Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, Brothers. I know as you read this the pain of facing another blue Monday is much tempered by the joy of the approaching three-day work week. Admit it… you're going to take Friday off, aren't you? I've never made that my habit. My philosophy is it's easier to get things done when the office is as empty and quiet as a ghost town. Besides, that's Black Friday. You can sit in the safety of your office while throngs at Walmart and Target trample themselves to snag that big-screen TV they don't really need.

But we all know there is a deeper meaning to the holiday. It's a time we can set aside to be with friends and family, and to be thankful for those relationships as well as the bounty of our country, which most of us share.

And What's Masonic about that? Many lodges celebrate with a Thanksgiving dinner or, like my own Lodge, provide one to a deserving family or group who might not have the means to celebrate with the rest of us. It's a springboard into a season of giving in which we can practice the second of our tenets of brotherly love relief and truth.

We all know the story of the "Pilgrims and Indians" celebrating the "First Thanksgiving." First in the "New World" it may have been, but it was not the first United States Thanksgiving since, at that time, the US did not exist. Brother George Washington proclaimed that first US official Thanksgiving celebration in 1789, when he declared November 26 to be set aside not to be thankful for the nation's bounty but to give thanks for the newly adopted Constitution. Washington also enjoined people to "...unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications... beseeching [God] to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

Although celebrated off-and-on, usually unofficially, from that time forward, Thanksgiving did not become a permanent official US holiday until Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it so in 1939.

So, once again, happy Thanksgiving, Brothers. May we all reflect on what he have to be thankful for as we celebrate happily passed out in front of a football game in our tryptophan-induced stupors.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Frank McKinney and Me

Frank E. McKinney (1904-1974) was a bigshot. An Indianapolis native, he was Chairman of American Fletcher National Bank, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and other baseball teams, and was hand-picked by Harry Truman to be the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was even named US Ambassador to Spain, but never actually assumed the job. He owned a sprawling mansion in Indianapolis, was an accomplished pilot and his son, Frank, Jr., was an Olympic swimming champion.

Frank and My Dad

McKinney was also a friend of my Dad. I don't really know how the friendship developed. I never asked Dad and after he was gone I tried to do a little digging to find out what they had in common. The first place I looked was to check to see if Frank was a Freemason. For all I can find out he was not. Dad was the Secretary-Treasurer of his corporation's board and as such made its banking arrangements. He may have gotten to know McKinney in his role with AFNB. In addition to the Pirates, McKinney also owned the Indianapolis Indians minor league team. Dad was one of the Indians' original shareholders and they may have had that connection. Maybe it was just the fact they were both avid fishermen.

What led up to the invitation I don't know but at one point Frank told Dad to bring my Brother Jim and me to the Indiana University pool in Indianapolis where we got free swimming lessons from Frank, Jr., the eventual Olympic champion.

Another time, Dad flew to Canada with Frank to a lake inaccessible by road for a fishing trip. I do not know how many were with them, but I imagine it was a pretty small group.

Dorm Room Civil War

Throughout my high school years, I hung around with a friend who was in my DeMolay chapter. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say we were inseparable. We both enrolled at Indiana University and were roomates in Wright Quadrangle. About midway through our freshman year, we were each asked to pledge separate fraternities. I declined but Joe (not his real name) accepted.

As Joe became more active in pledging his fraternity, he grew distant to the point that our relationship completely deteriorated. Without going into detail, he became pretty nasty toward me and nothing I could do would change his attitude. In retrospect I wonder if his fraternity required its pledges to eschew former relationships in favor of the pledge's new Brothers. At any rate, things became unbearable for me. For the record, I was no angel in the dispute. Then, like today, you come at me, I come at you harder.

Joe's antics finally got to the point where I couldn't take it any more. One morning the situation hit a tipping point and I called my dad at the office and told him what was going on. His reaction was typical Dad: "You are at school to get an education. That's your job. Get to class, knuckle down with the books and forget about Joe."

Then he said the magic words: "I'll take care of this."

After the call I went to my classes. When my afternoon classes were over I walked back to the residence hall anticipating more of Joe's nonsense.

When I opened the door Joe was inside having a hissy-fit. He was taking clothes out of his closet and throwing them on the bed, cursing as he did it. He saw me come in and turned his wrath on me, "YOU WON'T GET AWAY WITH THIS! I'LL GET YOU IF IT'S THE LAST THING I EVER DO!" By suppertime he had taken all of his things out of the room and down to a waiting car. In just a few hours Dad had eradicated the little unwanted pest. I actually didn't know if Joe had been kicked out of school or just moved. I soon discovered from others in our residence hall he had been kicked out of the dorm and was moving into his fraternity – probably not the best situation for a pledge.

I questioned Dad about the situation but he wouldn't tell me what he did. His only response was for me just to concentrate on my school work.

