Losing Interest

I have found myself in a place where I have lost interest in the Order, and most fraternal organizations period. Perhaps this is a temporary thing, let's hope so. While watching the Christmas parade in my town a few days ago, I was thinking about the lone old man that was driving the Lions Club entry, the sameness of the Optimist Club's float, the few guys from the local Shrine Club and their firetruck, and then there was my Elks Lodge's. With so little interest in organizations, and the fact that they are all shrinking, I wonder what the point is sometimes. I am a busy person and it seems like I am always having to go to a meeting, or something. I like the fact that I can go to a meeting if I want, but most of the times I would honestly like to be doing something else. I will serve as Noble Grand next year, and then it may be time for me to leave fraternalism period. Maybe someone has some words of encouragement?


Something Different

We have a dilemma. Not only must the Order survive, but it must grow. If our goal isn't for growth, then what are we doing? Are we merely trying to hoard our money or something? If that is the case, then I am younger than most of the membership and I will outlive most of you. Someday, perhaps I and the other 10 members left in about 15 years can vote to divide the spoils up amongst ourselves. This group has been engaged in discussing which Presidents were members in the good old days. Sure they were--think of how many votes they received by joining up with an order that actually had membership. I ask you this; how many mayors do we have in our ranks now? How many other important people? Not many.

This morning, I was reading some old posts from a member of another fraternal order in a similar, but even worse, situation. I have always been impressed by this man's thinking, and he is by far my senior. So I will copy his idea, because it makes sense, and bring it up for discussion here. As always, I welcome the criticism, and I will go ahead and bring up the usual ones. "We must never alter our rituals unless we make them longer and more culturally irrelevant." "We must not water down our order to become anything less than a secret fraternal order with a philosophy that can only be practiced by being a member of our order." "We must never change anything and throw away all the things that our forefathers worked so hard to build."

There are no long-time businesses alive today that haven't re-oriented from their original form and manner of doing business. What makes us different? If the I.O.O.F. was selling stock, would you buy any? How long ago would have you have dumped it? Odd Fellowship must be restructured with new packaging, components, and marketing to allow it to attract the citizens of this day and age.

So here is the topic for discussion. New units of a few "members" could be formed. They would help meet a need for growth and be a functional alternative to the dying lodges. These clubs would consist of members that practice Odd Fellowship. Odd Fellowship should be about improving ourselves and helping others. We don't need buildings, secrecy, passwords, signs, and regalia to do that. I don't see many lodge halls being built or purchased these days, and don't expect any to be any time soon. Since the Order is all in favor of having multiple branches and units, why not have a branch that meets in the public and puts on a face of welcome towards the outsiders? Look at the success of the Red Hat Society. They have reached a membership of over 500,000 in only 8 years. They are not burdened with the tasks of keeping up halls, memorizing ritual, and performing degrees. While they engage in no charitable work, what they have accomplished must be put into consideration. Look at the Rotary, started in 1909, the Lions, started in 1917, and the Kiwanis, started in 1915. They are no longer as popular as they once were, but consider that they were just getting started about ten years before most secret fraternal orders started declining. I believe that was about this time that insurance companies went mainstream, and left little incentive for people to endure the rituals so that they could reap the benefits the Odd Fellows once had. When you consider the fact that the service organizations have many times the membership as the Odd Fellows, and they help others, what does it tell you?

The rituals consist of nothing that can't be learned from a plethora of other sources. Society has grown far more sophisticated than the culture that the rituals were written in. Can we expect anyone to take us seriously anymore? I can't even get these kids today to treat me like a human being. As long as they have enough tact not to make fun of us, if and when they ever hear about us, I suppose it will be ok though.

I feel that the Order has reached a point where most that saw no hope for the future or no real sense of purpose have already left. Many see the ridiculousness of our severely out-dated methods and traditions. What do we have to offer to people in the 21st century? Few have time for much involvement. How many have time to help keep up a hall? How many have time to memorize rituals? How can we expect new lodges to ever be formed, especially with their own building?

