College Tales: The Ponding


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u of w mascot

u of w mascot

The Ponding

Long ago I went off to college, to the University of Washington in Seattle.  If you have every been there you know the campus is beautiful, with brick walkways weaving through  spacious lawns and forests of trees to connect the many buildings.

University of Washington Quad

University of Washington Quad

Near the campus is an area known as greek row where the fraternities and sororities are located.  Many of these groups are housed in stately homes built specifically for them years past.

At the beginning of my sophomore year I decided to join a fraternity.  My grandfather, father and brother had all belonged to Phi Gamma Delta.  So, that was the plan.  I would follow in the family tradition.  I was, however, ahead of my time and sported what I thought was a pretty snazzy beard.  No one else did.  The FIJIs didn’t think it was so snazzy.  I was blackballed.

Zeta Psi Fraternity Pin

Zeta Psi Fraternity Pin

So my plan went awry and I was forced to look elsewhere.  At the end of Rush Week I had settled on and been accepted by Zeta Psi Fraternity.  It was a group of about forty students housed in a very nice English style fraternity house.

Zeta Psi Fraternity House

Zeta Psi Fraternity House

  There were eight fellows in my pledge class.

A pledge was not considered  a full member until he had been in the fraternity for a period of time, the first quarter if I recall, and had gone through Hell Week.

During Hell Week we were required to wear burlap sacks and an onion around our neck.  We were not allowed to bath and we were deprived of sleep. We went to class this way for a week.  Seems stupid now and it was, but I think this stuff still goes on.  I read an article written last year about a pledge at Zeta Psi (not at U of W) who ended up in the Intensive Care Unit after drinking a bottle of soy sauce as part of his initiation.  We also had the soy sauce experience, ours with a raw egg in it.  Looked inviting but I wouldn’t serve it now.  Fortunately, we did not drink an entire bottle.

Our Hell Week came to an abrupt halt when one of the pledges, a diabetic, went into insulin shock.  The entire group of us threatened to walk out of fraternity if this went on any longer.

The Hell Week process was directed by the  Pledge Master, one of the Actives.  Our group came to really dislike this guy.  That was not normal apparently.  Hell Week was thought of by the Actives as being horse-play.  Not by us though.

The tradition at the University of Washington dictated that the Pledge Class was to kidnap the Pledge Master and take him onto campus and throw him into Frosh Pond.  This was a large circular pond about four feet deep.  It was originally built as a reservoir to contain water to cool machinery.  When I was there is was purely decorative, except for its ponding function.

So, one cold winter afternoon we grabbed this guy and stuffed him into the back of the car, five of us sitting on him and the other three in the front.  As the car pulled onto campus, at the security gate, the guard seeing this guy struggling in the back, inquired,

“What is going on here?”

“Ponding, sir”

“Go ahead”

And we sped to the pond.  We stripped him down to his jockey shorts, grabbed him by his arms and legs, swung him back and forth and catapulted him as far out into the pond as was possible.  We could tell by his reaction that the water was COLD.  Hoowee!

He came scrambling out of the pond expecting to be handed a towel and a beer, the normal rite of passage.  Instead, we grabbed him and threw him down on a thin mattress we had brought in the trunk.  We rolled him up in this with his head out one end and his feet out the other and tied it securely.  He looked  like a human pig-in-a-blanket.

Back in the car he went and we all drove over to his girlfriend’s sorority.  It was Alumni Week and we knew all the girls and their mothers would be there.  We carried him into the main living room like a log and left him on the floor.

Off we went.  In our minds we had a delicious vision.  We saw the House Mother coming to our fellow’s aid, untying the ropes.  The mattress would spring open, revealing him in his now transparent, wet underwear to his girlfriend and all the others present.  Just delicious!


The House Mother had been around a while.  She had experienced and come to know a lot about fraternity boys.  She went to our friend, stood him up and pushed him out the door.

Actually, that was nearly as good an outcome as our original vision.  Without his glasses he was nearly blind.  It took him about fifteen minutes to walk the six blocks home, bumping into trees and obstacles along the way.

I wonder if universities still have these grand traditions?

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More to come

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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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