By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70
The Conference Plan’s allotment of specific time periods to classroom, athletic, and extracurricular activities focused more attention on the role of societies and organizations. In addition, Hamilton Holt had put the stamp of approval on the Greek system with his statement “It is my express wish that every student who enters Rollins become a fraternity member.”
Hamilton Holt inherited a Rollins with five fraternities and sororities and one honorary. The first new organizations to emerge under Prexy’s influence were the Omniquarentes—“an exclusively feminine affair” which mixed culture and society, and the Rollins Literary Society, yet another “exclusively feminine affair.” A year later, Rollins had spawned two new local Greeks, Kappa Sigma Phi (fraternity) and Alpha Omega (sorority), as well as the Rollins Key Society, an honorary recognizing academic achievement and “all-around efficiency,” and Rho Kappa Sigma, chemistry honorary.
In 1927, Phi Alpha became a chapter of Kappa Alpha Order, thus doubling the number of national fraternities at Rollins. The Inter-Fraternity Council reformed in the fall of 1927: “Perhaps it was the lazy Southern weather that caused this desire for peace. Or, perchance, Dr. Holt’s belief in the League of Nations and his arguments for World Peace” (The Tomokan, 1928).
By 1930, Rollins had chapters of three national sororities: Gamma Phi Beta (formerly local Phi Omega), Phi Mu (Alpha Omega), and Pi Beta Phi (Sigma Phi). The fraternities had added a local which was to outlive many of the nationals: the X-Club. The X-Club was originally intended as a social organization for stray Greeks and it cited other illustrious X-Clubs of history, especially that of Thomas Huxley, Herbert Spencer, and Charles Darwin.
A chapter of Alpha Phi was initiated in 1931 and Lambda Phi became Chi Omega in the same year. With the conversion of Kappa Epsilon to Kappa Kappa Gamma in 1932 and the installation of Kappa Alpha Theta in 1933, the contingent of national sororities still known to Rollins women 30 years later was in place.
Amongst the fraternities, locals continued to claim the majority. Delta Rho Gamma and Rho Lambda Nu were formed in 1930. Delta Rho Gamma was the cause of some controversy in 1934, when it withdrew from the IFC, disbanded, and its entire membership pledged Kappa Phi Sigma, which then became the national Phi Delta Theta. Rho Lambda Nu became Sigma Nu in 1938, and the same year saw the formation of Sigma Phi Omega, a local with “what these men considered a broader outlook and more cosmopolitan vision.” Rollins’ first national fraternity, Theta Kappa Nu, became Lambda Chi Alpha when the two national groups merged in 1939. Delta Chi was established in 1941.
The sororities continued to be active during World War II, but all fraternities were suspended. Recognition of the Independents as an organization began during this time. Upon resumption of normal conditions at Rollins, there was great question as to whether the fraternities would reactivate or not. In 1946, a fraternity vote showed 73 percent in favor of reactivation, and life was, indeed, soon back to normal. A new local fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, was formed in 1946.
As well as the disorder arising from World War II, the Greeks at Rollins survived two other crises: the effects of losing their off-campus housing when the completion of new dormitories allowed the Administration to bring all students back on campus and Prexy’s order in 1936 limiting fraternity and sorority membership to 25.
The growth of the Greeks at Rollins may have seemed rapid, but the formation of clubs and societies must have seemed like spontaneous generation, as one Sandspur writer referred to “the recently established Rollins custom of forming one new club on the campus every week” (The Sandspur, 1929). Rollins soon claimed (in alphabetical order): Archaeological Club, Auto Club, Chess Club, Cosmopolitan Club (“fosters friendships between the foreign and native students”), Der Deutscher Verein (German Club), El Circulo Español (Spanish Club), Esperanto Club, Explorers Club, Flying Club, Gun Club, Hunting and Fishing Club, International Relations Club, Interracial Club, Le Cercle Français (French Club), Liberal Club, Peace Society, Philosophy Club, Photography Club, Radio Club, Scientific Society, Studio Club, Yacht Club—oh and the Virginia Circle (open only to girls named “Virginia”). Irreverent suggestions for more groups included “We-were-kicked-out-of-one-College Club” and “We-were-kicked-out-of-more-than-one-College Club” (The Sandspur, 1928). Even the faculty got into the act with the Tombstone Club, motto: “Taffy is better than epitaphy.”