Frank Stepped In

Fast forward a couple years. I was home for the weekend. Dad and I were sitting in the kitchen having lunch when the phone rang. It was Frank McKinney inviting Dad to go on a fishing trip. They took a while to make plans and then Dad hung up and asked me, "Remember that trouble you had with Joe a couple years ago?"

"How could I forget it," I asked.

"That's the guy I called to get him thrown out of your dorm room," he said.

It turns out, in addition to all the other impressive things on his resume, Frank McKinney was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Indiana University. All it took was one call to him and Joe was booted from the room. I am certain that kind of thing could not happen today, but things were different back then.


One final thing… during that same phone call Frank McKinney invited me to fly back to Bloomington in his private plane. I had been doing my share of flying over that period, but I was a nervous flier. I could handle the big jets but no way was I getting in a small private plane. Looking back, I wish I had taken him up on his offer.

As for Joe... I never saw nor heard from him again.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Forget Me Not Day

Are you ready for the holidays?

Oh, I'm not talking about those holidays… you know, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year… the ones that march us out of the old year with all its "vices and superfluities" and into the hope of the new year. No, I'm talking about the less common holidays that give us an opportunity to celebrate the forgotten, the mundane, the obscure.

This is 21st century America. We are an equal opportunity nation and must give these quirky days their moment in the sun — not to mention their own individual marketing event.

Let's hear it for the revenue generating enthusiasm of National Ice Cream Day (December 13), Popcorn Day (January 19), National Doughnut Day (first Friday in June), Sun Screen Day (May 27) or even National Underwear Day (August 5).

And don't forget to celebrate the days that are just plain absurd like If Pets Had Thumbs Day (March 3), Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day (August 8), Hoodie-Hoo Day (Feburary 20), Have a Bad Day Day (November 19) and, my personal favorite, No Diet Day (May 6).

Well, there's a little wheat among all that chaff. Did you know this Saturday, November 10, is nothing less than National Forget-Me-Not Day?

To those we might refer to as "the profane," National Forget-Me-Not Day is an opportunity to remember friends, family and loved ones.

But we, as Free and Accepted Masons, know it to have another meaning. I know what it means; and you know what it means. It's not really a Masonic secret but, as for the rest of them, let's keep them guessing.

Happy Forget-Me-Not Day.

Friday, November 2, 2018

A True Story

The following is a true story. Names have been omitted not so much to protect the innocent… but mainly to protect this author.

The Grand Master of the jurisdiction, Orient Sovereign Grand Inspector General (SGIG) and Scottish Rite Sovereign Grand Commander (SGC) were in attendance at a large Scottish Rite Luncheon, sitting together at the head table. The Grand Master got up to speak and his address included the following:

"In 2011, I was in Washington, DC, on business. I had never been to the House of the Temple, so I went there to see it. When I got there I found out it was Honors week and most people were at the main hotel for the event. I took the tour and as a part of it they took me to the SGC's office. He was not there and neither was his secretary. I don't know where he was... perhaps at the motel with his secretary."

The room filled with gasps that erupted into laughter.

The Grand Master realized how that sounded, turned to the SGC, took off his 33° cap and offered it to him. The SGIG stood up, walked over to the Grand Master and (close enough to the microphone so everyone could hear), whispered, "Don't forget, "I'm an attorney."

The Grand Master continued, "They told me since I was the ranking Freemason there, I was in charge and they had me sit at the SGC's desk. I told them if I was in charge I should be able to make a few decisions."

They asked, "What decisions do you want to make?"

"Well," said the Grand Master, "I told them what my Orient was and said that out there we have this SGIG... uh, maybe I shouldn't finish that story."

The SGIG got up and said he had an award for the Grand Master. He read a proclamation and finished with, "...and I'll give you the award after I hear the rest of that story."

Monday, October 15, 2018

In My Day We Did It This Way...

I often mention the fact that the reading of the minutes may be one of the less exciting parts of a Masonic meeting. Personally, I live for it... I live for it to be over with, that is.

One of the bodies I belong to, in my opinion, does it right. At that meeting we always have a dinner beforehand and the Secretary sets out copies of the minutes and any other pertinent material such as financial statements on each table. During the time before the meeting each member has a chance to read through the handouts. Then, during the meeting, without a reading, we vote on approval.

It doesn't always go this way. In my own Blue Lodge — God bless 'em — we still have the ever-present dronin... uh, I mean reading of the minutes at each meeting. To add to the frenzy of excitement this creates we also read the name of every officer in every station, every visitor and every single word of every petition. I remember one night in particular when we had multiple petitions. By the end of the evening I almost had the entire document committed to memory, and would have... had I not fallen asleep.

When I became Senior Warden I sat in the West close enough to the Junior Deacon that we could converse during the meeting. Together we felt we could solve the problems of the world, so solving the problems of the Lodge was a piece of cake.

