By W. David Akridge (Epsilon Alpha–South Alabama ’80)
In 1986, a group of Epsilon Alpha KA’s living on the East Coast of the US decided that it was time for a get-together. Most of us had joined the Order in 1979 -1983 and were now starting careers. From Franklin, Virginia, to Jacksonville, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, we assembled in Nag’s Head, North Carolina. This was not your typical boys’ weekend. Wives were welcome as were children. Many of the wives for that first trip had been Little Sisters or KA Roses and were very much a part of the group.
What a success. We determined that we would do it again the next year. We broadened the invites and met the second year in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
While a boys’ weekend might be fairly common, what distinguishes the longevity of gatherings is that this was never a boys’ weekend. Rather for 36 consecutive years, this group has met. We call ourselves the KA Travellers. The original gathering for many years was always the third weekend in September, then with the addition of children arriving, we moved to June and finally as the children became involved in sports that didn’t end until July, we moved it to its present weekend of the last full weekend in July. We changed the schedule but never our desire to be together. In short, our meetings evolved with our changing life’s circumstances and quite frankly contributed to the long-term success.
In the early years, it was primarily beach locations up and down the east coast or gulf coast. As the gathering evolved and disposable incomes grew, we evolved to every other year of just adults out of the country with the alternate year in-country with children. What an amazing experience we have had. Out-of-country destinations have included many locations in the Caribbean, and most recently Greece. Our in-country gatherings were equally or perhaps more special as our children had the opportunity to grow up together and develop friendships. If you ask the KA kids, what location they treasure the most, it would be hands down The Jekyll Island Club in Jekyll Island, Georgia.
We now begin our associations as grandparents and yes, the children and grandchildren are still welcome for the in-country gatherings. It has truly become one of life’s gifts.
Over the years, through our alumni affiliation, we have picked up other generations of Epsilon Alpha KA’s that are now a part of the group. While there are age gaps, the bond of Kappa Alpha unites us.
While dispersed geographically, this gathering always happened. With Alumni who at times lived as far away as Washington State, Oregon, New Hampshire, Texas, we gather.
As our children have married, our KA Travellers are there. Special events in our family’s lives mean the Travellers will be a part of it. We are now a group brought together by our Kappa Alpha Bond that crosses the generations. Whether it be at each other’s wedding many years ago, or more recently our children’s weddings, we will be there not because it is expected but rather we want to continue what has become a family relationship.
On the 30th Year of our gathering, we decided to re-create in a family-friendly way one of our signature parties, Lawn Party. What a challenge to re-create the essence of an undergraduate lawn party that would be inclusive of wives, children, and in some cases, Brothers who were not regular attendees. We returned to the Alabama Gulf Coast and there we had the large outdoor venue, the music from our undergraduate experience, catered meal, the commemorative cup, and t-shirt. By the way, the T-Shirt, designed by a KA daughter who was a graphics artist. After describing the essence of what we wanted, she nailed it with an instant classic. Unlike the undergraduate version of Lawn Party, we maintained an absolutely balanced budget and had over 80 in attendance for this event. Epsilon Alpha KAs, wives, kids all came and were able to enjoy the weekend’s events. Our 40th Anniversary of this gathering will once again be a recreation of this event.
Two years ago in Greece, we ventured on a memorable sunset cruise off the coast of Greece. We convinced the crew to allow us to fly the flag of both the University of South Alabama and the Flag of our Order. This will no doubt be one of the special memories created and clearly, we maintain both our relationship with the Order and our University.
Finally, on the weekend of July 22nd-July 25th, 2021, we gathered at the Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach. While the annual gathering and telling of war stories that sometimes get embellished, a red tide outbreak in the gulf eliminated that activity, the most important thing that occurred was the opportunity to get together. We had our usual core group, wives, adult children, some with spouses. I mentioned that our kids were able to grow up together. We saw a real-life demonstration of this relationship when one of the KA daughters was celebrating a birthday and another KA daughter conspired with a younger sister to surprise her with a home-baked birthday cake. Relationships have developed and are treasured.
Upon reflection, and you tend to do that as you get older, I think we all agree that while the undergraduate experience we all had was special, the 36 years following our departure from the University of South Alabama have been even more special. You see, those that compose this group still heed the ideals of our Order and recognize that being a Gentleman of the Kappa Alpha Order imposes the necessity to continually strive to live by the ideals of our Order over a lifetime. In doing so, we have been rewarded with a post-graduate experience that dwarfs even that of the four short years we were together as undergraduates.