Why not form a new branch of Odd Fellows Clubs, or something similar, that meet in public spaces? A branch that is focused on community, fellowship, doing good works, and practicing the tenants of our Order, all without the extra baggage that is dragging us down. Our current methods have shown proven results. Should we remain content with the way things are, and continue clutching the sacred rituals, our ancient practices, and failed business practices until our imminent demise? Or should we try something different?


Odd Fellows And Changing Society

In the early 20th century, there were hundreds of different fraternal associations, not counting professional and social organizations. Probably half of the population held membership in at least one organization.

While some fraternities were formed mainly for the purpose of fellowship and teaching their members the principles of morality, many benefit societies were formed in the late 1800s to give working men financial security, because of a lack of social welfare programs. The
laboring class had little in the name of pensions or insurance plans, and it was highly desirable for them to become members of one of the numerous fraternal groups.

With all of the insurance plans available today, especially group insurance through employers, and government welfare programs, there is little need for the benefit features of fraternal groups. There is little reason for people to gather for that purpose.

Some of the groups that are alive today are arranged for the purpose of instilling values and morality in their members. The rituals are supposed to communicate these values and their philosophies. The problem is that too many complain that the rituals are too long and old-fashioned. Most people seem to prefer brief rituals and ceremonies, if they will go for them at all. Many orders have modified their ritual, reduced the number of degrees, dropped the rituals entirely, or removed parts considered offensive to the culture. While I like the idealism of carrying on the tradition of performing the rituals in their entire, unaltered state, I would be one of those that believes that their lengthiness and out datedness have contributed to declining memberships and low participation.

Why do people join fraternal orders? Are people just inclined to socialize in an organized group? It is quite common for many Odd Fellows to belong to other groups. People like us would probably find some other group, if there were no Odd Fellows. I happen to be one of those "joiners", and was probably born 100 years too late.

I have heard many discussions, from members of various orders, about how they enjoy the socialization and camaraderie with the other members. They dislike the business parts of meetings, see little point in using passwords and opening and closing the lodge, and are
intimidated by the degree rituals. If they want to experience the parts they like, they have to endure the meetings and the rituals. Does the good outweigh the bad for them? Most will take the easy road and go with what is the most favorable to them.

People are satisfied by different things, and some enjoy the struggles. Sometimes, I feel that I am a glutton for punishment! But you must take a step back and impartially look at your lodge from another's viewpoint. If participation and membership is dropping at your lodge, whatever is taking place is not enjoyable enough to retain members. Those disillusioned members are sure not to recruit new members. We have to find a balance and make attempts to give the members what they want. If we don't give them what they want, it won't matter how hard we work to keep the traditions alive. They will vote with their feet and pocketbooks. They will simply walk away and the check for their dues will not come at the end of the year. No
matter how hard you fight it, you can't stop that vote.

Some of the reasons we all hear for lack of participation are that meetings and activities conflict with work, making it to meetings is inconvenient, the meetings are long and dull, and there is no real sense of purpose or direction.

What do they want? Do they want a sense of purpose and direction, entertainment, interesting meetings, less procedural headaches (statutes). They seem to think that following the traditions of antique Odd Fellowship is a thing of the past and it doesn't have any usefulness in today's society. I have also heard members complain that Odd Fellowship is basically nothing but performing rituals.

Some Odd Fellows today think that people join to learn the secrets and mysteries and to learn their system of morality and philosophy. I don't think that a high percentage joined for those reasons back in the old days, even though we tend to romance the past.

Many of the reasons that people joined lodges long ago simply don't exist anymore, as far as the Odd Fellows is concerned. Many joined as a form of prestige, but that is more served by joining the country club, a group like Rotary, or a professional association. Many joined to acquire insurance and benefits, but that has been replaced by insurance companies and the government programs. Many joined to make new social ties, or for professional networking. Again, that is usually taken care of by groups like Rotary, churches, or groups that are designed for a particular hobby or interest. Many joined for entertainment, as there simply weren't as many things to do 100 years ago. There is a plethora of entertainment options available today. In hindsight, traditionalists, like us Odd Fellows, can see the new entertainments as a decline of community and society, but we are a small minutia of the population.