Every single meeting when the reading of the minutes came up Allen (not his real name, of course) would turn around to me and say, "When I get up there in the East, we're not going to do this." He encouraged me to do it before he got there but I told him I just wanted to get through my year unscathed and would leave it up to him to make the radical change.

Years passed. I went through the East — only scathed a little bit but I survived. Then I moved to that most coveted of all Masonic positions, Past Master, and waited for Allen to take the helm; and take it he did — full of the vigor of his still youthful age and the expectation of the exciting year he had planned.

I was nearly giddy as I went to his first meeting knowing he was about to shake the Masonic world. I sat in great anticipation as Allen opened the meeting. Then, in an instant, my hopes for a better world came crashing down as he turned and said, "Brother Secretary, you will read the minutes..."

I nearly had an out-of-body experience as we droned through the meeting and Allen embraced the usual pomp and circumstance — more pomp than circumstance — of all the meetings and Masters that had come before him.

After the meeting I rushed up to him and asked why he had fallen into the routine he seemed to abhor back in his Junior Deacon days.

His answer sounded a little familiar, "I just want to get through my year unscathed."

Change is difficult, Brothers, and the penalty for attempting it may be a good sound scathing, which many times starts with the words, "In my day, we did it this way..."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Dot Within a Circle

By Right Worshipful Brother  Lloyd G. Lyon

In Masonry we often see and reference to the certain point within a circle bordered by two perpendicular lines, representing Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, and upon the vertex of the circle rests the Holy Bible.

The point represents the individual Brother and the circle represents the boundary line of his duty, beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, interests, or prejudices, to betray him. 

In going around the circle, we necessarily touch on the two parallel lines, as well as the Holy Scriptures.

When a Mason keeps himself within these due bounds, it is impossible that he should materially or spiritually fail as a child of God. We strive for perfection but, as humans, we fall short of perfection.

According to the Book of the Law, as man, we are bound to certain frailties and failures. This keeps us all from becoming ideal men and ideal Masons, no matter how hard we may try.

We therefore hold for ourselves as the perfect form or ideal of a Mason, the two Holy Saints John.

Here we have two Saints John, very properly described as parallel figures. Both of great character and both projecting a strong influence, with words, symbols and life experiences, on the civilized world. Yet, they were so different as Saint John the Baptist was very dogmatic and rigid while the other Saint John the Evangelist, intelligent and esoteric. In both we find the integrity and unwavering fidelity so common to Masonic teachings, but, their manner of teaching, living and preaching those virtues were as different as night and day, darkness and light.

Even though we know they were not perfect and probably were not Freemasons as we are defined today. What we know of them shows them to be perfect examples of what a Freemason should be: kind, righteous, loving, passionate, zealous, filled with Light, and above all, faithful unto death, to the trust reposed in them. They are the Platonic Form or Ideal of the Freemasons, never to be achieved, but always to be emulated.

With this pattern of reasoning we can see the mythical Lodge of the Holy Saints John at Jerusalem as the Platonic Form or Ideal of a Masonic Lodge. It can and should exist as our ideal of what a Lodge of Masons would be if all its members achieved the Ideal Masonic life of Saint John the Baptist, dogmatic and rigid, and represented here by the Square within an upside down triangle, and,

Saint John the Evangelist, intelligent and esoteric and represented by the Compasses within a upright triangle.

Placed together the symbol for the Saints might look like this.

Perhaps the modern Mason can even see in that Ideal Lodge, God as our Master, the Saints Johns as Wardens and King Solomon as Marshal composing the leadership of the perfect Lodge. But, the symbol is not complete. We have found the Holy Saints Johns in our Masonic symbol but other parts are missing. This was the letter of God.

During ancient times, people were not allowed to spell out the word God, so they changed one letter. The Word now looked like this: YOD. This is the YOD symbol.

Let’s now place the YOD symbol together with the square & compasses.
Is this God and our Masonic symbol?

Today we used the letter “G” to represent Deity. The letter “G” also represents the Holy Scriptures, the Word. The Word is God. The Word is our rule and guide to keep us within the circle, that boundary we are never to cross.

Yet, there is still something missing.

What about that point that we find in that circle?

Why is it we do not remember that point on our Masonic symbol? Have you forgotten?

I would hope that everyone reading this could answer that question. If not, look in a mirror. Look at that reflection of you. Do you not see the point? Every time you wear a Masonic pin or cap or shirt or jacket or tie or ring, you become a part of the Masonic symbol. You are the completion of our Masonic Symbol.
Without you, the symbol would never be complete. The symbol would have no meaning. The symbol would have no purpose. 






Friday, September 21, 2018

Ray V. Denslow Pictorial

Ray V. Denslow was one of Freemasonry's most prolific authors. These pictures of him, his wife and homes are from his private collection, many of which have not been published before.