Forget the house you now know as the Sigma Chi house. Think square. Perfectly square with three stories and a flat roof. There are no outside columns, only a lighted lyre above the entry. All the inside rooms and public areas face a courtyard with magnolia trees growing inside. And a pair of box turtles. This was my Alpha Chi Omega home. 618 W. Maple.
On bid day, women ran down Maple Street after gathering at the Greek theater -- see, some things don't change. Red carnations were thrust into our hands and lyre necklaces fastened around our necks. Sisters brought cars around and moved their new sisters into the house. Yes, on bid day you moved right into your new home. A few weeks went by and big/little reveal happened. Then you became roommates with your big. Although we called it pledge mother/pledge daughter then.
The walkout basement at 618 contained the chapter room and storage. All of our luggage resided in a large storage closet outside the chapter room. All things initiation were kept in a closet inside the chapter room. The rest of the basement was the physical plant of the house. The front half of the living space was very formal and we spent little time there except during recruitment. The other half had a television set and grand piano. We hung out there, waiting for dinner.
We ate family style in our dining room, getting food refills from our Sigma Nu houseboys. Once a year we had a dinner exchange with all the Greek houses on campus. Two members from each house ate at Alpha Chi and Alpha Chi sent two members to each of the other houses, sororities and fraternities. So dinner was twenty to thirty-five members from other houses and your remaining members, usually executive board and seniors.
The house director lived on the main floor and a very casual TV lounge was tucked under the stairs. We also had a guest suite on the main floor so that visitors from Alpha Chi Omega headquarters could stay in the house.
The third story contained two-person bedrooms and all the bathrooms. Our president and VP Finance had single rooms in the corners of the house. Three large filing cabinets came with the VP Finance job and took up most of her floor space. The chapter president held both Executive board and Standards board meetings in her room, so she had space for a table. The rooms were small, especially the closets, but we kept seldom used clothes in storage downstairs.
We celebrated holidays, serenaded the entire campus when bands set up in our courtyard for formal, and hung out. Somebody was always there to sabotage your diet by ordering pizza, to dry your tears, or to share your great achievements. And that’s what I want 722 W. Maple to be for all our sisters. A place to go when you need someone. A place to show off your engagement ring to your sisters, like I did. A place to be you. I’m looking forward to meeting my sisters from 40 years ago at the new house for a celebration. And for you to meet your sisters there in another 40 years.
Jody Maves Speer
“We are not the makers of history. We are made by history.” –Martin Luther King Jr.