Sunday, June 24, 2012

1966: Everclear Encounter

Delta Upsilon had one of the most modern and elegant fraternity houses on campus.  It was designed, custom built and given to Delta Upsilon national by Anson Clark, one of our wealthiest alums.  Now students at the University of Texas are known, ironically, as “Tea Sips”; tea being the last beverage of choice. The problem was our benevolent benefactor, Anson Clark, was an honest-to-God real “Tea Sip”.  He distained alcohol in any form.  As a condition of his bequest and the lease, no alcohol was allowed in the building during the week.  

Beer was only allowed inside at scheduled parties or in the beer garden out behind the house at other times, but never during the week.  Hard spirits were only allowed in the house twice a year, at the spring and fall formals.  This rule was strictly enforced by the housemother and not even our most incorrigible brothers broke it for fear of losing our lease.  While other fraternities could lure the sororities with weekend liquor parties at the drop of a hat, DU at Texas was forced into an unnatural sobriety.

On the other hand, this made our Christmas and spring formal parties some wild, WILD events.  The only spirit that was ever served during these semi-annual affairs was a punch made with a one-to-one mixture of Everclear and pink lemonade.  Everclear, for those of you who have never imbibed, is a virtually odorless, tasteless, 200 proof (100 % alcohol) time-bomb.  Mixed with the lemonade, it diluted to 100 proof, or 50 % alcohol.  It went down like the smoothest, coldest lemonade on a hot Texas day and, after about two cups, it snuck up and kicked you in the butt like a Texas mule.  In between, much dancing, fun and frivolity ensued and many a virtue of both genders was known to be compromised in the aftermath.  Such was the scene at our Spring Formal in 1966.

Having just been dumped by Debbie Bickerstaff, the girl I had been dating for the past semester, I was on my third cup of punch and cruising the party by myself.  Lonely as I was I had to laugh at some of my brothers, dressed in their tuxedos, performing the “alligator”, a dance of sorts where the participants squirmed and flailed, face down on the floor, in front of their dates with the band playing a fine rendition of the Rolling Stone’s new hit, “Get Off of My Cloud”.  I wandered off wondering what the collective dry cleaning bill might amount to. 

Then I bumped lightly into a chair and casually looked down at the woman who was sitting at one of the tables in the dining room.  She was talking to her date, my fraternity brother, Ronnie Vaughn, who was seated in front of her and didn’t initially see my wandering gaze.  That gaze was focused on the ample cleavage that was exposed atop her dark green, brocade formal suit. 

I was mesmerized as I stared down this woman’s dress.  I could not take my eyes off of her until finally she sensed my closeness and looked up at me.  As her gorgeous hazel eyes met mine, she smiled, this glowing, radiant smile and said, “Hello”.  I nearly melted into my shoes. 

“Hi”, I said, with enthusiasm.

Then Ronnie said, “Uh, Vicki, this is Jud”. 

“Hi”, I said, again, all brilliant words and snappy repartee escaping me. 

“Nice to meet you”, she said, in the friendliest of voices.  Unknowingly, my eyes drifted once again to her beautiful and wonderfully exposed bosom.  This did not escape Ronnie’s notice and he cleared his throat loud enough for the housemother to hear back in her small apartment off the foyer. 

I broke away from my fixation and stammered, “Nice to meet you too”, retreating to the other room for my fourth Everclear punch, just to cool down.

Despite the self-imposed haze of Everclear, my mind was as clear as an Austin morning.  I had never seen a woman as beautiful and gracious as the woman in the green brocade dress.  Her hair was brown with a hint of auburn highlights.  Her smile was radiant with full lips and straight, brilliant white teeth.  And those eyes; big, wide spread, like all the classic beauties, and a deep hazel, with an inviting, playful sparkle.  And, as I have said, she had other assets to compete for the title of “most redeeming feature”.  I was thunderstruck.  Never had I been so moved by another person. 

I spent the next two hours, between trips to the punch bowl, trying to position myself so I could look at this girl from any vantage point that was available.  I could not keep my eyes off of her.  On several occasions, Ronnie would catch my glance and I could tell he was not pleased by the attention I was paying to his date.  Because of this I was surprised when, at the end of the evening, he approached me asking for a favor.

Ronnie’s car had been broken down for weeks and he had been bumming rides from every brother in the house.  I had trucked him to class a half dozen times in the last week alone. He approached and asked if I wouldn’t mind driving him and his date out to her house in south Austin.  Normally this would have annoyed me, but the prospect of being close to Vicki for a while longer was more intoxicating than the Everclear punch.  “Sure”, I said, “No problem”.

The drive to south Austin took twenty minutes but it seemed like two, it went by so quickly.  Vicki sat between Ronnie and me in the front seat of my slightly dirty 1954 Chevy, which I had just re-built the past summer.  I wished I had cleaned it up a bit as I cleared the seat of empty Coke cans and some school papers. I wanted to impress this girl even though I knew she was my frat brother’s girlfriend.  The three of us chatted about nothing and I was trying my best to be witty and interesting but was failing miserably. I consoled myself by taking every opportunity to, as nonchalantly as possible, look down the front of her dress.  I love low-cut formal dresses.

She directed me to turn down a compacted gravel road off of south 1st Street and we pulled up to a small white house at the end of the lane.  “It was a real pleasure to meet you”, I said, as Ronnie assisted her from the car.  She said it was nice to meet me too and smiled broadly as she turned to take Ronnie’s arm as he walked her to the door.  Getting back in the car I watched as Vicki and Ronnie talked briefly then, through envious eyes, saw them kiss goodnight.  Ronnie was a handsome guy, tall with blond hair and blue eyes, but I always thought he was rather dull and acted like he had a stick up his butt most of the time.  On the other hand, I never wanted to be someone else more in my life than at that moment.

Ronnie didn’t talk much on the way home despite my efforts to engage him.  He seemed irritated about something.  It wasn’t until the next day when my big brother, Deke Johnson, came to my room and told me why.  It seems Ronnie had gone to the president of our fraternity and filed a formal complaint against me for conduct unbecoming.  Apparently the attention I was paying to his girlfriend wasn’t as cloaked in stealth as I had imagined.  I was a “pledge” who had not yet become a full member. Deke told me I was being put on probation.  Bottom line…if I so much as took a peak at Vicki’s chest again, Ronnie was going to blackball me and I would be out of Delta Upsilon for good.  I apologized to Ronnie and figured I would probably not even see Vicki again until the fall, the current semester being almost over.  But I never could put her out of my mind. 

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