Chapter History Report
Filed by William J. Walthour on May 24, 1962
On September 13, 1961, 41 brothers and 3 super-pledges returned to the Tech campus for the traditional work week. This year we put a great deal of effort into cleaning our housemother's room. For the first time in the history of Beta Sigma we were to have a housemother, Mom Waechter. We went through a period of adjustment to having a housemother, but all our problems were met and solved, and at the present Mom serves as a helpful and needed person, truly an asset to the house.
The house underwent a period of difficulty as the strain of a series of failures was felt by the brotherhood. The first of these failures occurred with Fall Rush. After conducting what we felt was a successful rush program, pledge night brought us a grand total of one pledge. All was not in despair that evening, however, as it was also our Fortieth Anniversary Banquet.
We later managed to pledge 7 more men, only 2 of whom were initiated on May 6, 1962; they are Joe Sandulli and Jack Elsey. Though our pledges were few in number, we were very pleased wit their ability, enthusiasm, and interest.
Just before Christmas it became necessary to hire a new cook and a new houseboy. For a period of three months we had a series of problems as we attempted to find reliable kitchen help. This difficulty with the kitchen added to the general lowering of morale which had already begun after the unsuccessful rush.
We analyzed our problems, problems which the other houses on campus appeared to have also, and began to design a new fraternity. Based on individual responsibility, the program met with mixed reactions. A series of speakers and discussions in our cultural advancement program met with much success, but completely voluntary work sessions proved to be too idealistic.
Several brothers became quite discouraged with the problems that were facing us and feelings of apathy and discontent developed. During this period there was some ill feeling between brothers as the effects of our problems remained serious.
Toward the end of the year a few brothers decided to leave the active chapter, as they had become disheartened. This left a stronger, more closely knit house, still with varied opinions as to the cause of our troubles, but agreed that strong, united action is necessary to eliminate them. With the encouragement of Larry Canjar, past faculty advisor and present Associate Dean, Dick Durstine, our Alumnus Counselor, and Hugh Young, our faculty advisor, we are now gaining a spirit, a unity with which we hope to overcome our remaining problems: low membership and unstable finances.
The school has granted initial rush for fraternities next fall, and the spirit in our house is one which should enable us to engage in a successful all-out rush. We look forward to the fall, when we will return with 23 brothers and 3 pledges, to build up our chapter, employing the spirit and unity which now grows stronger as each day passes.
During the first half of the fall semester the chapter officers were:
During the end of the first semester and the beginning of the second, officers were:
The present officers are:
PiKA entered teams in football, soccer, basketball, rifle, swimming, softball, track, and water polo this year. The rifle team easily swept into the winning position. The swimming team took third place with Dave Williams again breaking his own intramural record in the 150 yard freestyle race. In soccer we entered two teams and ended up in fourth place, losing only to the two teams composed of European grad students. Our track team also took a forth position with everyone on the team contributing points.
The social life at Beta Sigma was excellent again this year under the direction of Social Chairmen Ken Hanover, Jim Graves and Walt Page. Our normal Saturday night parties in the fall were spiced up with a Camelot party, a party with the Navy Cadets here for the Pitt-Navy football game, and a Halloween square dance at South Park.
The Homecoming general theme for this year was "Inventions" and our display, though not entered in competition, brought a great deal of favorable comment with its theme, "BEER - cooler than average invention". We had a seven piece combo in for a campus wide party after the Homecoming game.
Finally we ended the first semester with our annual Christmas Party which gets better every year; this year we packed 160 people into the house.
The spring semester parties were just as good or better than those of the fall: mixers, a Mardi Gras party, a Hawaiian Luau, and Greek Sing where our director, Joe Drake, led us to fourth place with his own arrangement of Old Folks at Home and his brother's arrangement of Let My People Go.
Dream Girl Formal, held at the Adams House, proved to be a very glamorous occasion. Pattie Michael (XO) was elected our Dream Girl with Linda Coffeen (XO) and Marney Gilboy (KAT) serving as her court.
