Steve Hiken, Mike Snitzer and Alan Pressman have fond memories of attending Woodlawn and Pikesville high schools in the mid-1960s. And even though the trio had to leave those high-school days behind, they continue making meaningful memories with Upsilon Lambda Phi Fraternity, one of a number of high school and junior high school Jewish fraternities and sororities once popular in city and county public schools, but practically unheard of today.
In an effort to keep that flame of friendship and camaraderie lit, Hiken, Snitzer, Pressman and a loyal group of fraternity members have been getting together over the years, organizing small meetings and dinners at area restaurants.
“We had such a good time at our smaller gatherings, that we thought we would try and get a reunion for people that were in it from any year,” Hiken said. “Going back to the late ’40s.”
Members of the Omega Chapter, including Hiken, 71, and Snitzer, 70 and Pressman are organizing the event for a Sept. 27 reunion at The Cove at Citron in Quarry Lake at Greenspring. It is the first such reunion in 40 years.
Baltimore-area Jewish high school fraternities were not school-specific, with members across the metro area. Each year the fraternity would have a pledge class with anywhere from a dozen to two dozen members from five or six high schools.
“It wasn’t just for that particular high school,” Hiken said. “Back when I got out of high school in ’66, guys could have went to City College, Forest Park, Milford Mill, Pikesville, Woodlawn.”
Hiken attended Woodlawn for his sophomore year, then Pikesville when it opened in 1964. He graduated in 1966, Pikesville’s first graduating class.
“We had chapters all over the country and in Canada,” Hiken said. “It was mainly a social fraternity, but we played sports against other fraternities.”
Jewish high school fraternities date back to the early part of the 20th century and were at the time a product of segregation, so students formed their own Jewish clubs, including fraternities and sororities. One of the oldest is Sigma Alpha Rho, founded in West Philadelphia in 1917, which had chapters in Baltimore.
Organized and run by students, the fraternity chapters were independent of the schools, Hiken said.
“Each fraternity would have its own event. We threw this big event once a year called Mardi Gras,” Hiken said. “We had a father-son dinner with a speaker from a local sports team, like the Colts or the Bullets.” Local bands, such as the Mad Lads, as well as bigger names, such as the The Contours and The Isley Brothers, were brought in for dances. There were also combined events with Jewish sororities, including electing a king and queen.
Snitzer also attended Pikesville High, where a friend offered him a bid [to join] ULP.
“This was a culture in Northwest Baltimore back then,” Snitzer said. “I knew every Greek fraternity and sorority, and there was a lot of them. There was anywhere between seven and 10 active at the time and probably half a dozen or more sororities. There were Jewish frats and there were gentile frats.”
Snitzer said the fraternity brothers would travel the city and county, from Catonsville to Perry Hall, for socializing or athletics, in addition to attending national and regional conventions.
“Fourteen,15 and 16-year-old guys were running dances dealing with Motown [talent],” Snitzer said about concerts at the former Alcazar Ballroom on Cathedral Street. The boys would hire the performers, order tickets and get posters printed at the former Globe Poster. “We were working like we were adults. It was an educational experience. I look back and I feel that it helped me down the line.”
Pressman, a 1967 Pikesville graduate, said the fraternity was a major influence.
“Coming out of the ninth grade from Sudbrook, being 15 years old and starting high school, a very naive kid,” Pressman said. “The frat taught me to be a man, and stand up for myself and friends. It also brought me a great bunch of life-long friends. I believe it helped shape me to be the man I am today.”
Snitzer has kept in touch with fraternity brothers from his pledge year, but with members retiring and moving away, he said the challenge is finding current contact information. He and Hiken hope to get the word out to ULP members they have lost touch with, and those from other pledge years.
“The real challenge is finding people,” Hiken said. JT
The event is Sept. 27, 2019, at The Cove at Citron, 2605 Quarry Lake Drive, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. There will be hors d’oeuvres, a buffet dinner, “Baltimore” desserts, beverages, a cash bar and one free cocktail included in the ticket price. Tickets are $99 through May, and $125 after. Spouses and dates are $99. For special dietary needs call 443-829-7236. For more information and tickets, email ULP.Omega@gmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-218-0025 or visit facebook.com/groups/ULP.Fraternity. Mail checks payable to MASCOM-ULP Reunion to MASCOM, P.O. Box 1463, Owings Mills, MD 21117-1403, or on PayPal at paypal.me/MasComSports.