History of the Tortugateers - Mara Togas


Michael J. Brown – ‘54
Co-Founder and First President

Origins of the Tortugateers

The Tortugateers of Prado Dam were a group that evolved from Friday afternoon beer Keg party goers.   Whence the name?  Tortugateer was a combination of the Spanish word for turtle and the ending was a play on musketeers.  Prado Dam, south of Claremont was a location where some of the drinking forays took place, but not as frequently as "The Wash", and the Botanical Gardens. David Mellon of our class should be credited with coming up with the name and Jack Cook and I considered him as one of the three co-founders.  Prado Dam just sounded silly so we decided to add it to the moniker.  Jack Cook, now deceased, was a classmate of mine (class of '54) who liked to try different tropical rum drinks so he and I purchased the "Trader Vic Bartenders Guide" and discovered  what sounded like an intriguing concoction called  the Tortuga.  We made a batch of it and found it to be delicious and decided to take a sample to the next Friday party.  Although beer was very much on the agenda, other attendees were becoming more experimental.  Incidentally, the formula we adopted for the club was not identical to the one found in "The Trader Vic Bartenders Guide", although very close.  We couldn't resist tinkering.  The drink was accepted immediately by the group and became a fixture.
Since most of the attendees were regulars, I proposed that we form a club since there were no fraternities or social clubs on campus.   We started having meetings at Story House and adopted a rough set of rules and by-laws.  There were about a dozen original members, which doubled in size by the time we graduated.  We also came up with initiation ceremonies.  The most prominent one was the building of a casket into which the member to be, was placed and "buried" at the local cemetery.  When I returned from army service in Korea two years later I was shocked and delighted that the club was still alive and well.  So there you have it!

I am so pleased that the Tortugateer and Mara Toga alums  are so dedicated in creating a wonderful scholarship fund.  Who would have dreamed that such a whimsical group would grow into such a worthwhile organization and doing good things for students 58 years later?


 original tortuga recipesm


         Willy Chamberlin – ‘62

Tortugas ChuggingIt has been said that CMC was the beneficiary of the GI Bill, as many Veterans of World War II and then Korea settled in to shape the culture of CMC during its infancy.  And they made the College proud!

By the mid to late 1950’s the students fresh from high school were out numbering the Vets, and the administration was becoming concerned about the CMC culture and the reputation of this fine young college.  It was during my freshman year (58-59) that President George C. S. Benson had decided that he had enough.  A new Dean of Men (Clifton T. MacLeod aka “the Silver Fox”) was imported from Rochester, New York to develop a new culture for good ol’ CMC.  The academic/social year of 1959-60 was very challenging for both the administration and the students, as the students were very ingenious in their refusal to accept this bit of culture from the east. 

The Tortugateers had a large pledge class in my sophomore year.  We sophomores picked up on the subtleties of stealth resistance that the seniors had developed.  It is good that we did not follow along with blind faith, as we were about to be lead off a cliff.  They graduated (or at least most of them did) in June of 1960 – and the Silver Fox lit out after the rest of us with a purpose.  One of our brethren accepted the terms of a year’s leave of absence for a CMC degree, and several of us were given the rather stern option of “shape up or ship out.”

Upon my return for football conditioning in the Fall of 1960, the Silver Fox called me in to discuss my fate.  Recognizing that the uncouth had graduated, the decision had been made to allow the few of us that had strayed to return, but the Tortugateers of Prado Dam must be disbanded.  However, the agreement was forged that we could make a fresh start with a new name.

It was during the Fall of 1960 that the bloodied remnants of the Tortugas did a successful heart transplant, and the Mara Togas sprung to life.  An appropriate ceremony was held at the local cemetery, appropriately laying the proud body of the Tortugateers of Prado Dam to rest, and welcoming the Mara Toga as it arose to a new life.    

We have lived on as one – and it is always a pleasure to enjoy a little nostalgia with each reunion of our brethren – It’s always time for another one!!

Keep the good times rolling.


 Jerry Cadagan – ‘60

As the ad hoc reunion organizer, website overseer and custodian of what passes for old club records, I thought it would be easy to determine the circumstances that brought the club to its end around 1970.  I thought wrong.  Those who were around then claim no recollection of “an end”.  One could speculate that Dean MacLeod belatedly came to the realization that a mere name change would not achieve his aim of quelling the beast that lay in the hearts and minds of a Tortuga Mara Toga.  Thus, he may have given an ultimatum similar to that given to Willy and his early 60’s cronies years before; but this time the ultimatum might have been “disband or ship out.”  Maybe we’ll never know.  As a small postscript, around 2008 a group of young men on campus attempted to revive the Tortugateers of Prado Dam, but the effort was short lived.