The height of the social season at Tech is always Spring Carnival and again PiKA was out in force, entering booth competition, buggy races with two buggies, plank jousting, and UMOC (Ugliest Man On Campus). In booth we were not attempting to place in the competition (and did not) but our three floor maze which duplicated the "San Francisco '49 Gold Rush" brought us a profit of $70 which was contributed to the American Cancer Society. The Shark, our number one buggy, again took second to ATO in a hrad fought race with one of the best times we have ever had - 2:29.8. Kummel (Bruce Thaeler), our entry in UMOC, took third place and received a kiss from Carnival Queen Heddy Bates. Our plank jousting team survived only the first round, losing to the eventual second place winners.
We closed out the year with a combined dinner-party with Tau Delta Phi.
PiKA placed fourth among fraternities on the Tech campus this year equaling the all-men's average at 2.294. With this semester we are hoping to improve our house factor even further.
Two alumni activities of the past year are worthy of note. Alumni Secretary Tom Pyke, with the help of Doug Saunders, prepared over the summer a very complete Alumni Directory which was sent out at the beginning of this year.
On December second we celebrated Beta Sigma's Fortieth anniversary with an Alumni Banquet which thirteen alums attended, and heard several words from two of our chapters founders.
A Christmas Party was held for a group of 23 underprivileged children. Nick Amdurplayed Santa Claus and all the brothers and children had a very good time.
A trip to a local steel mill was organized and attended by many of our brothers.
Five of our brothers went to Erie, Pennsylvania, between semesters to set up Pi Kappa Alpha Colony at Gannon College with our brothers with Pitt and Case Institute.
Again this year Beta Sigma went through dark days, but now the outlook appears bright. Though at the beginning of next year our numbers will be small and our financial situation tight, we will have a sense of spirit and unity which will enable us to strengthen the bonds within our chapter and engage in a successful fall program.
William J. Walthour
May 24, 1962
Acquisition of the Fire Engine
Details from a letter from Alan Walmer dated May 1, 2003... Brother Alan Walmer was one of a small cabal of brothers who, when we learned that other PiKA houses were acquiring old fire engines, began conniving, conspiring, lobbying and agitating for Beta Sigma to acquire one. Brother Walmer drove the Fire Engine1 "home" from the New Kensington Fire Department where we had acquired it. He was first to be responsible for the operation and maintenance of our Fire Engine (No. 6016). The Beta Sigma Fire Engine was originally registered in Pennsylvania in Brother Walmer's name with Antique Vehicle plate number 5454.
Brother Walmer trained both Brother Barry Shane and Brother Bruce Thaeler (Kummel)to drive. Barry Shane more than anyone deserves credit and recognition for the acquisition of the fire engine. He was an energetic, enthusiastic hard worker for it, and on it after we got it. Brother Shane is credited with being the first "Fire Chief" although the term had not been used in those days.
It took some physical strength and body weight to drive and that was first left to Brother Walmer who then selected Brother Thaeler as an alternate driver and future Fire Chief. Brother Thaeler was a known "gearhead"; He was physically strong; He drove a Triumph motorcycle; And, was an obvious selection for the position.
The Fire Engine purchase was not an overwhelming choice of the brotherhood at the time. A sizable minority of the brothers opposed the acquisition. There were various objections among them - the expense; the potential liability; and Carnegie Institute of Technology's opposition. A majority of the brothers did vote to go ahead with the purchase provided that it did not exceed $350. The school at that time forbid us from operating the Fire Engine on their property. They could not prevent the purchase nor prevent us from using the Fire Engine on the public roadways. The City of Pittsburgh including the fire department, the police and the mayor were supportive of it.
In the early Spring of 1961 Brother Ed Devecka, who was from New Kensington, and Chuck Chriss were in Natrona Heights where brother Chriss' father had an auto parts business. They asked their fathers for any connections to fire departments. They became aware of a fire engine at the New Kensington fire department that was tied up in red tape over the procedures to dispose of it. They met with the Chief who was astonished that a bunch of college kids wanted it. An effort was made to make it seem that in the tradition of other PiKA houses, this would make an appealing new home for their beloved old engine.
