Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Our history, traditions and ritual, are what make us unique as Odd Fellows, and distinguish us from all other fraternal orders. Past Grand Master Rick Boyles has accumulated some fun historical facts about Odd Fellowship that I am sure you will enjoy. He was assisted by two of the great historians in our California Order: Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars and Grand Marshal Nancy Johnson.
Also, following Rick’s article, please see the announcement regarding upcoming vacancies on the Board of Directors of the Odd Fellows Home of California.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
Fraternal groups such as ours are huge conveyers of history. It’s often fascinating to look at things in a panoramic sense; or rather to see how dramatically things have changed since the beginning. It can actually be quite startling. Anyone who opposes change fails to see that change is endemic in everyday life along with our order and virtually unstoppable. When we talk about our order we often talk about yesterday as if somehow it can be melded into today, but by the vantage point of historical reference we can see that it is really quite dissimilar…
Here are some fun/unusual facts about our order –
1) Did you know that at one time our order in the State of California had 2 airplanes? Peter Sellars will be happy to show you pictures of them at the San Francisco IOOF museum at 7th and Market.
2) Did you know that prior to the automotive age the Grand Master of California would ride the state spending almost his entire year on the road in horse and buggy, accompanied by his officers? This was at a time when our order had in excess of 300 lodges in our state, so that the Grand Master was tasked with visiting close to one lodge per day. Also, that generally the Grand Master would spend evenings with members at their homes throughout the jurisdiction?
3) Were you aware that California was also responsible for the republic of Hawaii, prior to it being made a state? The Grand Master’s pleasant job was to journey to Hawaii and to ensure that all Hawaiian Odd Fellows were happy and acquainted with Odd Fellow policies. He often would take a month’s time to complete his journey, along with his officers and companions. An interesting note is that Hawaii was actually instituted into the order prior to California.
4) Did you know that many early Odd Fellow meetings were conducted in local taverns and pubs? There is some question as to whether or not they imbibed during meetings, but evidently there were many drinkers in their midst.
5) Also, of late there has been some discussion about wearing hats in lodge halls and Grand Lodge Sessions. Old photos of lodge events would show that in earlier times almost all members wore hats both inside and outside lodge halls.
6) A study of the tradition we call “The Unwritten Work” was created mainly for those unable to read. “The Unwritten Work” was recited not because someone memorized something on a printed page, but rather because the body of “The Unwritten Work” was memorized and passed on by word of mouth for those unable to read.
7) Nancy Johnson notes other curious historical oddities: In 1870, in the state of Michigan a member discussed allowing women into the Odd Fellows. This is the prior to the Rebekah degree being really in place.
8) Nancy also notes the Sovereign Grand Lodge passed a resolution that if you participated in a duel, you must be expelled. But, if you merely attended and watched a duel, you were OK.
9) Another note from Nancy in her historical research, as a woman, at one time, if you were married to an Odd Fellow and he died, you could still be a Rebekah, as his widow, but if you remarried and your new husband was not an Odd Fellow, you could no longer be a Rebekah.
10) A sad commentary: Peter Sellars has shown me passages in still circulated texts that are replete with racial, sexual, and religious paranoia. We can’t hope to attract other cultures while showing off intentionally slanted passages.
11) Our early history shows that our order was an integral part of our members’ lives. In today’s world, fraternal groups are an afterthought, a diversion, but in earlier times, fraternal groups served as a safety net for their members. “Educate the orphan, bury the dead,” was something members depended upon. It was a rough time indeed. Many members lived dire lives outside lodge walls. Also, lodge members often relied upon their lodge for the very sustenance of their day-to-day lives.
So, in conclusion we see that our order while still in existence is not the centralized source of sustenance, communication, welfare, and intelligentsia that it once was. In point of fact, this is why our order, along with almost all other fraternal groups has shrunk in size and importance in members’ lives. If we want to begin to grow again, we need to reinsert ourselves in members’ very lives. We have to modernize in every possible way. The lodges that come closest to accomplishing this very point will stay in existence; and those that exist simply as an afterthought to an earlier more vibrant time will fade from sight.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Looking for a Few Good Men and Women
On another subject, allow me to bring to your attention the fact that vacancies will exist on the Board of Directors of the Odd Fellows Homes of California this May, and we are looking for a few good men and women to fill those vacancies. Our fraternity owns two of the very best retirement communities in the West – one in Saratoga and one in Napa. A Board of Directors sets policy and has oversight for these retirement campuses, and a management company runs the day-to-day operation. In May there will be two vacancies on the Board to be elected at Grand Lodge Sessions, and one vacancy to the Board to be elected at the Rebekah Assembly. I have attached a flier to this newsletter regarding these vacancies. If you feel you are qualified, please consider running for these important offices. For more information, feel free to contact Grand Warden Dave Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.