Friday, 07 April 2017 09:41

Memoirs of a Small Town Mayor: My High School Fraternity; Kappa Sigma Alpha

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1962 Kappa Sigma Alpha Fraternity Class 1962 Kappa Sigma Alpha Fraternity Class John Sullivan photo

High school days for me (1960-64) were indeed “Happy Days”. We may not have had names like Fonzi, but we did have our Richie Cunningham types. We also had a number of organizations and activities which we could join to help develop our sense of belonging. There were glee clubs, and pep rallies, CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and CSMC (Catholic Students Mission Crusade) and outside the organized high school structure, Fraternities and Sororities. One such group was Kappa Sigma Alpha.

"To aim high is not high enough!" Sounds like a pretty tall order, doesn't it? Well it is. That was the motto we chose for our high school fraternity, Kappa Sigma, back in 1962, and aim high we did, indeed. Although we all fell somewhat short of the mark we set for ourselves, we did achieve a great deal. Membership was open to both Catholic High and Public high students, and even included several Fultonians who went to Cat High. At one point, we had over 60 members.

Of the founders, Ed Matott went on to become a City Alderman and Middle School Principal. Mike Sheldon became a construction engineer. Frank Delia graduated from West Point, and died way too young. Don Gilbert became a PhD. Psychologist, and I became Mayor! My high school yearbook said "Dreams of becoming President of NBC. Knows everyone from here to Ireland". Well, I didn't achieve the NBC part, but I am still closing in on the other goal.

The friendships we formed in the brotherhood of our high school fraternity have indeed lasted a lifetime. We were pretty well organized for a bunch of teenaged boys. We held lots of car washes and even a few bake sales, and our mainstay of revenue was sponsoring "jam sessions" and record hops at Christ Church Recreation Hall. We held monthly Teen Queen contests, and had "date parties" to celebrate the Teen Queen of the month at the Elks Club, culminating in a Teen Queen of the year prom. The first to be voted Teen Queen of the year (1962) was Kathy Fleischman (Matott). A good choice then, which has stood the test of time.

Frat RingWe also had a series of "Fraternity Houses", starting with the backroom of Michael J. Duguay's sign shop on Water Street, and then in a small office over the Aero Sporting Goods store on East Bridge St. We would gather there after school, and we had a jukebox, coke machine, and a pool table installed. We moved several more times, to a location above Horan's taxi on East First Street, and finally to the old Odd Fellow Hall location on the third floor of the turreted building at the corner of West First and Bridge St, which now houses the children's museum.

I vividly recall helping to physically carry the slate for our slate pool table across the Bridge St. Bridge and then up three floors of stairs. We were able to hold dances at our last location, although we had no heat in the winter. That didn't bother us in the least.

We participated in the Inter-Fraternity Sorority Council, and fielded acts for the DG ( Delta Gamma Delta Sorority) premiere on the stage of the Oswego theater, and on meeting nights, would gather at the downtown Savas's restaurant for a coke and a headlight donut after the meetings. We held pledge parties, and made the pledges go through the initiation ritual of hell night, and we even used the paddle to meet out punishment for those guilty of using foul language at the Frat House. Those were the rules. We all survived unscathed.

Another favorite event we thoroughly enjoyed was "Fraternity Camp" at Fair Haven. We rented a cottage that could house over a dozen brothers overnight . It was held at the same time as the High School sororities had their summer camps at Fair Haven as well.

For a brief time, our fraternity spawned a competing group at Oswego High only, called Kappa Eta Psi. If memory serves, that organization was short-lived, while ours went on for several years after we graduated.

Perhaps the highlight of the Kappa Sigma years was the big jam session we held at Christ Church with the "Buffalo KB Rebels" of "Wild Weekend" fame. It was a rollicking saxophone driven jitterbug song. It cost us $500 to bring the band to Oswego, and we had almost 500 kids show up to see them, so we didn't quite break even .I think we charged a buck to get in. Ed Matott still looks over his shoulder from time to time fearing the Buffalo mob has a hit out on him for shortchanging their favorite band.

Looking back over those years, I can proudly reflect that we showed great organizational skill, and encouraged social growth and acceptance in dozens of teen boys who desperately needed the validation offered. Looking back, those were 'Happy Days' indeed.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Jo Ann Fanning Lyons Saturday, 08 April 2017 10:50 posted by Jo Ann Fanning Lyons

    Very well written John. I see Al upper right corner. I'm living in Az. now but joined the "You know your from Oswego when My memory lane never ends. I even became friends w/people I don't know haha. It's been fun. Congratulations on your accomplishments.


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