Author Archives: Bryce Condon

Fountain Run

My informant is a student USC and a member of the Greek community.  I asked him if he had any initiation stories or customs on the row or in his fraternity.  He chose to tell me about the Senior Fountain Run closely approaching.

Informant: The Senior Fountain Run happens every year at USC and it’s literally the entire Senior class running around the campus at night, drunk, and jumping in every fountain.

Me:  Why do you think this became a tradition?

Informant: I couldn’t tell you the real reason but its kind of one of those things I have always wanted to and the University lets us do it right before we leave. I mean we have like 20 fountains around campus that I walk by everyday, how could I not want to jump in?

Me: Ya makes sense, especially during these hot Spring days.  What are you looking forward to most, aside from finally jumping in those fountains of course.

Informant: Being drunk while I do it, haha, but I guess just seeing everyone that I haven’t seen in a long time, like friends from the dorms freshman year that I may not see anymore.  Probably gonna be a really nostalgic moment.

The fountain run tradition is one that has been long standing at USC and for good reason.  There is a non-spoken agreement between the students and staff that they can break the rules just this once to do something they have always wanted.  Its almost a gratuitous gesture by the University by thanking them and effectively saying, “you are about to leave, so we’ll bend the rules.”  The tradition certainly says a lot about the importance of the fountains to the students as well.

Pinning

Just the other day one of my best friends had “pinned” his girlfriend of three years and so I sat him down to talk about the act of pinning and what it meant to him.  He is a student at USC and a senior.

Me: Please explain, “pinning” to me.

Informant: It’s a tradition at USC and I think all across the nation in Greek life but not sure about that.  It’s really just a way for me to express my love and appreciation for [name] as we get close to graduation.

Me: Right, but what actually happens during the ceremony?

Informant: The girls do a whole bunch of ritual shit on their side that I don’t know about, but the guys all get dressed up in suits and each take a rose to the girl getting pinned.  Also the couple involved both have two of their best friends give speeches that are usually funny.  After that the guy gives his fraternity pin to the girl, which is suppose to signify him giving up his dedication to the fraternity and giving it to her. Then the girls do some of their sorority songs and whatever and everyone goes to the 90.

Me: Does this happen often?

Informant: Not at all I have only seen three in my fraternity since I have been here.

Me: So this is a big event that everyone shows up to?

Informant: Ya pretty much, its during Monday Night Dinner, which is the most popular meal of the week so most of the house shows up.

Me: How many people would you say?

Informant: I’d say like 60 people from each house.

This long-standing custom between couples on the Row shows how strong the brotherhood and sisterhood becomes throughout the years.  I found it amazing that so many people would show up to support this “pinning” when they probably aren’t even that close to the couple.   This custom also shows the importance placed on the guy’s allegiance to his fraternity, because it seems to be an equal trade for the allegiance to his girlfriend.

The Malibu Cave

This is another collection from a Greek friend who offered to tell me about a ritual involved in their initiation week. I asked what his favorite one was and here is what he had to say.

Informant: Every semester we initiate a new group of pledges and we have a whole bunch of traditions and shit that go on during the last week but my favorite is the Malibu Cave.  It always happens the first week of pledge semester and the morning before they finish before the sun rises.  We take the pledges out to Malibu and hike them through the hills until we come to this cave that looks out over this amazing view.  It’s like a valley sorta that goes all the way down to the ocean.  Usually when we get there the clouds are at our level and they clear as the sun comes out.  It’s really sick.  Then we sit around and listen to music and the pledges reflect on the semester.

Me: What kind of reflection do you mean?

Informant: Umm pledging isn’t exactly the easiest thing and there are lots of memories and close relationships formed throughout the process so I guess we just talk about the semester, I don’t know you’d have to be there.

Me: Why this cave? Does it mean something to your fraternity?

Informant: Fuck if I know, it’s a sick cave and someone probably just heard of it a long time ago and decided to take the pledges there.  And it does now, it like sorta symbolizes the end of pledging because that’s where they first started the semester and now they came full circle.

After hearing this recount of this fraternity tradition I realized just how much the pledge semester brings a group of guys together, who previously had not known each other.  My informant didn’t know why or how this cave became a customary tradition for initiation but it clearly became very symbolic and meaningful for the members over time.

Kentucky Derby Party

This informant is an old classmate of mine, who has know moved on to working in Los Angeles.  I started off asking this informant if he had any folk stories or family traditions that were interesting and he told me about the annual Kentucky Derby Party that his Grandpa throws.  At first I was hesitant that it really qualified as a custom or holiday/festival but it turned out to be deeply rooted in his family’s history.

Informant: I have to first start by telling you about Papa [this is what he called his grandpa.]  His family grew up in Kentucky but moved to Arcadia when he was born. His father was a horse trainer, and Papa spent a large portion of his childhood at Santa Anita Park.  So fast-forward to when Papa was applying to college.  He was training alongside his dad at this point and won a huge race that ultimately gave him the means to attend USC and the ROTC program.  So the horse races have been super important in his life and many generations before him.  Now every single year he takes all his grandkids to opening day at Santa Anita and every single Kentucky Derby he has a big bash at his house that has been an annual thing since before I was born.

Me: Sounds cool, tell me more about the actual party.

Informant: The party is super traditional to Kentucky, like its set up like Churchill Downs.  Mint Juleps are always served at the door, which is like this minty whiskey drink that Papa takes a lot of pride in even though the ingredients are really simple.  Everyone dresses really nice and there is always someone taking bets.

Me: What about when the actual race goes on?

Informant: Its weird that the big race is only like two minutes, but the party goes on all day.  Everyone just stands around the TV and cheers, most people don’t know anything about the horses but Papa always has some very strong opinions, based on tips from his trainer friends.

Me: Haha ya, never got the hype behind horse racing because of how short the races are.  Would you say this family tradition has rubbed off on you in any way?

Informant: Oh 100%.  I used to take our yearly trips to the races for granted but now I love them.  It gives me some quality time with Papa and I have grown to love the sport, especially picking winning horses when the walk around the paddock before the race.

The horse races, and more specifically the Kentucky Derby, have clearly become very meaningful for my informant and his family.  What probably started as a way to earn a living or a hobby generations ago has now materialized into an annual gathering of friends and family.  The family custom, not only displays their love for horses and competition, but also their dedication to family.  The informant said most attendants had no idea which horse to root for or bet on but still came because it gave them a chance to honor something important to their elder and reconnect with family members.

Business Proverb

My informant is a senior in the Marshall School of Business.  He emphasizes in finance and spent his last summer as an investment banking summer analyst at Morgan Stanley.  I knew bankers had lots of stereotypes and figured he would have some interesting occupational folklore.  He gave me this proverb:

It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

He went on to explain that his boss had given him this piece of advice during his first week on the job.  It wasn’t necessarily meant for his internship because that was mostly about learning and questions were welcomed and encouraged, but it was more for his future career.  I interpreted it similarly to “Never be afraid to fail.”  This proverb attests to the go-getter, competitive mindset of investment bankers.