Author: Ted Lange

THE FOUNDING YEARS OF THETA CHAPTER

The TCU Board of Trustees approved the introduction of Greek life for the spring semester of 1955. Eight fraternities and eight sororities were selected. Sproessor W. Wynn, a prominent attorney, and Amon Carter, Jr., publisher of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, served on the TCU Board of Trustees. Both men were members of Tau Chapter at the University of Texas. They were instrumental in convincing the Board of Trustees to approve Greek fraternities and sororities and for Kappa Sigma to be the first Greek fraternity selected.

Sproessor Wynn selected members from the Fort Worth Kappa Sigma Alumni Chapter to form the “Theta Club.” Ernest Chilton, Burford King, Joe Hogsett, Jack Llewellyn, Tom Seymour, Fred Thompson, Joe Tilley, and Duer Wagner were alumni of the University of Texas Tau Chapter. Paul Leonard Jr. was an alumnus of the SMU Delta Pi Chapter. The new Theta Club committee reviewed rush registrations and invited the first pledge class to join the Theta Club in January 1955.

Sproessor Wynn served on several national Kappa Sigma committees and was aware the Theta Chapter name was available. An application was quickly submitted to the national Kappa Sigma Fraternity. The Theta Club received immediate approval and the Theta Chapter charter was granted on February 19, 1955, to become the 152nd Kappa Sigma Chapter and the 7th chapter in Texas.

The Centennial History of Kappa Sigma 1869 to 1969 reported:

“When the Theta Club was chartered, it requested and received the name
Theta Chapter since the original chapter to bear that name was inactive.”

The original Theta Chapter was the 31st Kappa Sigma Chapter established at Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, on October 7, 1887. It became inactive in 1917. The oldest chapters had single Greek names and were generally regarded as the more important chapters. Mr. Wynn was pleased to have obtained the single Theta name and for the chapter to be immediately associated with the oldest chapters.

As a result of his vision of Greek life for the TCU campus, the university’s approval for a Kappa Sigma Chapter, the formation of the Theta Club, the selection of the first pledge class, and the national fraternity’s approval of a Theta Chapter for TCU, Sproessor Wynn was regarded as the “father of Theta Chapter” by fellow TCU Board members, the Fort Worth Kappa Sigma alumni, and the chapter members. Mr. Wynn continued to offer advice to chapter officers and members at meetings and initiations.

THE FOUNDING YEARS OF THETA CHAPTER

Ronald Flowers of the Gamma Psi Chapter at Oklahoma State University and Patrick Hyde from the Gamma Kappa Chapter at Oklahoma University had transferred to TCU. The Theta Club officers appointed both men to conduct the first initiation assisted by Sproessor Wynn and several members of the alumni committee. Flowers became Theta Chapter’s first Grand Master and Hyde became the first Grand Scribe.

Ron Flowers received a B. A. in religion at TCU, a Masters from the Vanderbilt School of Theology, and a PhD in philosophy at University of Iowa. He became a tenured faculty member and headed the TCU Department of Religion for 37 years, named a Danforth Foundation Associate, and wrote several books on the church, state, and Supreme Court. Pat Hyde graduated from the Brite Divinity School and became an ordained minister serving in Disciples of Christ Churches. He died around 1990.

THE FIRST INITIATION

The first pledge class received instruction on the history, organization, and operation of Kappa Sigma and was initiated on February 19, 1955, the same day the Theta Chapter charter was approved and two weeks after they accepted an invitation to join. The initiation was in order of their GPA. Amon Carter, Jr., publisher of the Fort Worth Star Telegram and many Fort Worth leaders were alumni of Tau Chapter at U.T. resulting in Fort Worth being considered a Kappa Sigma city. Eleven of the thirteen students initiated were from Fort Worth.

  1. Robert Earle Robertson, PhD.            Philosophy professor and Faculty Adviso
  2. Hamilton Paul Rogers.                       President of the Texas Pacific Coal & Oil Company and friend of the alumni committee members.
  3. Alfred Frederick Paschal All American baseball shortstop, Detroit Lions shortstop and in the Detroit organization
  4. Charles Lucius Renshaw, M.D.          Fort Worth Orthopedic surgeon and rancher
  5. Jack Winfred Bronson, D.D.S.            Fort Worth Dentist
  6. Bennett Lawson Smith         Dallas real estate investor and auto racer
  7. John W. Grimes             President General Dynamics – Europe
  8. James C. Armstrong             Midland oil and Austin banker and arts philanthropist
  9. Lloyd Ronald Laughbaum             Geologist in Houston
  10. Lawrence Hill Meeker             President – Meeker Oil Company in Fort Worth
  11. David Ray Finney             Fort Worth Attorney – TCU quarterback
  12. Richard Greines Finney             Fort Worth Attorney – TCU halfback
  13. Donald Louis Anderson              Died in car wreck an hour after initiation
  14. David Floyd Tudor              Austin botanist and lecturer
  15. L. E. “Sonny” Burt                                 Dallas interior design executive – did not sign the Grand Scribe book (neighbor of President George W. Bush)

