the past is Ricky Turner.