We visited my stepmother over the holidays, and came home with a few more interesting family items. I admired one of the pieces on our last visit, and she offered it to me on this trip since we had since been to Portugal. When you visit Portugal, you can’t help admiring the tile work everywhere you look. It’s beautiful, ornate, colorful, and special.
What does a Portuguese work of art have to do with a frat house?
My father attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He shared many stories with us over the years, and one of his fraternity brothers stayed close friends with him until the day he passed away in 2013. Even with all of my father’s military relocations and travel, they always stayed in touch.
He commissioned an artist in Portugal to create a tile (or Azulejos) of their Kappa Sigma fraternity house as it was when he attended. He started the project in 2001 and it took about two years back and forth before he had the finished tiles. He and my stepmother placed the tiles on a board, and he added wire to the back to hang on the wall. This piece is large – 3′ wide x 3 1/2′ high. I have the two pages of notes that he provided to the artist to create the piece and he also supplied him with a sketch of the house.
I hung it on the green wall in our bedroom. When I wake up in the morning, I see a piece of Portuguese artwork as well as think about my father and his happy days at Lafayette. This piece will be passed down to the younger family members along with many of the other pieces we have collected. I get to treasure it for a little while though.
Fraternity House History
We grew up hearing tales of the different rituals and rites of passage, even swallowing a goldfish at some point.
My dad’s former roommate told me recently: “The two windows on the right hand side over the porch was our room. We could see right down the Delaware River and downtown Easton. We would sunbathe when it was warm on that roof. If there was a party at the house, we would tap a keg of beer and position it in front of the second window and cover it with a sheet. Friends could see if our “ghost” was outside and stop by for a drink.
We loved it there. A group of reasonably responsible young men organized and running their living quarters effectively. Dinner every night was in jacket and tie. No partying or drinking, or otherwise obnoxious behavior was tolerated during the week. Those parties that we did sponsor were well run , and a lot of fun. Your dad was Social Chairman our Senior year, and he did a great job! We had loads of fun and good times!”
My father took a lot of time to document the history of many of our family pieces, but I thought the history of this Azulejos should be shared as well. We loved Portugal as much as he did and would love to go back one day.
|Beautiful tile as we entered
I remember seeing the photos you took in Portugal – gorgeous and awe-inspiring. It's also sweet that you have something tangible that connects to your Dad's history; I have nothing like that, and wish I did. On the other hand, my own Dad passed on his love of music and film to me, and when I'm listening to Harry Belafonte or watching Duck Soup, I remember what he was like prior to our estrangement. Lots of love to you, friend.
A lovely story. What a great idea your dad had with the tiles – and now you and your relatives have a wonderful touchstone that inspires memories of him.