To Lodi & Clements for Alpha Sig
September 17 – 22, 2009
Updated Oct. 20, 2009
About 85 photos of 2009 trip stops listed in above chart mainly taken by Betty Nolan are posted at www.ritzpix.com in five separate albums under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email email@example.com for instructions on how to access.
The 25 photos taken by Betty Nolan at the Sig Bust reunion of the Gamma Nu Chapter at Sacramento State’s Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity at a ranch in the California foothills are in an album labeled “2009 – Sig Bust.”
Buzz Nolan’s earlier account - including comments from many Brothers about the 2005 Sig Bust reunion picnic April 2, 2005 at the Joe and Ann Mehrton ranch at Clements, CA and also about the fancy dinner the previous night at a nearby winery - are posted at update3030/siggyraider.html. That posting includes many photos of the Alpha Sig Brothers plus “Statements” summing up their current activities and memories of the fraternity. A companion photo gallery is posted at update3030/sigpix.html.
Regrettably, more than 400 photos taken by Truman Holtzclaw, Buzz Nolan and Jack Schafer at the 2005 Sig Bust Reunion attended by nearly 100 Brothers and guests were originally posted in a Yahoo website that later disappeared when Yahoo withdrew from that business. However, Truman sent out much-applauded CDs containing 356 event photos to Alpha Sigs who had contributed $5 each to help cover his costs. His telephone is 805-647-2977.
Also, Tommy Morris produced and sent out DVDs
to nearly 50 brothers containing photos taken at the 2005 events and other
places, including commentary plus pictures scanned in from four
By LEWIS NOLAN
Betty and I drove
our rented Hyundai car from
The Lodi area
doesn’t get anywhere near the favorable publicity that the Napa area to the
north receives, but is just as an important a region for growing grapes and
distilling good wine as Napa. Tourism information says more than 200 wines are
made in and near
Our large room at
It turned out that this
weekend happened to fall on
The brothers – many accompanied by wives – gathered the next day at former chapter President Joe Mehrton and wife Ann’s big farm at the nearby community of Clements, set in the rolling hills outside Lodi where the grass is seasonally straw-brown and dotted with oak trees. I had last seen many of the Alpha Sigs at a similar gathering four years ago. A few had passed on. But for me, and I’m sure other fraternity Brothers, it was great seeing so many guys who were no longer the very trim and hard-muscled athletes in what was known as the “jock house.” We were given that somewhat pejorative name because of the many members who participated in the college football, basketball, baseball, track and swimming teams. (I was one of the few swimmers in the rowdy fraternity, which was kicked off campus several years later following a food fight in the college cafeteria.)
On this Friday evening, Betty and I followed the advice of a motel clerk and drove into downtown and the Lodi Beer Co. for dinner. It is located on the main drag, which has been attractively redeveloped with broad, brick sidewalks and sculptures of grape vines made of cast iron. My big salad of greens and grilled chicken was OK, but Betty wasn’t too fond of her undercooked breast of chicken dish; she sent it back to be heated some more. I thought a lager beer brewed on the premises as well as a glass of local Talus chardonnay were pretty good.
A classy tourism
brochure published by Lodi Wine Country (telephone 209-365-0621) includes a map
that spots 37 locations for wine tastings, with some facilities having as many
as six wineries represented on their premises. There are several vintners in
the area, including
With no comment about my own sagging body and gray hair, I must say it was a little strange to see so many guys the next morning looking to be something other than the athletes I had known and partied with in their physical primes long ago. We are all in our 60s and beyond now when many of us no longer have full heads of healthy hair. And it was obvious that like me, most of my college fraternity brothers are now far more health-conscious than they were during our fun-loving days and nights together. Few are drinking much more than a polite beer or two or maybe a glass of wine these days – a major departure from when copious quantities of alcohol and junk food were part of our daily lives 40 or more years ago.
Toni Bramon, wife of Gary Bramon and one of the primary organizers of the Alpha Sig gathering, had emailed me a precise map showing the driving directions to the Mehrton farm. Following an excellent breakfast at the Hampton – scrambled eggs, a little sausage and fruit for me – Betty and I drove by a couple of auto dealerships in Lodi which had been closed because of the economic downturn. A local newspaper reported the unemployment rate had reached a 70-year high, 12 percent.
We drove near the turnoff for the Vino Piazio complex featuring a beautiful, European-style villa where a half-dozen or so growers use cooperative facilities to process, bottle and sell their fine wines. My fraternity had a wonderful dinner there four years ago. Clements and the “Mehr-ton Rancho” were about 20 miles away through a series of mostly young vineyards and the beginning of California’s rolling foothills.
