Former BYU fraternity celebrates 100th anniversary with commemorative weekend

1952

 

The Goldbrickers, a BYU social club established in 1917, was disbanded three times in its hundred-year history. But that didn’t stop the members from celebrating brotherhood and fellowship at their centennial celebration.

A four-day celebration organized by a planning committee over the last two years began Sept. 14 in honor of one of BYU’s oldest social clubs.

William Winfield, a 1976 Goldbricker pledge, headed the planning committee and assembled a small team to prepare the historic weekend.

“It was really emotionally satisfying to be a part of reuniting so many friends and acquaintances,” Winfield said. “We started planning this two years ago and it was worth every minute to see the flames rekindled in so many brothers.”

The Goldbrickers were organized by a group of young soldiers from Provo who met at a training camp in San Francisco during World War I. The social club was established upon their return to Provo as the soldiers wanted to maintain the friendships and continue the sense of brotherhood they experienced.

The name “goldbricker” comes from the military — a nickname referring to a slacker or someone doing less work than the rest of the group. But the founders repurposed the term for their own needs, ironically naming themselves the exact opposite of what they strived to be.

“Being a Goldbricker is all about chivalry, integrity and brotherhood,” 1986 pledge Chris Kenney said. “Some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life have been Goldbrickers.”

The “dry” fraternity had a tumultuous relationship with BYU for most of its existence. In 1924, all fraternities were removed from BYU’s campus as the university’s rules and standards were widely unkept. The Goldbrickers found success off campus for several years under the name “The Nuggets.” BYU then established a social system in 1928, allowing students to organize and lead social clubs and organizations. The Goldbrickers were back on campus. 

Prior to the 1962-1963 school year, BYU forced the Goldbrickers to disband once again. President Ernest L. Wilkinson put an end to all social clubs and advised students to find social fun from church-organized activities within their wards. The organization once again moved off campus and revived the club under a new name: the Samuel Hall Society.

Sigurd Sundal, a 1955 pledge, was the first president of the newly created Sam Hall Society.

“We had very deep friendships and associations and a lot of fun. We didn’t make that much trouble, just a little,” Sundal said. “We didn’t know what to do but we knew we wanted to try to hang together, our little tight gang of us.”  

The Samuel Hall Society was an intellectual society, with distinguished speakers visiting the members — at least, for the first year or two. The organization’s charter was revoked in 1986. The group was once again relocated off campus and had the sponsorship of BYU faculty member Wes Johnson, a Goldbricker himself in his college days, who promoted positive ties between the university and the club.

Last weekend marked 100 years of the Goldbrickers and traditional activities were planned for those in attendance. While smaller Brickers reunions are held locally every year during BYU’s homecoming, nothing had ever been planned to this magnitude.

One of the weekend’s main events took place on Friday night — the Goldbricker Clambake. Nearly 300 people gathered at the Riverside Country Club in Provo for the event.

“The clambake was the pinnacle of this experience,” Kenney said. “Traditionally it would have been held over homecoming weekend. We would use the clambake to celebrate the new pledges and engagements and commemorate our great organization.”

The Brickers attended the Wisconsin vs. BYU game Sept. 16, commemorating the event with specialized shirts and hats. There was a “Cowboy Party,” another tradition carrying over from the days of the organization, following the game. The Centennial Celebration weekend closed with a fireside led by Steve Carlston, president of NBC4 Los Angeles, on Sunday night.

Many of the members credit the club for friendship, family legacy, and even, meeting their wives while at BYU.

Christopher James Yost Sr., a 1984 pledge, was president of the social club in 1986 and experienced lasting relationships from his time as a Goldbricker.

“Socially, great things happened because of this club,” Yost said. “All the fun I had in college, all the friends I made in college, are primarily through this club. I met my wife through this club.”

While the Goldbrickers, and the many other social clubs that were once a part of BYU culture, are not around today, their legacy lives on through commemorative events and the sharing of its history.

“[Goldbrickers] was good harmless fun and we had a good time,” Yost said. “It’s a shame that it’s not here for my sons.”

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