‘They took the bar, the whole bleeping bar’
Even before I applied to East Carolina College in 1965 (it would not become a university for three more years) I was well aware of its reputation as a party school. My suspicions ‘— and my parents’ worst nightmares ‘— were confirmed my very first weekend on campus, when my roommate alerted me to a party at the Sigma Nu house. It might have taken me all of 30 seconds after stumbling into the backyard of the frat house to realize that I had arrived.
The sight was pure Wonderland, imbedded even today, fully 40 years later. The Embers, already a huge act, were set up on the back porch; two bathtubs were iced down and filled with Old Milwaukee, Falstaff and Pabst Blue Ribbon; two picnic tables were loaded with every variety of brown and white liquor and mixers imaginable; I had a blind date who was growing prettier by the minute; and I, of course, was becoming wittier, more charming and a better dancer with each successive drink. (OK, so three hours later I threw up on her dress and then tried to make out with her, but that’s beside the point.)
So, given that context, you’ll forgive me for getting a chuckle out of a recent AP story picked up by the local gazette. Seems that a nonprofit called Research Triangle Institute plans to recruit 250 ECU freshmen annually for the next five years to track their alcohol consumption. The study is funded by a $2.1 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse.
My initial reaction as a proud Pirate who was able to cram a four-year degree into seven short years plus three summer sessions was understandable. Well, they certainly knew which school to pick, I surmised. But further down in the article I discovered that these well-meaning researchers are starting from a flawed premise and may be in for a long, bumpy ride. The lead researcher, a prof in the ECU toxicology and pharmacology department, was quoted as saying: ‘“Although the students have a high image of themselves as a big party school, the reality of it is that they’re merely average.’”
To paraphrase Bluto in the best movie of all time, ‘“Average? Did you say average? Was it average when East Carolina beat N.C. State in a football game and tore down the goal posts ‘— in their stadium? Hell no! It wasn’t average then and it’s not average now.’”
I’m guessing that the prof is relatively new to Greenville; therefore, as one with a triple major in Rathskellar, Elbow Room and Attic, I feel it is my duty to inform him of a few facts that may call his hypothesis into question.
‘• Playboy used to publish an annual list of Best Party Schools. It became so redundant to name East Carolina year after year that they finally retired them from the competition. The only other school so honored was the University of West Virginia. You could look it up.
Shortly after I graduated by default, ECU students started a riot on Halloween night in downtown Greenville. Then they did it again the next year. Soon a tradition was born and folks were coming from all over the state for the ‘“Annual Greenville Halloween Riot.’” I don’t know how long it went on, but a friend of mine still has a T-shirt from the 11th annual event.
This, brothers and sisters, is anything but average.
For most of the ’80s a campus-wide party was held at Moser’s Farm, a few miles outside of Greenville. The school actually bussed students to and from the party to keep them off the roads. Mothers Against Drunk Driving raised so much hell about it that they finally put an end to it, which gave rise to a Greenville chapter of Drunks Against Mad Mothers.
Ever heard of the Goodtime Boogie, the biggest, most infamous rotating party in the state, still going strong today? Guess where it started. Yup. I know; I was at the initial planning meeting at a farmhouse outside of Greenville.
It was not an average gathering then and it’s even more bizarre today.
Back then you could drink when you were 18 but you couldn’t buy beer on Sunday. The mayor of a tiny town in Pitt County called Falkland saw an opportunity and seized it. He got a town ordinance passed allowing beer sales on Sunday afternoon, which naturally produced a steady stream of East Carolina students each and every Sabbath. When you heard the phrase, ‘“Falkland run!’” echoing through the dorm, you were automatically expected to kick in a couple of bucks. Interestingly enough, the mayor also owned the first convenience store you came to inside of Falkland.
Carpe Diem, yes. Average, nope.
Now, I admit that some of the details herein are a bit fuzzy. But, hey, I was drinking at the time.
Ogi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and heard each Tuesday from 9:30’–10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM.