Who better than to give us the true meaning of Houghton than one who experienced Michigan Tech during some of its prime drinking years – the 1980’s. Here, Jeff “Mouth” Russell gives us a first hand account of the trouble he got into while attending Michigan Technological University. I’ve cleaned it up a little bit, and left out some names to protect the drunken innocent, but for the most part, why mess with a man’s memories?For your own sake, don’t do anything you read here, except for maybe making a deal with a local beer distributor or creating the Greatest Sign on Earth. You could get arrested, seriously hurt, or possibly die. And never drink as much as Mouth did when he was at Tech. Just don’t. And please NEVER EVER drink and drive.
Bar room athletes
Life at Michigan Tech can be tough, but for those of us who managed to attend for 6 years to get a 4 year degree, we became professionals at having a good time despite Mother Nature’s little challenges. If you weren’t one of the “fortunate ones,”, you didn’t have enough money to go snowmobiling or downhill skiing every day to keep entertained, so the majority of us turned to becoming skilled bar room athletes, and drinking beer was a sport. All the better if while drinking you could become skilled at foosball, darts, pool or shuffleboard! These skills allowed one to join a local dart or pool league where you learned the meaning of “the proper dart buzz”, and to say things like “Ya you betcha, eh?”, and “Holy Wah!”
The 2:30 club
We also grew to understand that the 2:30 club was the most effective way to get laid, and that you needed to lower your expectations in order to succeed. In fact, the most successful person I know at this quest used to walk up to nearly every girl at a party and point blank ask if she wanted to get laid. He got slapped a lot, but completed his quest nearly every night, while the rest just took matters into our own hands. I think the extreme cold conditions naturally caused Tech women to pack on a few extra layers of “insulation,” which we called “snow cow syndrome.” Funny how Mother Nature works sometimes.
Shot a beer a minute
On a cold winter’s night, we would do things like gather about 30 people together to have a “shot a beer a minute” contest. At one of the more memorable of these events, we had two kegs, played for four hours with two left standing – well they were staggering a bit – but anyway, we had to send some of the early losers out for more beer, and two cases turned out to not be enough, so we called it a tie. All throughout the night, there were antics going on such as “who can drop the biggest shit”, and “puking for distance.”
Kill the keg
Then there was the time when about 15 of my fraternity brothers got together and played “kill the keg.” This is where each person gets a numbered cup, and stands in line at a keg charged with CO2. Once the keg is tapped, it cannot be turned off. Each player fills their cup, then goes to the back of the line. This process repeats until the keg is gone. Of course, a large trash can placed near the keg is mandatory for the occasional discharge of bodily fluids. It became even more challenging as weaker participants began to drop, but the entire process took place in about 45 minutes. And again, the antics continued long into the night, and everything kinda became a blur after that.
Shots of fire
At my old fraternity house, I had a “speakeasy” bar setup in a 2nd floor bedroom, well stocked from a recent trip to Indiana. We decided it might be really fun to light Everclear shots on fire then slam. One of our pledges forgot to blow it out before slamming, and managed to catch his hair on fire, but as only a true brother could do, he focused on getting his shot down while others put his hair out. Later that night, the same pledge class entertained us all by doing “stair rolls.” An odd sport which cannot be done while sober else you risk breaking bones.
Peterlin Brothers Distributing
Being the business-minded fraternity that we were, and the fact that every party we threw went through roughly 26 kegs, we managed to form a partnership with Peterlin Brothers Distributing. Donnie Peterlin became a good friend of the house, and furnished all of our taps and beer delivery equipment at no charge, and he occasionally performed maintenance for us. We even were given free reign of his warehouse where we were able to pick out whatever beer signs we liked to decorate our bar. In return, we just had to buy all our beer from Peterlin Bros, and he worked out volume discounts, and free delivery with us.
Then there was senior walk…This is where you start at the far west end of Hancock, and work your way back to campus stopping to have at least one drink at every bar along the way. This was normally about 14 bars, and sometimes we finished the journey, then headed back the other way to revisit some of the more memorable ones. Being the dedicated student that I was, I participated in three senior walks while in school and three more since graduation. I guess I liked being a senior! Who am I kidding, I just like pub crawls!
And who can forget “Piss Calls”, ah yes, back in the days before the university started cracking down on people who wanted to have fun, we used to get together on a weeknight and buy a keg. We’d vote on who we wanted to party with that night, then take our keg to that fraternity or sorority, walk in the door and all yell “Piss Call!!” It was considered rude for the other house not to all stop doing whatever they were doing and drink beer with us. They were also expected to call all members to their house to partake with us. This often resulted in the addition of more kegs, and anyone who postponed homework for the evening, was not getting it done. This is also where many pledge paddles were “taken hostage”, and many a fridge was raided.
Copper Country Cruising
Since the winters are so long and harsh, the slightest sign of nice weather can make you want to go out to see what is under all that white stuff. We called this Copper Country Cruising. One time four of us decided to cruise up to Copper Harbor. Now…keeping in mind that back then, drinking and driving was more like a sport, so even this required no less than a case of longnecks to get us through the journey. By the time we got to Copper Harbor, we were feeling pretty good, and thought it might be a good idea to see what the top of Brockway Mountain looks like in the spring. There didn’t seem like there was much snow on the road leading there, so we got up a real good head of steam, and plowed into it with my Plymouth Horizon TC3. We made it about 200yards before getting stuck. Sure was a good thing we decided to go with longnecks, because that box became our shovel, and we were able to dig our way back to freedom. The really funny thing was that we were doing this while wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts, so the pictures were priceless!
Drive of ’85
And anyone who was around da Tech in 1985 will remember the “Drive of ’85”. There was a major snowstorm pounding the UP on the Sunday after Thanksgiving break, and this same Plymouth Horizon was filled with three other students as we made our way through one snow drift and white out after another. We were making great progress until we reached L’anse, and discovered that the police had closed down US 41 due to sheets of ice washing over the road off the bay. L’anse was filled beyond capacity with stranded students, so we decided to backtrack and go around through Bruce Crossing. This was a great idea until the voltage regulator went out, the battery died, and the car stopped along the side of the road a few miles out of Mass City. We ended up spending the night in the car waiting for a plow truck to come by the next morning to rescue us, but found that we were totally buried except for an orange sleeping bag case that was tied to the top of the antenna. Recall…back then, we had no cell phones, but worse than that, we had no beer, making this the single worst night that I remember at Tech. I’m sure there were lots of other really bad nights, but I don’t remember them!
End of Earth 2, Houghton 4
And don’t forget the “End of Earth 2, Houghton 4” street sign that was made by our fraternity, and John Marchese turned it into one of the most memorable post cards in history. What’s left of this sign still hangs in the basement at the house, and many people think we stole this, but noooo…it is one of the only signs in the basement that was not stolen!