History of the Norris Pig Dinner
In 1893, the first of the famous pig dinners, dedicated to Frank B. Norris (California ’94), was celebrated at the University of California. As in the case of Charles Lamb’s account of the discovery of roast pig, our most popular annual barbecue originated in incidents which at the time seemed quite accidental and trivial. Years later when the custom was established in every chapter, innumerable conflicting legends seem to have sprung up concerning its origin. What actually happened on that memorable occasion in ’93 was related in detail by a participant, Ralph L. Hathorn (California ’93), at the 614th Ekklesia banquet in 1915, and his version has been faithfully adhered to in the account which follows:
At the Class Day exercises of the University of California in 1893, the dispensator, who was Ralph Hathorn, a loyal Fiji, took occasion to rap the Dekes and Betas who had monopolized the glee club for the past year. The stunt consisted in bringing on the platform a barrel labeled “U. of C. Glee Club,” tied with a cord symbolic of the strangle-hold established by these two rival societies. Out of this barrel, to complete the figure, tumbled a squealing pig. Some say the pig escaped and was pursued at this point by underclassmen Fijis with murderous intent. At any rate that night the pig was incarcerated in the lower regions of the Fiji stronghold on Dana Street, while Frank Norris staged an elaborate ceremony worthy of the burnt offering. The date set was May 18 at 6 p.m., at which time twenty Fiji tribesmen foregathered at the banquet board and made the Delta realm resound with “All hail the pig!” Hathorn, as master of ceremonies, then called upon every member present to renew his bond of allegiance. fidelity, and alliance, and to seal his vow on bended knee by the solemn ordeal of kissing the pig’s snout. After the banquet, which was continued long into the night and was something very like the genuine Kneipe, at the break of dawn Frank Norris was inspired to propose that they perpetuate the memory of the occasion by a perennial alumni-chapter pig dinner and rally. His was the prophetic vision of feasts to come ’round Delta boards from coast to coast, when young and old brothers should gather in informal good fellowship to renew old days.
After the untimely death of Frank Norris in 1902 it was most fitting that this annual festivity should be dedicated to him and that the custom should be known thereafter in all of Fijidom as the “Norris Pig Dinner.”