Origins of the Frank Norris Pig Dinner

Origins of the Frank Norris Pig Dinner

Origins of the Frank Norris Pig Dinner

The origins of the Frank Norris Pig Dinner are somewhat shrouded in mystery.  And like many fraternity traditions, its origins were not completely linear.  Really two traditions seemed to merge into one event that is now the longest-running alumni event in the Greek world.

The origins of the gathering itself seem to originate from the very early 1890s at the California chapter (today known as Cal Berkeley).  And like many fraternity traditions, it centered around sports, food, and alcohol.

One of the biggest football games of the year was the California versus Stanford game held the day before Thanksgiving.  The brothers of the California chapter gathered at the Poodle Restaurant in San Francisco during the game.

This gathering seems to be the origin of the dinner itself.  But how did the Pig become part of the dinner?

Innumerable conflicting legends seem to have sprung up concerning its origin. What actually happened on that memorable occasion in 1893 was related in detail by a participant, Ralph L. Hathorn (California 1893), at the 67th Ekklesia banquet in 1915, and his version has been faithfully adhered to in the account which follows:

At the Class Day exercises of the University of California in 1893, the dispensator, who was Ralph Hathorn, a loyal Fiji, took occasion to rap the Dekes and Betas who had monopolized the glee club for the past year. The stunt consisted in bringing on the platform a barrel labeled "U. of C. Glee Club," tied with a cord symbolic of the strangle-hold established by these two rival societies.

Out of this barrel, to complete the figure tumbled a squealing pig. Some say the pig escaped and was pursued at this point by underclassmen Fijis with murderous intent. At any rate that night the pig was incarcerated in the lower regions of the Fiji stronghold on Dana Street.

While Frank Norris staged an elaborate ceremony worthy of the burnt offering. The date set was May 18 at 6 p.m., at which time twenty Fiji brothers foregathered at the banquet board and made the Delta realm resound with "All hail the pig!"

Hathorn, as master of ceremonies, then called upon every member present to renew his bond of allegiance, fidelity, and alliance, and to seal his vow on bended knee by the solemn ordeal of kissing the pig's snout. (Thus why we just saw members kiss the Pig).  After the banquet, which was continued long into the night and was something very like the genuine Kneipe (KA NIE PA), at the break of dawn Frank Norris was inspired to propose that they perpetuate the memory of the occasion by a perennial alumni-chapter pig dinner and rally. His was the prophetic vision of feasts to come `round Delta boards from coast to coast when young and old brothers should gather in informal good fellowship to renew old days.

So that covers the origins of the dinner and the origins of the Pig.  What about the Exile’s Toast that Kyle is about to read?

In 1900 when planning for the annual gathering for the California versus Stanford football game, Frank Norris, who had grown in fame to become one of the best-known authors of the day, was in New York and could not make it back.  So, he wrote a toast to be read at the dinner.  This toast discusses the regret he has about not attending.  He discusses his classmates and where they are located.  He suggests that they all figure out what time the dinner will start and lift a drink in memory of the Exile’s Far Away.

After the untimely death of Frank Norris in 1902 it was most fitting that this annual festivity should be dedicated to him, and that the custom should be known thereafter as the Frank Norris Pig Dinner.

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