Design at Sigma Chi: parade float, party facade, room, & graphics

Round-Up
At the University of Texas, I joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. One of the long-standing traditions at UT was to celebrate Round-Up. There were concerts, pageants, events, and a parade through downtown Austin. Sigma Chi entered a float in parade and I designed the float. One of the traditions at our fraternity house was to build a facade of the Red Onion Saloon, named after a real saloon in Colorado. So, I used the Red Onion as the theme for the parade float. The float was built on top of a trailer with room for the band and saloon guests, light poles extending out over the street, and a two-story back wall of the saloon with a balcony over the bar. Riding the float were dancing girls, bartenders, patrons, and the ragtime band from Shakey's Pizza (who helped sponsor the float).
Dates: spring 1972 (or 1973)

The model of the float. I even punched poms into the holes of the fabric along the back.
Building this model allowed me to work out dimensions, layout, and structural supports.

Construction and painting. The middle foto shows a painting of a pizza and beer - I am 'holding' the beer mug.

Driving down to the staging area.


We rented period costumes for the riders.

Driving across the Colorado River bridge. The parade in downtown Austin.

Fraternity house decoration

One of the traditions of Round-Up at the Sigma Chi fraternity house was to build an elaborate stage set facade of a western town on the back patio for the biggest party social event of the spring semester. We (well, primarily the pledge class) found old wood, built the structure, and painted it to look authentic. The main building in the facade was the Red Onion Saloon, named after a real saloon in Colorado. I named the bank the River City Bank - River City was the first name of the city of Austin.
Dates: spring 1972 or 73 (it was the early 1970s - who remembers?)

I drew the sketch above during a chapter meeting and passed it around to get approval.

Alternative designs for the saloon tower.

Plan of the facade structure. The facade and fence under construction.

Remodeling my room
After a year serving as president of Sigma Chi, I moved out of the Officer's room in the main house and into room 5 of the apartment building. The rooms were an open studio. I wanted to build walls that would separate the bath and one closet from the sleeping/living area. This would allow one roommate to get ready in the morning (or afternoon as the case might be) with minimal disturbance of the other resident. I covered one wall in wood shingles and built cabinet door fronts for the built-in shelves. The effect helped the room look more like an apartment residence and less like a frat house dorm room.
Dates: Spring, summer, and fall semesters, 1972

Floor plan sketch. Perspective sketch.

Some graphic projects

The Greek letter logo contains an arrow in the negative space between the letters.
Cover and program photos for Derby Day, a field day of events among campus sororities. I was already fascinated by aligning elements on a grid.



More design projects done while at UT.


A later shot of the backyard.

Some of my pledge class, Christmas Party, December 9, 1972
Front row: Wayne? (not in our class), John Lawrence, Jerry Landers, ??, Don Drinkard
Second row: David Mucha, James?, Larry Kingsbury, Watson, Philip Sumners, Cliff Logan
Back row: Jim Craver, John Jarvis

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/sigmachi.html