Kenyon College Alumni
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pledge Master

by Dwight D. Hatcher II ’70

I was the Beta Theta Pi pledge master in 1967, and as many will recall, it was fratclub protocol for the pledges to kidnap the pledge master. Working the last dinner shift at Peirce Hall, I was approached by one of my pledges--I believe it was Chris Myers ’71 (All-American footballer)--who managed a doleful expression and sad tale about a home-town honey as I recall. Eager to show that I was not simply the cruel, humiliating director of the weekly lineups, I tossed a paternal arm around his shoulder--metaphorically, since he was much taller than I--and encouraged him to share his pain. As we emerged from the Peirce loading dock, the other pledges surrounded me and announced that I was being taken for a ride. They tossed me into a car and drove to the Mount Vernon airport, where they had rented a small plane and secured the services of one of the student pilots (there was lots of giggling and cackling at the misery they were about to visit on me), exacting just vengeance, in their minds, for my harsh reign.
They flew me to Dubois, a town about the size of Mount Vernon, located in northern central Pennsylvania. They almost literally tossed me out of the plane, and I made my way to the “terminal,” which, despite its small size, had a rather cozy bar that appeared to be home to a cast of local regulars who were so dazzled by my story that I was supplied with drinks for the rest of the evening while the bartender helped me make arrangements to fly to Pittsburgh. The mail plane flew to Pittsburgh twice each evening, the first to the main airport and a later flight to a smaller, general-aviation airport. By 9:30 p.m., I was on the plane and headed to the smaller of the two airports, which necessitated my hitchhiking across Pittsburgh in the middle of the night on a very cold February 13. Dressed in jeans, a black t-shirt, and a loden coat, sporting a three-day growth of beard, and a day or so away from a shower, I think I ended up walking most of the way, arriving at the main airport around 5:00 a.m. I warmed up and dozed for an hour and then approached the United Airlines counter and explained my situation (I had about $3 on me) and that I needed a ticket to Columbus. The counter folks were amused and pretty accommodating, telling me that if I could get someone to vouch for me, they would front me the $30 ticket for the 8:00 a.m. flight. So, I found myself calling my mom at 7:00 a.m., wishing her a Happy Valentine’s Day from Pittsburgh (Who loves ya, Mom?), and then passing the phone to a ticket agent who took down her name and address (credit cards were pretty rare among common folk) and, assured that United would get paid, issued me a ticket.
One of the last to board the plane, I was greeted by the stewardess (in that era, they all looked like they were from the Miss America pageant) who ushered me to a first-class seat despite my grubby--very grubby--appearance and pungent aroma because I think my tale had so amused and amazed the airline staff. Last I recall of the flight, I was being offered freshly squeezed OJ, some sort of breakfast entree (actual food), a warm, damp towel (their idea, no doubt!), and some Jordan almonds. I had called South Leonard before boarding and gotten Greg Johnson to pick me up at the airport. He drove a white ’Vette, and he had me back in Gambier by 10:30 a.m. I showered and headed for lunch at Peirce. The whole incident was known to all eight hundred of us, and as I came through the doors of the Great Hall, applause rippled along the main aisle as I walked up to the top of the hall and the Beta tables, filled with smirking pledges who figured that I would probably never return. As their heads turned toward the applause, the smirks disappeared. Ironically, and much to my amusement, on their return from Dubois, the pledges’ plane had to land near Cleveland when an engine warning light went on, and so I actually beat them back to campus. It was a very good year.

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