It seems that the Order has changed very little in 150 years. The lack of adapting to the times is a tragedy. Take some churches for example. They think that they know the absolute truth and if no one comes to their church, the say that something is wrong with the people. It couldn't possibly be their church or its leadership they say. That is when self-righteousness becomes a problem. The church will make every kind of excuse. It won't however acknowledge that it is doing something wrong or has a poor doctrine. Fraternal groups often think talk of changing is an attack against its principles. There are too few like me, that aren't afraid to say that the emperor is nearly naked. Most refuse to uncover their eyes or admit what they actually see.

I sometimes think with the Odd Fellows an oligarchy has developed. Many of our leaders are in the same positions year after year. Most of this is probably caused by a lack of membership, but some of it results from self-serving egotistical ways. It reaches the point that if they don't get their way, they would rather see things die. That is destructive.

Some of the trends I see today with other groups are for more accommodations towards family activities. One particular group, is renaming its lodges to family centers. Another group is pushing for more daycare and playroom facilities at its lodges. We also need to focus more on bringing back a more traditional version of community, and attempt to find ways to make our fellowship more entertaining. More service projects would be a good way to bring us together for a common purpose and put us out in the community. We need to hold the past traditions in high esteem, but realize that we can't practically maintain all of them in their entirety.

If we are to stop this present long and slow decline of this Order, we must accommodate and embrace changes for the Order. Some believe that we should not alter the things that the founders of Odd Fellowship worked so hard for. What they fail to realize is that they were innovative and industrious in their time. What would those founders do if they could time-trave into today's society? (Well, they would probably marvel at automobiles and TVs, but...) I think
they be shocked and angered when they saw the lack of adaptiveness our Order has displayed. They would question how the Order could let things go downhill for so long. There would be an immediate call to action to save the Order they worked so hard to build.


A Piece Of Americana Dies

A “CLOSED” SIGN at the Ozark Cafe on Washington Avenue is a rare sight, but it was necessary beginning Thursday with the illness then death of long-time proprietor Virgil Gabel. Gabel’s wife, Noma, locks the cafe doors Sunday afternoon after taking care of some business and placing a sign on the door detailing information of her husband’s funeral. Services were this afternoon at the First Church of God. Noma said she is unsure if the popular eating establishment will reopen.

Fate of famous cafe in doubt

A well-known West Plains restaurateur who fed thousands of hungry customers for nearly 60 years died Saturday and was laid to rest today, and it is unclear if the Ozark Cafe on Washington Avenue will reopen. Noma Gabel, wife of Virgil Gabel for 61 years, told The Quill it is questionable as to whether the business will reopen. “We were hoping to keep the cafe open until May, then we could have celebrated our 60th anniversary,” Noma said. The cafe began operations in May of 1946. She said that if the cafe does not reopen she hopes to have a farewell event featuring pie and coffee. “I’ll know more later and let you know,” she told The Quill. (West Plains Daily Quill)

This isn't really about Odd Fellowship, but it is... In West Plains we have been fortunate to have a real old-time cafe downtown, up until now. Several of our lodge members were regulars there, and I'm sure even more were years ago. It is just sad to see parts of our history die. It was almost a club, to be an Ozark Cafe customer. It was a bond, that you can't explain to those who go to all those cookie-cutter franchises that have no personality. We knew the owners, and it was an ongoing story of everyday life. The food wasn't gourmet, the service often left something to be desired, the waits could make one anxious--but we knew it was a tradition, a place to feel at home, something that wouldn't last forever. The owners hung on till the very last, literally till death. I wonder how many more of these type of establishments are left in America?


Apple iPod Raffle

West Plains Odd Fellows will give away a 20GB Apple iPod, retail value $300, on October 15th. Proceeds go towards local scholarships.

Tickets are only $1 or get 6 for $5.

Email oddfellows@gmail.com for info.


Our Noble Grand's New Home Part 2

I'm sure no one finds this interesting but me. I have became very anxious for our Noble Grand to get his house moved and ready to move into. I just know that he will have more time on his hands to help out at the lodge, now that he won't be living so far out of town. Here is the preceding article:
saving home for our noble grand

RAISING THE ROOF, then setting it back down on wheels, was the task of workers with L and R Industries of Cabool and Keller House Moving of Willow Springs, who removed the third floor of this house at 417 Broadway about noon Friday. It was braced by steel I-beams, two running the same direction and one running across them and attached to two cranes with steel chains and cable. Once the cranes started lifting the roof, the job took about 15 minutes and attracted about 50 onlookers, some with video cameras. The building is owned by John Cochran and is being moved to Eighth Street, piece by piece, with the second floor being removed next. The property it sits on is owned by West Plains Savings and Loan, and a bank will be built there once the lot is empty. (Quill/K. Martin)


Groovy Lodge

I found this website recently and thought I should post it here.