Following the initiation members returned to their dorms or homes to prepare for the alumni welcoming party at Sproessor Wynn’s home on Park Place.  While driving to Cleburne to get a coat and tie for the dinner, Don Anderson failed to make a turn and was killed. It was a horrible ending to a great day. Chapter members attended the funeral.  Automobiles in Cleburne had KS-NO in adhesive tape and white wash on their windows. It was years before students from Cleburne would attend a Kappa Sigma rush party or reception.

 

Of the original initiates, only two are not deceased.

CHAPTER PROCEEDINGS IN THE EARLY YEARS

February 20, 1955. The first order of business after initiation was to prepare for the spring open rush the next weekend. The newly initiated members held receptions in the student center. Nine men were pledged. Pat Hyde became pledge trainer with written tests on the Pledge Manual information including the traditional Kappa Sigma Beebe Song. The first pledge class was initiated on May 14, 1955.

A week later, Amon Carter, Jr., hosted a western barbeque for the Fort Worth Kappa Sigma alumni and Theta Chapter members at his famous Shady Oaks Farm near Lake Worth. Members met many Fort Worth leaders. Few members had ever seen such a nice setting.

In the first two years, chapter meetings were held on Monday evenings in a classroom in the Administration Building. Members lived at home or scattered in different dormitories and found some place to go after the meeting. The rest of the week they met for donuts and coffee in the TCU Drugstore across the street and the Student Center grill to plan weekends and get dates.

SCHOLARSHIP AND INTRAMURALS

The alumni had made scholarship a primary consideration in selecting the first initiates. It paid off. Theta Chapter won the Scholarship Trophy for the highest grade point average in its first three years. Several members had perfect 3.0 GPA’s (on a 3.0 system) and or made the highest GPA in their major departments. The TCU Scholarship Trophy was impressive and proudly displayed in the chapter room and at rush parties.

Theta also won the football intramural trophy for the first several years. All American Al Paschal threw fifty yard bombs to Tom Crum. The line was as big as TCU’s. No one remembers losing a game. After Al graduated the Kappa Sigs were always the team to beat. The trophies were displayed at all rush parties.

PLANNED FUNCTIONS

In the spring of 1956, the Stardust formal dinner-dance was held at Colonial Country Club. Attire was white dinner jackets. Theta’s Stardust Queen was presented with a dozen roses. Several alumni brought their wives to the dinner.

In the fall of 1956, TCU announced a parade for Home Coming weekend. Greek chapters were to enter floats in the parade on Main Street downtown. The theme was children’s books. The talented Mike Monroe designed “Little Toot” from a popular children’s book. It was built on a wooden frame over a pickup truck covered with chicken wire with colored crepe paper similar to
the Rose Bowl floats. The smiling tug boat blew its horn and smoke as it passed the judges stand. It easily won the best all round trophy. “Little Toot” was featured in the Star-Telegram.

In the spring of 1957, the Stardust spring formal was held at the Boat Club. Attire was white dinner jackets. The Stardust Queen was honored. The dinner and dancing resulted in a great evening.

At Easter that same year, Theta members hosted an Easter egg hunt for the All Church Home kindergarten orphans in the picnic area at Colonial Country Club with cupcakes and punch. The orphans were transported in buses. A sorority was invited to assist. The annual hunt continued for years until it was cancelled because of liability and insurance requirements. The chapter received the Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s Help Week Award at the national convention for the Easter egg hunt.

The 1957 the parade theme was novels. So, Mike Monroe designed “Moby Dick,” a white whale built over a pickup truck with an attached trailer. It spouted water, opened and closed its mouth, and moved its tail to and fro as it weaved down the street. Again, Theta won the best all round trophy.

The Moby Dick float was near the front of the parade. A couple of members loaded cow patties and horse apples in the pickup. When safely past the judges, they dumped them out. The rest of the parade marched or drove through it. Theta members denied it came from the whale. Those in the cab had a few beers and when returning to the campus broke ranks and the float hit a car on Camp Bowie. The driver of the car declined a beer. It was minor and was no problem.

