The Paddle. It’s almost like The Monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” An artifact from an advanced civilization, hidden for centuries? Almost. The venerable, hand-carved Tri-SwineOmega paddle — along with the group’s charter — has been on display for over a decade in the “Alumni Corner” of the Northern Star offi ce in NIU’s Campus Life Building. The Paddle was in storage before that at the Regional History Center in NIU’s Founders Memorial Library. Saved for posterity in 2007 by Star business adviser Maria Krull, The Paddle is a symbol of the 1960s campus life, student angst and Baby Boomer values. Tri-Swine was part “Mad” magazine satire, part NIU Greek-life protest and two parts realization that sometimes adulthood maybe wasn’t much diff erent from childhood.
All Swine are invited to campus on Friday, Oct. 12, at NIU’s Barsema Alumni Visitor Center for a gala 55th reunion along with the 10th Northern Star Alumni Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet. And, all is forgiven. Tri-Swine spawned from the radioactive crucible named Kishwaukee Hall on College Avenue. The former “Jimmy’s Tea Room” (nee student union) housed the crowded, 24-7 offices of the Norther yearbook, the Star, and two radio stations, WNIU-FM and the college current carrier in the resident halls. Offi ces? More like a commune springboard for media-related trainees. There were interoffice romances, feuds, rivalries, and lifelong friendships. Many members of Swinedom carved out wonderful J-related careers, some becoming Star Alumni Hall of Famers or recipients of the J-department’s prestigious Donald Grubb Distinguished Alumni Award.
The TSO tri-founders? The guilty: the Star’s Bill Hetland, the Norther’s Bob Richardson, and photo service’s Barry Stark. “Bill used to go around and call everybody ‘swine.’ Swine-this, swine-that,” recalled Stark, similar to “dude” or “BFF” today. “The three of us would be friends forever. The three swine. The night we decided to do this (the day after President John Kennedy’s assassination), Bill was the only J-major (among the founders) and was always upset at the Greek system because they ran everything at NIU.” Why not the Greek letters? Tri-Swine-Omega was born. “It was fun, sarcastic,” Stark added. “Our own frat thing. Yeah, it was a joke.” Read the original TriSwine charter. Can you say “irreverent?” “By the order of his most holy and corrupt mind, William D. Hetland, on this great and glorious 23(rd) day of November in the year 1963, do(es) establish this insane and scum sucking organization which shall be forever known throughout the land as TriSwine-Omega and forthwith is a list of those most honored and idiotic enough to agree to be associated with this most unholy and tragic group.”
The charter includes about 90 original pledges — and several J-faculty. The document proudly displays the offi cial TSO logo — two pig heads and a swine rear end, created by Stark, a photographer and cartoonist. Jon Lawrence made the paddle, Stark said. “We had no idea. He was a freshman, a kid with all this varied, strange talent in photography, cartooning, embroidery, woodworking, whatever. Jon came back from semester break (1964) with this beautiful paddle.” Painted with a red border, varnished with an intricate and exact pink-colored copy of Stark’s tri-piggy TSO logo, the almost 5-foot-long paddle is a symbolic NIU artifact of the 1960s. The Paddle is cracked but repaired. All Swine members have sworn not to reveal the identity of the pert female behind on which it was broken. Sorry, TMZ. TSO sweatshirts were hot items (made and sold by Secor’s bookstore in downtown DeKalb). There have been Tri-Swine “pignics,” even a TSO football game — refereed by former Star adviser Roy G. Campbell.
For more information, contact Maria Krull (email@example.com) or myself (firstname.lastname@example.org)