There were subsequent meetings and the parents helped to persuade the fire chief. There then was some delay because they couldn't just give the engine to us and someone thought they might have to auction it off or have some other kind of complex sales process.
Ed Devecka had alerted the brothers that his home town was replacing two of their engines and would be offering the old engines up for sealed bids. Time was of the essence - we went to look - both were in near perfect condition, fully equipped, running and in service. The long ladder engine (No. 6017 eventually purchased by Penn State) was not what we had in mind, but the pumper was - perfect. In an emergency brother's meeting a majority voted for the expenditure - up to $350. Brother Walmer feared that it would not be enough. The brother from New Kensington telephoned his dad, who telephoned the mayor. Shortly after, we received notification that our bid had been accepted.
When the brothers arrived to take possession of the engine they were shocked, disappointed, discouraged and outraged that the engine had been stripped of everything that was loose and some things that were bolted on. We refused to turn over the purchase check. The brother from New Kensington again called his dad, who called the mayor, who then called the fire house. The bolter stuff was returned to the engine and reattached but they did not return any of the loose items. We did not get the hoses, nozzles, ladder, chemical extinguishers, axes, lanterns, and tools. That was very unfortunate. A sympathetic fireman driver gave Brother Walmer a quick driving lesson and the check was turned over. The brothers then went to a local used car dealer to complete the title transfer and to obtain a temporary tag.
The Beta Sigma Fire Engine made its way back to the house (see photo from the road) followed by a convoy of brother's cars. About 6-8 brothers went out to New Kensington on that day. They brought everybody's tools that they thought might be needed for the trip. Al Walmer drove the truck as he was the only brother claiming any experience with older and larger vehicles, although everyone drove stick shift in those days. With two on the truck itself and the rest in the cars, they went very slowly across the bridge to old Route 28 and then crept downriver through all the small towns to Pittsburgh.
Brother Chriss recalls... "No real problems on the trip, but lots of stares and horn honking. We got to the house in record long time but it was well worth it for the greeting from all hands including all girl friends and many spectators and fans. There was a big party in celebration and the rest is history!"
There was the problem of where to store the fire engine. We couldn't just park it on Morewood Place. We had heard that the Pepsi Cola distributor had a big garage in East Liberty for their trucks. The brothers went over there and talked to the manager about giving or renting us space for the fire engine. At first they thought it was a prank and quite a bit of discussion followed regarding insurance issues. We promised favorable publicity and any other excuse that could be thought of. Finally they agreed. It is unknown how long this storage location was used. Eventually the fire engine would be moved to our own garage up the hill from the house.
Results: 2nd Place
Course Record: ATO 2:25.0 (established in 1956, 6 years ago)
A-Team Buggy: Shark
American LaFrance always referred to their fire engines as - engines, cars, or apparatus - only. The long tractor-trailer ladder and aerial tower vehicles were referred to as "trucks". While eventually many Pike brothers began to refer to our "Fire Truck", in the proper old time terminology it is a "Fire Engine".
Roll No. 634
Mr. Walter S. Page (Walt)
Initiated: October 15, 1961
Positions/Offices: Co-Social Chairman
Big Brother: James Frazier
Little Brothers: Andy Ponzini, Dennis Taylor, ??
Roll No. 635
Mr. Adrian R. Seguiti (Ace)
Initiated: October 15, 1961
Positions/Offices: House Manager
Big Brother: Bob Meyn
Little Brother: Brian Joos
Roll No. 636
Mr. John E. Elsey (Jack)
Initiated: May 6, 1962
Little Brother: Charlie Kaufmann
Legacy (Brother): William Elsey
Roll No. 637
Mr. Joseph G. Sandulli (Joe)
Initiated: May 6, 1962
Positions/Offices: SC, Rush Chairman
Honoraries: Delta Skull, Omicron Delta Skull
Chairman Student Congress, Chairman of Orientation Week Committee