In late 1961 or early 1962, a rumor was floated in the Greek Community at
SFVSC that the manufacturer of Marlboro, Parliament and Alpine cigarettes was
sponsoring a contest, by the terms of which the organization which collected
the most empty packages of its product would have an "iron lung" donated to a
needy person in its name. Nobody really believed it, of course, and most of
us were pretty sure it was a complete hoax. Nevertheless, nobody contacted
the manufacturer to find out.
No. Instead we spent countless man hours "hunting Marlboros". Sometimes
the hunt would consist of driving around slowly and trying to spot 'em at the curb, whereupon the driver would hit the brakes and the passengers would nab
the little treasure. We cruised all manner of establishments which permitted
smoking (which was all of them back then) and snaked 'em as soon as we saw
another patron take his last Marlboro. Many of the smoking brothers switched
to one of the coveted brands. We collected about 10,000 in just a few
It was during one of our Marlboro hunts that I learned quite a valuable
lesson, which has stayed with me for almost forty years. Someone, and it may
even have been me, came up with the idea of going through the trash dumpster
at the Van Nuys Drive In Theater. This idea, and it is flattery to call it
that, proved to be disastrous, as well as ineffective. Four of us went. Sam
was one but the passage of time has stolen all recollection of the other two.
As usual, I was the smallest, and although the dumpster would have
accommodated a baseball team, I was elected to go in alone. In retrospect, I
was probably too compliant. Reach into a receptacle without looking first and you can be surprised.
Perhaps you recall the news story years later of a lawyer reaching into his
mailbox only to find a Python, thoughtfully put there by his friends at
Synanon. I found a large trashbag and fearlessly reached in and felt around.
Unlike our lawyer in the Python story, there was nothing alive in the
bag--that is unless you count the bacteria and other micro-organisms
associated with used sanitary napkins. A Python may have inflicted a serious injury on me, but would not have grossed me out nearly as much.
Well, the "contest" ended just as suddenly as it had begun. We just
stopped hunting Marlboros, but not before the pledges stole our Marlboros and
blamed it on the Delts and we retaliated by stealing the Delts' Marlboros (or
silverware or something). As usual, our enthusiasm and participation made us
the champions of all the Greek Organizations at collecting Marlboros.
Our days in the Fraternity were priceless. They taught us the principles of brotherhood, which, if practiced by the nations of the World, would lead to peace and harmony. They taught us the art of working together
toward a common goal. Last but not least, they taught us that idle and
useless activities were not, as most would have it, a complete waste of time
as long as two or more of us did them together.