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Deep into Winter, It’s Nice to Remember - Brother Peter Sigmund ’51 Reminisces

The Phi Phi house, during my four years (1947-1951) included a Masland rug (several in the Masland family were Phi Phi’s’), a grand piano, leather sofas and armchairs.  Mercer, our houseman, kept the fireplace going most of the day during the winter and woke us by shaking our pillows in the morning.  We had our own cook (what was her name?) and ate at round tables in the dining room.  Lunch was 75 cents and dinner $1.25.  We wore coats and ties and the conversations, and disagreements, were spirited with no ill feelings afterwards.

Many of the brothers were World War II vets, often battle hardened: Kelly Hughes, Joe Cox, Phil Murphy, Joe Chopko, Bob Race, Joe Devlin, Bert Peake, and many others now in the Chapter Eternal.  They were dead serious about pursuing goals under the GI Bill, but also threw great parties, often with the girls they later married.  They were great to me, a 17-year-old, with no idea what I wanted to do.

Good memories; Cliff Lewis singing as he played the piano.  He was succeeded by Don Carey belting out  refrains.  Don Messinger sang “Mammy.” Bert Pilcher led us in “I Hear Singing and There’s No-One There.” And, of course, everyone joined in “They Built the Ship Titanic to Sail the Ocean Blue” and “The Crow Keeps Good Company.”   And remember the brothers on the floor or couches watching Milton Berle and his Texaco show on the small black and white TV after our Tuesday night meetings?  Listen; That’s the tolling of the time from Irvine Auditorium.  You’re late for class, you bum.

We all have our memories.  For me, the initiation, and its inspiring messages, tops the list, followed by singing “Amici” with my father, Paul Sigmund, Phi Phi ’16 at a Feast of the Neophytes.  He surveyed the land for the house in his senior year at the Towne School.

Not all was good.  I recall brothers blackballing “spics” and referring to “the Hebe House.” However, we’ve all gone through a growth process.  Our landmarks and recognition of intrinsic worth carried us through each day.  Our fraternal spirit, meetings and interactions were, and are, the heart of the house, which I hope will grow even more.