Please join me on a little trip in the Odd Fellows’ time machine.
Let’s visit America in 1919, 100 years ago. In 1919 you could get a dozen eggs for 34 cents, a quart of milk cost 9 cents, and a loaf of bread cost 6 cents. First class postage stamps cost 2 cents and a gallon of gas was only 12 cents. Typical yearly take-home pay was $687. Very few people had cars, but you could buy one for around $500. And an average house cost $3,500. On January 6, 1919, Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, died in his sleep at the age of 60. On January 16, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, went into effect authorizing prohibition. In February, Oregon placed a 1 cent tax on gasoline, becoming the first state to do so. And Congress established the Grand Canyon as a national park. In May a race riot broke out in Charleston, South Carolina, and three black men died. UCLA was established in May, as well, becoming the southern branch of the University of California system. In June, the Congress approved the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing suffrage to women. In July, the US Army sent the first convoy of motor vehicles across the continental United States – the motorcade arrived in San Francisco in September
In 1919 social security didn’t exist and many elderly lived in poverty conditions. Americans in 1919 spent one-third of their income on food. And food wasn’t particularly good or healthy. The average American ate 11.5 pounds of lard and 14 pounds of chicken per year. (In 2019, Americans are expected to consume 57 pounds of chicken and 1.5 pounds of lard per year.) Half of all families lived in rural areas or in towns with populations less than 2,500. The average household was crowded, with more than four people (today it’s less than 2.5 people in a household). Owning homes was a rarity in 1919 – there were about four times as many renters as homeowners 100 years ago. (Today, more than 60% own their own home.) In 1919, only 100 million people lived in the USA and more than half were under 25. A century later, the population has more than tripled, and the share of people under 25 has fallen to one-third. Meanwhile, the share of people over 65 has tripled from 5% to 15%.
In 1919, hardly anyone drove cars. People generally walked, rode horses, and occasionally took the trolley. There was very little commuting. People generally lived close to their work and typically walked to work. Men wore blue serge suits to work, and women wore long dresses or long skirts. Entertainment was the player piano or the photograph. Fraternal Orders, including Odd Fellows, were flourishing across the country.
Now, let’s come back to reality in 2019. In 2019 America is a completely different place than it was in 1919. America in 2019 is a place that folks in 1919 could not even imagine: a place of airplanes, fast cars, computers, laptops, cell phones, smart watches, equal rights for women, credit and debit cars, maternity leave, movies, television, refrigerators, washers-dryers, bikinis, etc. etc. And yet, there are Odd Fellows who believe that if the Order would only go back to the way we operated in 1919, all would be well and we would grow again. That bit of whimsy makes no sense. To flourish and grow, Odd Fellowship needs to evolve and change. Only then will the men and women of the 21st Century be attracted to Odd Fellowship. The landscape of America is littered with the corpses of fraternal orders that rigidly refused to change. Odd Fellowship must evolve with the times.
One cannot attract the electric car generation to a horse-and-buggy Lodge.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California