Thanks and a hat tip to Matt T. for pointing out this auction.  It features an AP wire photo from February 1931 of two fraternity houses on campus, Phi Delta Theta and in the pic below, Sigma Alpha Epsilon:

How could anything bad happen in this delightful looking abode? (Hint to cops: check the cold room)

Why were these houses photographed for the press?  Perhaps a wintery version of the Mudbowl was on tap?  No ‘mam.

The two fraternities, along with three others on campus (Theta Delta Chi, Kappa Sigma, Delta Kappa Epsilon) were the target of a coordinated raid by local police looking for booze.   Not that alcohol is celebrated by local authorities on campus today, but in 1931 we were still a couple years from the end of Prohibition.  This was a little more serious.

Word of the raid made the front page of the February 12, 1931 Chicago Tribune which provided some of the spicy details of the “Rum Raid” including a pretty lengthy listing of the more prominent students arrested.   Among them (and the first listed) was James Simrall–the captain of the 1930 football team and a Phil Delt.   Here’s captain Simrall in the 1930 team photo squeezed between Yost and coach Harry Kipke:

Captain Simrall in 1930 (center) between Yost and Kipke

Also arrested among the 75 students taken in:

* Merton Bell, the president of the student council
* Joe Russell, sports editor of the Michigan Daily
* Robert Petrie, a forward on the basketball team
* John Sauchuck, manager on the football team

Apparently the boys were stocking up for the ‘J-Hop’, what the Trib described as “the social event of the season” and “a moist affair.”  This certainly put a damper on the party as the cops carted off an estimated 50 quarts of whiskey, win and gin, confiscated after room-to-room inspections.

I’m guessing the boys got away with a stern warning given the volume of students involved, the fact that frats are technically private residences, and who are we kidding…do you watch Boardwalk Empire?  Everybody still drank.

[Ed: Update 12/19]:  I dug around and found out a little bit more.  Those arrested were suspended and the the fraternities were closed through the end of the school year.  The students felt they were mistreated by the officers and the matter made it all the way to the Lansing legislature.  In April 1931 the state House found in the students’ favor: “The police officers who actually raided the fraternity houses were indiscreet and overzealous , or were quite willing to embarrass the students needlessly.”  The houses were reopened in September.

P.S. – The name on the search warrant used to search the houses?  “John Walker”.

The opening bid on the auction of the wire photo is $24.88.

1 Comment

  1. We really were standing on the shoulders of our fraternal forefathers.