A House Of Brothers.

Posted October 19 2016 in People

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In the Fall of 1967 when I was eighteen years old I joined the Zeta Psi fraternity at the University of Toronto.

Forty-nine years later I can count almost half of the brothers pictured above as my closest, and as it has turned out, life-long friends.

As a matter of interest, I am the pensive looking fellow at the top of the picture, my hand resting on my chin.

This post is dedicated to my brothers, and will, over time be filled with stories and pictures to celebrate our time together.

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The Toronto Chapter of Zeta Psi as founded in 1879 with eight brothers as the original organizers. The first meetings took place in rented hotel rooms.

It was officially the first fraternity in Canada. The America fraternal order was founded in 1847 by three students at the University of New York. Once again it is the first recorded society of its kind.

After several moves, the Toronto fraternity settled into an old tudor stye house at 118 St. George Street on the University of Toronto Campus.

This was to be our home until 1966 when the University expropriated the land to make way for the Robarts Library that currently sits on the site.

The amount of money offered to Zeta Psi as compensation by the University was found drastically lacking by the brothers, and after two years of court battles the Supreme Court of Canada found in favour of Zeta Psi and deemed an amount payable to us that not only allowed us to buy 180 St. George but covered all  our expenses with interest.

Today’s brothers owe the brothers of the past a debt of gratitude for their determination which  allowed to spend the last forty-nine years in 180. St. George.

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Four floors of fun and frolic! 180 St. George St. Toronto.

Built in 1898 by architect Fredrick Henry as a residence for Thomas Horn owner of  Luxfer Prism company, 180 St. George was designed in the robust Richardson Romanesque style with an exterior facing entirely of sandstone.

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Undoubtably the most famous Zete from the Toronto chapter is Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

Born in Guelph Ontario in 1872, he was man of many talents, poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I.

He joined Zeta Psi in 1894 while attending medical school at the University of Toronto. It was during this time that he published his first poems.

When World War I broke out in 1914, McCrae was appointed as a medical officer and major of the 1st. Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery.

During the second battle of Ypres in 1915, his best friend Alexis Helmer was killed, and it was Helmer’s death that inspired his most famous poem,

‘In Flander’s Fields.’

The poem was first publish in the British magazine Punch in December 1915, and it instantly became the most popular poem of the war. It was used in countless fundraising campaigns and  frequently translated.

It won Lieutenant Colonel McCrae instant fame, but he was most proud of that fact that his poem enabled other soldier to see were their duty lay.

Tragically, this brilliant life, so full of promise was snuffed out, not on the field of battle, but by extensive pneumonia meningitis on January 28th 1918.

He was buried in Wimereux Cemetry with full military honours.

Brother McCrae was one of sixteen brothers from our chapter that paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.

Another nine brothers would perish in World War II.

To honour their memory, we hold a Commemoration service and dinner at the house on the Saturday closest to Armistice Day, November 11th 1918. where “Taps” is played and their names read aloud.

In Flander’s fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard beneath the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flander’s fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw,

The torch: we  yours to holdout high.

If ye break faith with us whoo die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flander’s fields.

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This photo was taken in the fall of 1967. It is the first group of brothers to call 180 St George Street home.

Included in this picture are twenty new brothers that have just completed their as initiation as pledges.

Yours truly was one of those pledges, top row, far right.

These were the best of times, so innocent and fresh. But we all remain brothers forever, and it is in the worst of times that true brotherhood come through.

That said, we certainly did have and are still having FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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