Pages from the Past


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Buzz Nolan’s Alpha Sigma Phi Pledge Manual somehow survived more than a dozen relocations across the country and back over the four decades that separated his 1962 initiation into Gamma Nu chapter at Sacramento State
Interior page from Buzz Nolan's manual
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
College and his ultimate move into his present home in Memphis, Tenn. Possibly due to Buzz’s nascent reportorial abilities - but more likely due to the demanding oversight of then-Pledge Trainer Al Mason - handwritten notes in the back of Buzz’s Pledge Manual preserve some of the early chapter history and list the officers from 1961-63.


The manual also points to a time warp of sorts because of its content that was in keeping with the times and of the period.


Buzz recalls that the Alpha Sig he knew was a “common man’s fraternity.” He doesn’t remember any of the members coming from families of great wealth or social prominence. Indeed, several were the first of their families to attend college. Many of the brothers attended Sac State on full or partial athletic scholarships. Others worked part-time jobs on campus or picked up whatever work they could around town.  Buzz taught swimming lessons, coached an AAU swim team and worked as a lifeguard during the warm months; he washed tennis courts in the pre-dawn hours at other times.


None of the brothers drove fancy cars. Some had no cars at all. Double dating was the norm.


The Pledge Manual included a chapter on Social Graces, making the point that “Good taste is the mark of gentility and of quality and character; and good manners are a sign of good taste. Alpha Sigma Phi may justly expect, as a Society which stands for culture and well-rounded manhood, that its members learn to adapt themselves as well as possible to any given situation.” High-sounding words, indeed. Buzz recalls some really, really strange situations within the frat house that required a lot of adaptive behavior that will not be detailed on these public pages.


One of the longest chapters in the Pledge Manual dealt with Table Manners. “Your napkin (the one on your left) is for one purpose only: to assist in making your meal more pleasant by catching an accidental bit of food dropped from your fork and for wiping your lips. It should be unfolded, until there is but one fold remaining, and placed on your lap; it is never proper to tuck it in your belt or coat. Leave the napkin on your lap until you have finished the complete meal, then place it to the left of your plate – loosely, not neatly folded in its original shape or crumpled in a disorderly mass. . .”


Brothers who came into the chapter several years later evidently didn’t take the above advice to heart, according to the report of the infamous, cafeteria food fight that resulted in Gamma Nu decamping campus.


The brothers of Gamma Nu – at least when Buzz was active – generally followed the Pledge Manual’s instructions on Dress and Appearance. “Be careful of your personal hygiene: dirty teeth or finger nails, an unshaven face, unkempt hair and general slouchiness are inexcusable on the part of college and fraternity men.” Indeed, we Alpha Sigs were a clean-shaven bunch and most of us wore our hair closely cropped. Sac State at the time was an oasis of tranquility compared to the growing “free-speech” and hippie movement at UC-Berkeley. In a way, we were the children of Ozzie and Harriet.


According to his black, leather-bound Pledge Manual, Lewis Earle “Buzz” Nolan was formally pledged to Gamma Nu Chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on March 26, 1962. The pledge period was thankfully short at the time since he was initiated into the chapter (with a Roster Number of 73) on May 27, 1962. Later, Buzz served as the chapter’s H.A.E. and also as H.M and once did his duty as “the guy in the box” before transferring from Sac State to the University of Mississippi.


The officers were listed under the fraternity’s abbreviations for the ritual, secret names of the office, translated below into terms OK for public usage.

As listed in Buzz’s Pledge Manual, the following Brothers were serving as Officers of the Chapter on March 26, 1962:


There were additional listings for:


An election for new officers soon followed the pledging ceremony. It was held some time after our chapter’s “Hell Weekend,” when the actives made us pledges “prove ourselves.” Done in generally good humor, we had to dress in gunnysacks, clean and paint the frat house, do countless pushups when we couldn’t answer a question about fraternity history correctly and eat strange-looking-but-harmless foods. There were many threats but few instances of paddling with a ferocious looking, leather weapon that was spring-loaded with hacksaw blades; those ordered to “assume the position,” knelt over, got a swat on the rump and were required to jump up, thank and shake the hand of the swatter.


Serving as Chapter Officers at the time of Buzz’s initiation into the fraternity on May 27, 1962, were the following:

Attending the initiation ceremony was longtime Alpha Sig George Schurr, whom Buzz remembers as a terrific gentleman who was chapter den daddy and everybody’s valued friend.


Handwritten notes in the Pledge Manual’s section on Chapter History say that Gamma Nu was chartered May 27, 1961.

·         The petitioning group was Kappa Sigma Phi, a local fraternity founded in 1947 that also went under the name Kappa Sigma Kappa.

·         The first H.S.P. of the chapter was Joe Merhten.

·         The Chapter Alumni incorporated under the name Alpha Sigma Phi Corporation. Its president was George Schurr and its secretary was Don Collins.

·         The Chapter Faculty Advisor was Dr. Paschal Monk.

·         The Grand Chapter Advisor was George Schurr.

·         The only listed Chapter Tradition was “Passing the Bottle.”

·         In 1962, there were six fraternities and five sororities at Sacramento State.


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