We arrived shortly after 11 a.m. and were pleased to see most of the expected guests were already there – and had driven in style. Several had opted to stay at the Mehrton’s “Grand Oak Inn,” a B&B the long-married couple manages on their property at 21941 E Buena Vista Rd, telephone 866-759-3713. The usual charge are rates at $110-175 for use of modern facilities that include a nice swimming pool. A gorgeous Rolls Royce, built in 1981 and later purchased in Beverly Hills, CA and restored by Brother Bill Kasler, was parked outside the B&B. He said he has eight restored classic cars); his Rolls was a beauty, as was wife Annette.
Thanks to the very good organizational and planning work by the charming and tireless Toni Bramon of Novota, CA, wife of “Old Gal” stalwart Gary Bramon who is a financial planner with a national clientele, following is her list of expected attendees of Sig Bust by name. (There were several additional names on the exhaustive list, but either I didn’t spot them or don’t know them by name so apologies to any whose names are missing and also to any spouses who are mentioned but who missed the event):
Joe Mehrton, with help from wife Ann and others, barbequed Beef Tri-Tip, a cut of marinated steak. A self-serve variety of side dishes were offered on a table including broccoli salad, pasta salad, grilled red peppers, baked beans, Cole slaw, fresh bread, tortilla chips and a dessert of peaches grown in the Mehrton’s orchard and served with ice cream. Several bottles of local wine plus beer, water and soft drinks were available. I noticed that many of the onetime big drinkers back in our college days elected to limit their liquid intake to chilled water poured from a pitcher.
Catching up with my
old fraternity brothers – some of whom I last saw at the Sig Bust of 2005 but
some I hadn’t seen in over 40 years – was an immense pleasure from me, and I’m
sure others. I also enjoyed showing off my wonderful wife of 41 years, Betty,
and meeting the women in the lives of my longtime fraternity brothers. In a few
cases, the brothers were still married to the fraternity’s Little Sisters or
other women they were dating during our years together. Nearly all the couples
I was pleased to
spend a little time with Sam Miller of
Also fun to talk to
was my roommate for a brief time in the old, off-campus Alpha Sig fraternity
Quezada drove a
white, Ford El Camino with a mattress in the back, back then in season. But at
the Sig Bust this year, I was surprised to see that the always charming, fit
and gregarious Ruly was without female company. He has had a successful career in golf course management and once
had PGA great Loren Roberts now of
I also enjoyed
visiting with Jack Jenkins, among others. Jack’s once red hair is now snow
white. But he’s as likeable and expressive as ever, always quick to shake hands
and hug Brothers he hasn’t seen in a good while and though at a distance, is up-to-date
on the inevitable ups-and-downs we all go through. I met his new wife, Rosalie,
whom Jack had recently married after 13 years as a single man following a painful
divorce. The onetime baseball player at
Jack was one of several
onetime fraternity leaders who spoke to attendees gathered in lawn chairs on
the Mehrton backyard lawn following the meal. Others
included Master of Ceremonies Joe Mehrton, who
cracked a few lame jokes lifted from the Internet; Gary Bramon; and Dick Zarzana. Dick majored in Law Enforcement at
Dick related as how he and Joe Mehrton were in the U.S. Coast Guard long ago and Joe was selected to be Master of Arms for their basic training group of new enlistees. Dick was rewarded by friend Joe by being put in charge of making sure that the bunks in the barracks were perfectly aligned.
Another good conversation I hugely enjoyed was with Steve Foy, who has the same quick-thinking mind that made him one of the fraternity’s intellectuals back in our college days. Now with gold teeth in front and without any hair on his head, Steve introduced me to his wife of 44 years, Marie.
Later, after reviewing old Sig Bust photos I had posted on the Internet (at www.ritzpix.com, under my email name, firstname.lastname@example.org) and other material, Steve was kind to write me that, “I strolled slowly, very slowly, down memory lane.
“I stopped frequently to deeply smell the roses and try to fill in the blanks – I guess I did not fully participate in fraternity life (a reaction to my attempt at humor by asserting that “anybody who remembered everything we did in our liquor-filled activities did not fully participate.”) I found myself experiencing the full spectrum of my emotions, from full laughter to tears running down my cheeks as I read your poignant comments/tribute to Peter – what a great guy.” (Peter was our fraternity brother who joined the Marines and was killed in Vietnam in 1968. The referenced “tribute” is posted toward the bottom at update3030/siggyraider.html.)
That evening, Betty
and I enjoyed a good dinner at the Applebee’s Restaurant in