The Early Years - The Roaring 20's
The year 1924 is the official anniversary date known by many Tau Phi's. However, the house's history begins a few years earlier. The Penn State Chapter of the Tau Phi Delta Fraternity had its origin as a Forestry Club formed by students in the then infant forestry curriculum. The club, with its 18 charter members, made an agreement with the owner of a rooming house on McAllister Street. The agreement stated that the owner rent rooms only to foresters named by the Forestry Club. The first officers of the Forestry Club, and later of the early Kappa Phi, included Fred Henneberger as Phi and Ellis Shook as Alpha Phi. Difficulties in financial matters soon became apparent in an organization of such a loosely knit nature. It was because of this difficulty that the members decided that there was only one solution, and that was the initiation of a Professional Forestry Fraternity. This led to the formation of the Kappa Phi Delta Fraternity, which came into formal existence on April 11, 1922. During the first year of incorporation of Kappa Phi Delta, plans were made for renting the property at 512 West College Avenue as the new fraternity house for the year 1922-1923. During the school year 1923-1924, word of another forestry fraternity, Tau Phi, at the University of Washington, had reached the members of Kappa Phi Delta. Correspondence between the two houses began on March 4, 1924. Delegates from Kappa Phi Delta and Tau Phi met at Ames, Iowa, for the express purpose of chartering the National Fraternity of Tau Phi Delta. Brother Harold Doede was chosen as the delegate from Kappa Phi Delta. Tau Phi Delta legend has it that the Iowa location was halfway between both colleges, and that Brother Doede was picked because of his father's railroad employee's discount. The plight of our early years is best acknowledged in the following letter dedicated to Tau Phi Delta:
Prof. J. A. Ferguson
"Little did I imagine, when I succeeded in getting most of the non-fraternity forestry students in one boarding house, so that they might have a home of their own, that a local Forestry Fraternity would later develop into a National Forestry Fraternity.
"I am not sorry for the result, I believe in fraternities, for I am a college fraternity man myself and realize fully the value my fraternity was to me in college and has been throughout the years that have passed since graduation. Provided a college fraternity is more than an eating joint and a bunk house all well and good. If a fraternity instills in its members a spirit of loyalty to God, to country, and to fellow students and to self, it is worth while. If, in addition, a fraternity brings out the best efforts in whatever he undertakes not only for the good of' the fraternity but also for his own benefit, and the benefit of the college in general, then a fraternity becomes truly a brotherhood. "I have watched the growth and development of your fraternity with interest. I have rejoiced in the high standards the members have maintained among the other college fraternities. Though one of the youngest fraternities in our midst, it has become a leader in scholarship. So I have been proud of the Forestry Fraternity. "We have passed through sad and strenuous times these past three years, and anxious times. The loyalty of the fellows in the Forestry Fraternity has made the going less hard. I shall never forget how you all stuck to the game even with its uncertain future and the faith you had in the College and in the Forestry Department. "Results speak for themselves. Your fraternity has justified its existence. May it have a long and prosperous career." Those words of admiration come from our first advisor, Professor John A. Ferguson of the Pennsylvania State College Forestry Department (1925). Just what were these "sad and strenuous times?" Brother Eugene V. Roberts, Phi, noted "During these four years (1922-1925) in spite of the handicap imposed by Governor Pinchot, we have carried on and prospered. The working plan of the local chapter has been organized, and a more or less stabilized routine established the tasks that remain before us as we are to build alumni. We need your cooperation to accomplish these purposes. You can help by keeping in touch with us and the national officers. Make it a practice to drop us a line now and then; tell us about yourself and the work you are doing, and offer suggestions for the work we are doing here. Drop in at the college whenever possible and meet all of the Brothers, and be one of us again. To the Brotherhood let us make this chapter something more than merely a place to live while in college; let us make it a fraternity in every sense of the word."Thus these early revelations begot over six decades of Brotherhood for over one thousand young men who would learn to experience the sacrifice, friendship, and commitment. On September 15, 1925, the Penn State Alpha Chapter of Tau Phi Delta first leased the house at 238 East Fairmount Avenue. The property was owned by Mr. B. F. Heckert of nearby Millheim, PA. The monthly rent was $125. From the 1926 CONES Volume 1, No. 1, we can get a feel for the early lifestyle at this Tau Phi Delta Chapter House: "The Penn State Alpha Chapter has been enjoying a very promising year. Twenty men are living in the chapter house and eight outside. The catering department is serving twenty-five men and under the efficient management of Brother Ira Bull is making out very well. On January 10 the chapter took up an option it had on a very desirable location in the Locust Lane vicinity. The property is costing us forty-five hundred dollars payable in four years and at the end of that period, with the rapidly-increasing real estate value, should be worth almost half again that amount. "Alumni Day was not as well attended as in past years, due to continued rains that prevented those living at a distance from making the trip. However, sleeping room as usual was at a premium with every room filled with cots and the overflow sleeping on the floor. Notre Dame was the football attraction of the day and the game played in a sea of mud contained enough thrills to please the most particular alumnus, although neither team was to score."
Brother J. Prevost
Probably a star of the early Nittany Lions (P.S. football was only in its third decade) was Brother Jules F. Prevost, '26, who held his acclaimed right tackle position on the Varsity Football Squad. His accomplishments, All-American, President of the Athletic Association, Parmi Nous and Lions Paw Campus Society, typified the quality of the early Brotherhood. No doubt Brother Prevost played havoc on Knute Rockne's acclaimed backfield the "Four Horsemen."
When asked about these "Pioneers of Tau Phi Delta," Brother Ira Bull of the Class of 1926 stated that one of' the major concerns of the early years was how they would pay for the new furniture, which was bought using the credit of the parents of one of the Brothers. Brother Bull recalled the 3 and 5 day house parties with Ted Brownagle's Orchestra as some of his fondest memories of Tau Phi Delta. His words of advice are "to live in the house until you graduate and remain loyal." Brother Bull is a former house caterer and advisor who is now retired living in Michigan, where he celebrated his 88th birthday on November 24, 1988.
Brother I. Bull
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge, who never had a Vice President, asked Attorney General Dougherty to resign, accused of taking a bribe. The average annual salary (not for foresters) was about $1,200. That had to buy a $4,550 three bedroom house and maybe a new Ford auto with a price tag of $290; a truck was less. The house manager (then head of the catering department) spent the following: $0.09 - Bread per pound, $0.54 - Milk per gallon, $0.38 - Bacon per pound, and, to drive to the market, $0.21 per gallon of gasoline, leaded, of course. The early Brothers were probably dazzled by silver screen performers such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Carol Dempster. The World Series favorites were teams from Washington, D.C. and New York City (The Giants lost!). In those days, our house officially started the year with our"annual smoker for the incoming freshmen foresters at the new chapter house. The forestry professors and other university guests furnished the 'speaks,' while camp songs, cider, and pretzels along with the usual smokes, made the occasion a grand success." Life was grand back in the days when Old Main appreciated fraternities for their positive feature for what they are...not the predetermined liabilities as they claim today. The formation of the third chapter - Minnesota Beta (1926), an ever-growing conservation movement, life at the old cabin, and the sounds of the College Crew and Dever's Band at the June House Parties, all added to the aged memories. These days are long gone, but not forgotten!