Chartered in 1927, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

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Meal Time

The Boys enjoying a meal in the dining room circa 1980.  I believe crabs were on the menu (or we were celebrating the eradication of a case of crabs).

See Below for photos of our cooks and more local lore related to Meal Time

In the grand scheme of things, we probably took our Epsilon Nu dining experience for granted and never fully appreciated the impact that mealtime had on helping to solidify the Chapter.  It had little to do with the quality of the meals; some were good, some not so good, some were downright awful.  It was about the experience of sitting down and breaking bread with the entire Chapter.  Our meals were held at specific times of the day and the entire Chapter would dine together for most meals.

Our kitchen operation had a structure.  We had the cooks, the paid employees responsible for the preparation of lunches and dinners.  An active member of the Chapter would serve as Breakfast Cook serving hot breakfast 5 days a week for those who awoke early enough.  Actives also served as Head Waiter and Waiters to assist in the serving the dinnertime meal.  The Breakfast Cook and the Wait Staff were paid a small monthly stipend for their services, but there were other “benefits” to be further detailed in this writing.  During “pledge season”, a pledge would be assigned the duty of Kitchen Boy.  His function would be to assist in the dishwashing and to scrub out all of the pots and pans used to prepare the daily meals (You did not want to draw Kitchen Boy duty on Bobo’s or Betty’s Lasagna night.)   

Mom Reaves took the helm with meal planning and met with vendors to order food.  Upon Mom’s death, a member of the Active Chapter took on that role as Kitchen Steward.  Our cooks in the 1960’s through the late 1970’s were Ralph “Bobo” Carter and his wife Mae.  After the fire, Bobo was replaced by Betty Combs who served in the position throughout the 1980s.  Bobo was known for his affinity for Kool cigarettes and Betty could often be found in a chair with her feet perched on an open oven door next to a pan of food in an attempt to keep her lower extremities warm.  Both Bobo and Betty were great characters and contributed to the aura that surrounded 300 N. Tallawanda. 


Ralph "Bobo" Carter, House Cook 1966(?)-1978

Betty Combs, House Cook 1979-1991(?)

Hot Breakfast was generally available from about 6:30 am until about 8:00.  The breakfast cook would unlock the kitchen and start to work the griddle.  Guys would come down during the hot breakfast hours for a “cook-to-order” breakfast.  From 8:00 until about 9:00, a continental breakfast of cereal, bagels, toast and fruit was made available.  Coffee was made available all morning and one could typically sit down and have a cup of Joe and a smoke with Lloyd who was finishing up his house clean-up prior to departing for his full time gig at Tallawanda High School..  The breakfast cook was responsible for clean-up and the guys did a pretty good job of clearing their own plates and loading them up for the dishwasher. 

At around 9:30, the House cooks would arrive to prepare the day’s lunch and dinner for the Chapter.  Lunch would start around 11:30 and run through 12:30 or 1:00.  It was generally a “walk through” affair, served buffet style.  We would line up at the kitchen door and take turns walking past the buffet table.  Some items would be portioned.  It was typical lunch fare; Soup & Grilled Cheese, “Beanies and Wienies”, Burgers, etc.  The “All My Children” crowd would generally eat quickly and head back to the tube room to reserve their seats to watch Erica Kane, Billy Clyde Tuggle, Palmer Courtland and Jenny Gardner.

Dinner was a more formal affair served Sunday’s through Thursdays.  The wait staff, dressed in white aprons, would arrive about 15-20 minutes prior to dinner to set the tables and fill the milk pitchers.  Dinner was served family style, so platters or serving bowls for the evening’s food were filled and readied for placement on each of dining tables.  With 66-70 guys living in the House and another 6-8 living in the Hooterville annex, we would expect roughly 75 or dinner every night.  On of the waiters would ring the dinner bell sometime around 5:00 or 6:00.  He would do so near the intercom so, no matter where you were in the House, you would hear the call to dinner.  The men would line up on the stairs leading down from the side entry foyer to the dining room.  No one entered the dining room until Mom Reaves had arrived.

It was the Commander’s duty to escort Mom from her suite down to the dining room.  Mom would take her place at the Head Table and the Commander would sit to her left.  Once Mom entered the dining room, the Head Waiter would give the “all clear” sign and the chapter would make a mad dash to find seats at the tables.  The men would remain standing at their seats until the Creed was recited and the Chaplain had issued Grace.  The men remained standing until Mom was seated.

Each table was provided with a limited amount of food and milk.  There was also a juice machine which offered up a virtually unlimited supply of a Kool-Aid type beverage we called “Jiz”.  No one seemed to complain too much; it was understood.  If there was extra food, it was offered first to the Head Table and then the wait staff would divide up any other leftovers among the other tables.  Generally, tables with the oldest guys (lowest pin numbers) were given preference when it came to extra food and drink.

When the boys had finished, they remained at the table until Mom got up to leave.  If for some reason an active had to leave dinner early, he would ask Mom’s permission to do so.  The gesture was simply out of respect for Mom.  Her permission was always given.

If you weren’t available for lunch or dinner, you could request a “late”.  The cook would take note and save you a plate from the meal.  I don’t recall anyone ever messing with anyone’s “late” meal.  We had an honor code about that kind of stuff.

Our weekend meals were casual.  If I recall, we had casual brunches on Saturday and Sunday.  The cooks came in early to prepare and we just warmed it up, served it and cleaned up after ourselves.  Saturday dinners were generally cold-cut sandwiches (“Sangies”) with chips and soup or one of the guys would volunteer to man the grill and cook burgers or steak sandwiches (“Strombolies”).

Usually once or twice a year, the men would arrive for dinner and find the wait staff dressed in raincoats.  This was a clear sign that a food fight would take place immediately after dinner.  The wait staff also played a key role in preparing the periodic “Dump”.  Dumps were a concoction of leftovers kept in a large pot over a period of several days.  Over a short period of time, the leftover food would begin to spoil and the concoction was pretty rancid.  Dumps were prepared for those who had gotten “pinned” to their girlfriends.  To celebrate the occasion, the betrothed brother would be stripped and hog tied and brought out to the back patio where the concoction was poured all over the brother.  After the dump had occurred, the boys had just enough time to scatter before the “dumpee” could untie himself and chase his brothers around the house in an effort to share his new covering with the rest of the chapter.  It was all in good fun.

As a regular member of the kitchen staff, I have two favorite stories:

The first took place during my introductory dinner as a pledge.  I had come to meet Mom and join her at the Head Table for my first “official” meal in the House.  I sat across the table, facing Mom.  The Wait Staff at the time was led by my pledge trainer, Stu Young.  Stu and a number of the other waiters decided to go “commando” (sans pants and underwear) under their aprons.  As I would try to carry on a conversation with Mom, the staff would stand behind her, lifting their aprons.  I couldn’t keep a straight face, but I couldn’t let Mom in on the secret. 

The second story was typical of our chapter.  I was Head Waiter during one of my senior years.  We had a walk-through dinner one night.  The food for the evening was not a House favorite.  When the dinner bell rang, the boys made there way to the doors to the kitchen where the buffet style meal would begin.  I remained in the kitchen to monitor the food, but noticed no one entering the kitchen to make plates for themselves.  It turns out one of the waiters, Jim “Scruffy” Beall, had posted a sign on the kitchen door consisting of a skull and crossbones along with the number for S.D.S. Pizza, a clear indication to the active chapter that the meal for the evening would be awful.  It did however make for a good “Dump”.