Recognition of achievement was also important. Rollins won chapters of Omicron Delta Kappa (O.D.K.), men’s activities honorary; Pi Gamma Mu, social science honorary; Pi Kappa Delta, debating honorary; Phi Society, freshman honorary; Theta Alpha Phi, theater arts honorary; Pi Kappa Lambda, music honorary; Zeta Alpha Epsilon, science honorary; Sigma Delta Psi, athletic honorary; as well as the local groups Gargoyle, literary honorary; 0.0.0.0., secret men’s honorary; and the Order of the Libra, women’s activities honorary. The Scrub Club, limited to nine members selected by the English department, plus Prexy, had no rules; had as its guiding principle, “In their own good time and place”; and intended only “to do what we want to do.”
Rollins students had always shown an interest in public speaking, but in the early 1930s, Rollins caught debate fever. The College met teams from Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College (Dublin), and Rollins’ showing was impressive. The team’s New York City debates with Oxford and the British Universities Debating League were broadcast on NBC.
As life at Rollins became more crowded, the function of student government also became more complex. With the elimination of class designations, election of representatives became a sticky issue. In 1935, thanks to the work of O.D.K. and Libra, a new plan was adopted. Representation was by group affiliation; the Student Council representatives elected an Inner Council from their ranks, and that Council elected a Chairman.
Even the publications were organized. The formation of a Publications Union in 1929 brought The Sandspur, The Tomokan, the newly established literary magazine (The Flamingo), and, later, The R-Book, under one financial roof. In 1941, the election of editors passed to the Student Association as a whole. The first Flamingo, subtitled “A Literary Magazine of the Youngest Generation,” appeared in 1927. Its publication history was irregular, appearing sometimes as a monthly, sometimes as a quarterly—depending on finances and/or availability of materials. The Flamingo’s early contributors were later published in the likes of Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Atlantic.
As more Greeks were established at Rollins, more attention was devoted to rush, but class rivalries still flourished. Freshmen were “Rats,” and “ratting” experienced practically its complete evolutionary cycle during President Holt’s administration. Ratting had begun in 1922 and was finally vetoed by the faculty in 1949. In between, Rollins Rats memorized rules and songs, wore napkins around their necks at meals, built bonfires, snakedanced through Winter Park, dressed up as kids, dressed down in their pajamas, put on shows, and occasionally rebelled.
On the occasion of Hamilton Holt’s retirement, The Sandspur commented on the spirit of cooperation Prexy had instilled at Rollins. Despite the extraordinary variety of societies and organizations active at Rollins, students identified themselves with Rollins first. All-campus events such as the fundraising Gypsy Fiesta and the Table Hops’ Ball (given by the Beanery waiters) were anticipated each year. In 1933, Prexy shut down the entire campus for two days while everyone went to South Florida for the Rollins-Miami football game. On Friday morning, 60 cars containing 261 Rollins students and faculty drove from Winter Park to Coral Gables, accompanied by three motorcycle police and a lunch truck carrying 12,060 sandwiches, 340 apples, 28 square feet of brownies, 3 gallons of pickles and olives, and a crate and a half of celery hearts.
When one of the policemen hit a rough spot in the road and broke his collarbone, the motorcade waited until the bone had been set and he could continue. The caravan was joined by the West Palm Beach police for a sightseeing tour of Palm Beach, and was escorted through Miami by police there. Rollins lost the football game, but everyone enjoyed the sunbathing Saturday afternoon and the formal dance Saturday night. Total cost for the excursion: $8.00.