USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘memorial’
Folk Dance
Musical

SAE Fraternity Memorial Celebration

At the University of the South (informally known as Sewanee) in rural Tennessee, I witnessed and participated in a large informal celebration held in memory of my late brother, with the university his alma mater. The celebration was preceded by a more formal memorial charity golf tournament held earlier in the day. The party detailed below followed not long after at the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE for short, also my late brother’s fraternity). The fraternity also arranged the golf tournament itself and arranged for a recreational social gathering to follow. The entirety of my late brother’s former fraternity members (known as a pledge class) were present, along with former classmates.

 

Earlier in the evening, a small concert led by popular local musicians was held on the porch, along with barbequed food consisting of brisket, sausage, and potato salad (among others).

 

Following the departure of the band and caterers, the approach of the crowd in the building shifted as higher levels of activity (and intoxication) became acceptable now that the night had progressed, and daylight had passed completely into night.

 

A crowd of around 50 to 75 remaining partygoers congregated completely into a large corner room of the building, an area adjacent to the kitchen where food is typically served for similar events. For such functions, there is a large rectangular table centered in the room bearing the yellow and purple colors of the house along with their coat of arms and titular house letters.

 

With large speakers taking the place of the band and copious amounts of beer taking place of the caterers, the entire crowd then gathered around the center table to the tune of a pre-arranged musical playlist of Harry’s favorite songs, occasionally breaking up any potential melancholy brought about by the playlist with popular dancing songs in order to keep energy levels consistent.

 

In tandem with the music starting, people in pairs or trios came to take turns dancing on the tabletop for a few minutes at a time, usually remaining for the duration of two to three songs before excusing themselves from the center of attention and being helped down, to be quickly followed by another pair or trio hopping up.

 

The entire party lasted until the hours between 12am and 1am, when large activities are legally required to shut down. Given that the gathering in the table-centered area began around 9:30 to 10:00 pm, this particular activity therefore extended for roughly 2 to 2.5 hours in total.

 

Although this congregation of friends and family came about in remembrance of tragic circumstances (ie someone’s untimely death), the resulting proximity of so many at once where they may have otherwise not been brought together in such a way prompts not only a celebration of the life of he who passed, but also a celebration of the many lives that have continued on.

 

Such a situation goes to show how happiness in large groups is capable of wholly overwhelming any notions of sadness, and that such celebrations in the wake of tragedies can be considered appropriate when such an effect is properly achieved and initially intended.

Gestures

Taking Care of Tirebiter

Item:

“I always feel obligated to pet Tirebiter when I walk by. Depending on my mood, I’ll even go a bit out of my way to do it.”

Members of the Trojan Knights at USC (a fraternity dedicated to the spirit of USC and its history) are required to pet the statue of Tirebiter, a dog, whenever they walk by it. The statue is located near the edge of campus, but nonetheless is passed enough for this to be a somewhat regular occurrence. The tradition began because of an actual dog by the name of Tirebiter. The unconfirmed origin story is that a Trojan Knight, about 70 years ago, was on a Los Angeles beach and came across a stray dog. He took it under his care and brought it back to the fraternity’s house. It was taken care of by the group and brought to football games. It eventually became the unofficial mascot of the fraternity, and subsequently for USC given the fraternity’s close association to the school. Because Tirebiter – and his many replacements – have since passed, it’s the responsibility of the Knights to “take care of Tirebiter” by petting the statue. It serves as both a memorial for the original Tirebiter and an homage to part of the fraternity’s history.

 

Context:

The informant shared the tradition and says it’s something almost exclusively done by the Knights. It’s not bad luck to not do it, or good luck to do it — it’s simply a part of their history and a courtesy paid to the memorial of Tirebiter. How the action of petting Tirebiter emerged is unclear, but the reason behind it is passed down between the brothers.

 

Analysis:

It’s sort of nice to see a school tradition that doesn’t have to do with winning at sports, insulting another school, or going crazy in the name of graduating. Paying homage to a dog the fraternity once took care of is nice. Something funny mentioned by the informant is that bringing a dog to a football game is a standard long gone. The most interesting part of this piece of folklore is that the school adopted a third mascot out of it, and made a rather nice statue out of it. There’s already Tommy Trojan and Traveler — adding a dog seems a bit overkill.

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