Odd Fellows Hall

I think that what they have is just incredible. They would definitely
get my vote for the grooviest lodge out there. Unfortuneately, most of us aren't quite so fortunate to be located on a beautiful island halfway between two centers of coolness like Vancouver and Seattle. Know of any other lodges with waterfront vistas?

Apparently, they are really getting some use out of their facility and also have an active fun lodge. This is similiar to my ideal vision
for a lodge. Not a bunch of stubborn old men who take the ritual,
themselves, and a bygone era way too seriously.

I think I would fit right in with those folks on Orca Island. Too
bad, I'll just have to stick around here in the Midwest.

This is a great example of a lodge that is relevant to their community.

Odd Fellows Hall


SOS Children's Villages - A Waste?

I was looking at the SOS Children's Vilage website the other day, andI did find the village that is supposed to be the Odd Fellows Village.I can't remember the name, just that it is near the Thailand border in Cambodia.

I couldn't find any mention of it being supported by the IOOF on the website. I don't know much about the organization or how much funding we are donating to it? I do have the hunch that most of the IOOF's funding sent to the project comes from our European Members.

It does seem to me that we should get some credit for our part in
this. I know that the all-seeing eye of God sees everything we do,
but shouldn't we toot our own horn?

In my opinion, if our assistance to the SOS organization is so small
that we aren't appreciated, why should we waste funds on a few kids in a country that most Americans have never heard of?

Couldn't we better use this money to promote our order? If I was in
control of the money, the first thing I would do is hire some book
authors, motivational speakers, webmasters-tech guys, and public
relation experts.

If we could find the right people to do these things, this Order could get some attention. They wouldn't even have to be experts, just out-of-work folks. There are probably thousands of authors, who can't get their own books published, but would love to get paid to write a book that further developed the principles of Odd Fellowship for the 21st Century. Every Sunday in America there are thousands of Pastors who have a different sermon for their churches. Any great ones coming out about Odd Fellowship? You can hire an Indian or Pakistani to design an exciting website for cheap. How about a computerized centralized management system that could do away with the need for Grand Lodges and their Secretary's salaries?

We clearly aren't getting much from SGL now. What are they doing? Do they care? Do the members care?


Odd Fellows hall: a Lompoc mystery

On the way to work or school every day, you might see the large building at the southwest corner of South H Street and West Ocean Avenue. A street level antique store occupies the bottom floor, but what's on the upper floors?

On Friday, the answer to that mystery will be available to the community.

Odd Fellows hall: a Lompoc mystery


If anyone happens to be interested, I have a few of these ball caps left. They aren't too shabby. They are also a lower profile, something that is actually worn by people that aren't older, rural farmers. (If you don't count the current fad for trucker hats) If you want one they are $20.00, shipping included, to "anywhere" in the US and Canada. Just email me about payment options. The ones I have are all black, but similar to the photo. I will try to post another photo here soon. If you have any style suggestions, let me know.


Saving A Home--for our Noble Grand

Not much has caught my interest in the last few days. In my small town of West Plains, it doesn't take too much to make the news. Here is an article from our local paper, about our Noble Grand's new house:

Hint: I can't wait till he gets moved in. He will be much closer to the lodge, and we can really put him to work.

