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I remember my first game day. I was a snot nosed little shitbrain of a pledge, desperate to join in the knock-down, drag-out fuck fest of a celebration that I had heard game days routinely turn out to be.
I arrived at the house, visions of half naked women and trash can encased kegs happily dancing in my head. I opened the front entrance, expecting the smell of spilled beer and a scene of debaucherous destruction to greet me. Instead, the house was devoid of life and deathly silent.
I frantically searched for someone to give me an explanation for the missing party, and when I finally tracked a brother down, it was explained to me that since the fraternity was on probation, the game day festivities had been moved to an off-campus home. Far away from the watchful eyes of Nationals and the university.
They called it Howitzer House. A massive structure that accommodated eight residents, it had been passed down from pledge class to pledge class for three decades. An integral part of the fraternity’s lore, it was an ancestral heirloom unlike any other, held in the same revere as some of the brotherhood’s oldest practices.
The residence’s name originated from a decree made by the legendary first occupants: Only females who had been extremely well endowed by the good lord would be permitted to party on location. In layman’s terms: no Ds, no dice. If a girl wasn’t packing enough chest heat to stop a Blitzkrieg in the forests of the Ardennes, she would not be partying on the Java colored hardwood floors of Howitzer House.
That rule has been upheld by the inhabitants of Howitzer since the house’s inception. It has become more than a directive. It is a legacy that has survived the test of time and is proudly carried on by each new generation of inhabitants. The name is part of what makes the place so special, a moniker that has come to be synonymous with a good time. Howitzer House is not just an off-campus haven that occasionally holds pre-games or mixers; it is a fragment of the fabric of my fraternity’s mythos. Howitzer shares its label with our history.
Pro-Shop, Castle, Hollywood, Alamo, Kingdom, Stonehouse, Orange County, The Grove. Each one of these titles is born from unique physical features, deserved due to a distinctive characteristic shared by the tenants, or earned in the trenches of a signature party. These designations are marks of honor, representative of their place in a fraternity’s holy pantheon. Each off-campus house garners its heading for a different reason, but every one of them is significant because of the heritage that accompanies it.
Fraternities are a sum of their history. The people, the events, and the places are all noteworthy because they are the hallmarks of a brotherhood’s legacy. That storied past is what makes joining a fraternity so appealing. The feeling that for a brief period in time, one person can be a part of a greater narrative.
Off-campus houses are often just as much of a bastion of tradition as the rituals and customs of the fraternity itself. They have usually been passed down through the ranks of the brotherhood for years, each set of inhabitants making their own contributions to the record of that particular location. That time-worn heritage is the strength of all fraternities, and it is the reason that something as small as a house’s nickname can be important to an entire organization’s identity..