The first Bowery Brawl was held at the Ernest Allen Party Barn near the River Bend area today. Members and dates dressed in bowery clothes from the Salvation Army resale store. A tub of “purple passion” consisting of colored everclear grain alcohol was available. The next year it was held in the original Casa Manana stage building. The “purple passion” led to extensive damage and many forgettable memories. Two members in bowery clothes driving a Cadillac limo with a shotgun under the seat were stopped by police for questioning. The clothing was finally explained with no arrest. Even with the damage it had been a good one.

The annual Toilet Bowl football game between the pledges and actives was a fall highlight. At half time the members presented their Miss Toilet Bowl queen with a plumber’s plunger and roses. The pledges presented their Miss Sani-Flush queen with a can of toilet bowl cleaner and roses. Members usually bought off the referees to win the game but footed the beer afterward at the Oui Lounge.

GREAT MEMORIES

TCU displayed a large decorated Christmas tree in the student center. Two members with much Christmas spirit hung two cow eyeballs left over from the pledge scavenger hunt on the tree along with a garland strung with sheep droppings. It was great addition. The student center manager never found the Christmas tree decorators.

The Skyliner Supper Club, that became The Rocket, and now a dilapidated building on the Jacksboro Highway featured dancers from the famous Jack Ruby’s Club in Dallas.

“Candy Bar was a blond baby faced exotic dancer known for her
gallon hat, cowboy boots, pasties, and scanty panties. Waving
her cap-gun six shooters, she put on a show patrons did not forget,”
Texas Monthly Editor Gary Cartwright.

The doorman took an extra five dollars to slip into the club. Several members asked to meet Candy after the show in her dressing room. She agreed and was presented with a gold Kappa Sigma drop on a chain. In return she gave all present a lipstick kiss. It was a great night and became a topic of conversation as the story got around the campus. It was even better a few months later when the gun-totin’ Candy shot her husband in the groin and went to prison.

In the spring of 1957, TCU introduced an annual “Songfest” for Greek chapters to compete in singing two songs of their choice that were patriotic, country, or show tunes. The performers sang before a panel of judges. The Kappa Sigs sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic first. Member David Hickey was incredibly creative and wrote the second song to honor the Chapter’s new sweetheart. “The Ballad of Candy Bar” was entered as a show tune. The judges immediately disqualified the Kappa Sigs because the song was not acceptable. The audience, however, whistled, cheered and gave a standing ovation. Members marched and waved in single file off the stage and out the side door as the ovation continued, then headed to the Oui Lounge to celebrate the disqualification. The next week, the Daily Skiff reported that the Kappa Sigmas did not get the first place trophy for their performance, but all the others tied for last.

The next year Hickey, the genius, wrote another song that was entered as a show tune; however, that performance, too, resulted in a quick disqualification. Like the previous year, the members marched out singing the refrain while waving to a standing ovation and went on to the Oui.

The following year was Hickey’s last. “Wartime Anxiety Blues” described a soldier’s plight in war. Some of the verses contained unacceptable humor and the Kappa Sigs were disqualified for the third time in a row. The chapter never entered Songfest again.

In the fall of 1957, TCU completed new dormitories for Greek housing. Kappa Sigma was located on the west end of the third floor of Milton Daniel. The chapter room was in the front corner, with rooms for members down the wing. There was a ritual closet which made formal meeting much easier. Having a place to hang out created a closer association between members. It also led to more creative thinking.

Here is an example of the aforementioned creative thinking:

Each year the ROTC held their annual federal inspection by the Fourth Army brass on the intramural field behind Milton Daniel. The night before the review, several members raked a hundred pounds of dry dog food into the grass in the middle of the field. By 10:00 am, when the ROTC members assembled, there were a couple of dozen neighborhood dogs digging in the grass. Military cadre attempted to drive them away with brooms, but the dogs just circled and returned. Several TCU band members provided a military marching band for the review. But a large speaker had also been placed in a third floor window. The ROTC companies had to march in and around the dogs while the stereo blasted John Phillips Souza marching music. As the review ended, a couple of the ROTC staff instructors raced to the dorm to apprehend the perpetrator but the member with the stereo had packed up and was long gone. The responsible member had surprised us all as he had just won the Gardner Symonds National Kappa Sigma Scholarship Award. He was the studious type. No one ever confessed. There were hard feelings by the ROTC instructors for some time. The entire campus laughed for a week.

The chapter remained in Milton Daniel until the university purchased the Worth Hills Golf Course and built new dorms for the fraternities and sororities. Sproess Wynn was still a member of the Board and was proud of working with a Sigma Chi Board member to secure the location facing Bellaire so that the Kappa Sigma and Sigma Chi name plates would easily be seen. The new location resulted in more independence, but came with new rules for Greek chapters.

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