When Greek Week ruled
In 1970, it mattered that SAE had the fastest bed on campus.
As winter turns to spring in Cleveland, Case students’ attention turns to thoughts of outdoor fun. Back in the 1960s, Case Institute of Technology had 12 national fraternities represented on campus, a large number for such a small college. Since roughly half of the student body was Greek, Greek Week was arguably the biggest campus event come spring.
Activities included pie-eating and beer-chugging contests, various carnival style booths, and, biggest of all, the fraternity Bed Race. The Bed Race used the double figure-eight path within Case Quad between Strosacker Auditorium and the Sears Building. Teams of runners pushed their chapter’s bed to earn a trophy (and bragging rights), proclaiming which fraternity had the fastest bed on campus. The only restrictions were that the bed had to be muscle powered, piloted by the president of that chapter, and have a mattress.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was the perennial winner of the bed race (in addition to sponsoring the Beer Bust). I had pledged SAE in the spring of my freshman year. I was drawn to their song-filled parties, gorgeous house on Magnolia Road, and the affinity I felt for the brothers. In hindsight, my fraternity experience helped me mature as a person, make lifelong friends, and imparted my fondest memories of my four years at Case.
While some chapters took the bed race in fun, for those who seriously tried to win, the race was grueling. Because of the tight turns, the beds usually sustained major wear — especially on the wheels. Our bed was a tricycle sporting a wooden frame. Our design featured cambered rear wheels to counteract the stresses endured when cornering, but they took a beating anyway. I reconditioned the SAE bed my senior year (1970) to ensure our winning streak continued. The annual tradition of overhauling the bed was passed down from class to class. Kermit Lichty (CIT ’68) taught me what the bed typically needed, and recommended the local bicycle shop he used to respoke the extra-heavy duty bicycle wheels. I then trained Mark Witzke (CIT ’71) so that our winning ways endured after I graduated. “Jocks” in the chapter were recruited for the staggered relay team we used to sustain a winning pace.
For Greek Week 1970, our bed logged yet another win. In celebration, our relay team carried me bodily down to Wade Lagoon to be “ponded.” Ponding at Case was a fraternity tradition of tossing someone into Wade Lagoon whenever something especially good happened to them. It was usually reserved for when a brother became “pinned” to his sweetheart, but could be used on any occasion deemed worthy.
While I have many fond memories of my years at Case, Greek Week 1970 is the best of all.
Ken, the former Senior Vice President of Research for Mellon Financial Co., is retired and living outside of Pittsburgh. Give him your regards at email@example.com.
SAE bed, 1970
A ponding in Wade Lagoon in 1970