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Book: The Frat House Fire Escape Plan - Sigma Nu, Tulane and the 1970s, by Charles McCain

Book: The Frat House Fire Escape Plan - Sigma Nu, Tulane and the 1970s, by Charles McCain

categories: Book, Fraternity, New Orleans, Tulane, Fraternity Life, Fraternities, 1970s, Smoking, Cigarette Smoking, Hell Raising, Beer, Drinking Games, Zippo Lighters, Memoir


Charles McCain

Author Charles McCainabout this book: If you were ever in a fraternity and had a great experience you will enjoy this memoir. If you want to know something about the 1970s or lived through that era, you will enjoy this. If you went to Tulane University you will find this amusing and pointedly true. I think.

My fraternity brothers kept me from killing myself in college. When I registered at Tulane in August of 1973, the emotional shell shock of my mother's death eighteen months previous continued to grip my spirit. Mom had been my last parent—or grandparent—still alive on my sixteenth birthday. Shortly thereafter, she died.

Living became an intense struggle against white-hot emotional pain, a fire in my gut that threatened to burn its way through me like a flame of pure phosphorous. Many times I thought: if my life hurts this much, why not end it permanently?

My first weeks at Tulane were the loneliest of my young life. Joining a fraternity seemed the normal thing. Traditional. And as a Southerner, tradition appealed to me. After pledging Sigma Nu, I slowly got to know the guys. A handful became my closest friends and have remained so throughout my life: Dodger, Ferret, Mr. Later, Otto. By giving me their friendship—and brotherhood—they gave me the family and the stability I had lost as a youth. My gratitude to them runs deep—for they also gave me my life.

But this memoir isn't just about keeping me from suicide: that would be boring and depressing and who wants to read a book like that? Since most of my story is bound up with the antics of my fraternity brothers, a lot of this book is devoted, with great pride I must say, to the never-to-be-equaled record for hell-raising we established at Tulane. And let's face it: establishing a record for hell-raising in New Orleans takes real work.

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