SAVING A HOME – This house at 417 Broadway will be moved soon, according to its new owner, John Cochran of West Plains. He told The Quill the building was given to him by the property owners, West Plains Savings and Loan, and he is paying all costs to have it moved to property he owns on Eighth Street. Cochran, who owns Red Apple Grill, has a home out-of-town and is looking forward to having this home closer to work. In December 2004, West Plains Savings and Loan Managing Officer Jack Doss reported the bank would be moving from its current location at 10 Court Square to the Broadway property, purchased from Pete and Melinda Harris. “It would have been a tragedy if this home was torn down,” Cochran said. “It is amazing.” Many large trees in the yard have been cut. Cochran said two cranes will remove the roof, and the bottom floor of the house will be moved to Eighth Street first, followed by the second and third stories. The second story will receive the most damage in the move, he added, and he plans to remodel that section. (Quill/Wilson)


Odd Fellow News, Tuesday, 7.05

Net phones hit the wall

Australian IT - Australia

IOOF Investment Management has spent $500,000 on internet protocol telephony over the past two years, expecting to save $100,000 annually in call costs. ...

Aust Unity eyes listing

July 6, 2005

Diversified health insurer Australian Unity will consider demutualising and listing in the wake of advances from Macquarie Bank and others, in a potential initial public offering that could mirror the investor fervour surrounding 2003's lucrative float of former mutual IOOF.

Stories, laughter highlight last reunion

The faces were familiar but inevitably changed. Even after the passage of 60 years, old friends recognized Hazel Takacs at the 100th reunion of the IOOF orphans.


Odd Fellows News

Area students receive awards; Odd Fellows place wreath on tomb
Gainesville Times

- Gainesville,GA,USA
... Heads of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for the State of Georgia participated in a national ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington ...

Odd Fellows Give Grants To LaChance, Whipple

Mystic The Odd Fellows Lodge No. ,


Lions complete first phase of park renovation

... the capital improvement fund was a $5,000 donation from Odd Fellows Lodge 169, which was used to install a new sidewalk ...




The Odd Fellows

I haven't posted for a while now. Recently Don Lang of the California Jurisdiction enlightened the Odd Fellows IOOF Yahoo Group on the current membership numbers.

In North America, we have aproximately 50,000 Members. There are now less than 2,000 Lodges. First of all, we should remember that many of these members, a high percentage, are very old and feeble. Secondly, many of these lodges exist in name and charter only. I am wouldn't be surprised if over a third of our lodges don't meet regularly and are only attempting to keep their property from falling into Grand Lodges hands.

The reason I make this point is that I believe we have too many Offices to fill. I don't even want to count the number of positions in our degree rituals. But look at our regular meetings. The Officers: Noble Grand, NG Left Supporter, NG Right Supporter, Vice Grand, VG LS, VG RS, Past Grand, Chaplain, Conductor, Musician, Warden, Colour Bearer, Outside Guardian, Inside Guardian, Treasurer, Financial Secretary, Secretary. How many is that? 17. OK, let's be fair and lose a few. Musician, and Colour Bearer. Down to 15. I don't know of many lodges that actually have them. Now let's lose the Right and Left Supporters to the Noble Grand and Vice Grand. Now were down to 13. OK, Do we really need an Inside and Outside Guardian? Down to 12. Financial Secretary? 11.

We have positions for 19 in our lodges. The average lodge has 25 members. From what I have been told, in most organizations, 10% of your membership will show up for meetings. (My Elks gets about 7% and my church gets about 4%) These numbers simply don't add up.

In the Odd Fellows, the people that pay their dues and stick around like the waythings are. The rest, well they aren't around. That is why we have small lodges that have as high as 50% turn outs at meetings.

If this were a business, and it is-sort-of; the first thing I would do as Chairman, is purge the rolls of so many offices.

There is very little reason that I can see to have Supporters for the Noble and Vice Grand. What do they do? Are they really that honored to sit beside out Grand Poobah? Now let's lose the Guardians. Most lodges can't beg people to come to a meeting, why are we trying to guard the door? I really don't think we need a Colour Bearer and the Musician is optional. Cut out the Financial Secretary, my lodge did. Most lodge's have pretty simple bookwork, there isn't much to record.

My version of the Officers would be only 5, plus the Treasurer and Secretary. I am not sure if we really need them either. As most lodge rooms are square with four walls, it does make sense to have an Officer on each side. I don't think we should have a Past Grand, let's change the title.

It just makes sense. Almost every corporation has downsized. The Odd Fellows has only a small fraction of the membership it once had. Why do we have to have such a large roll of Officers? With only 25 members in the average lodge it takes 70% of the membership to fill the offices. If we only used 7 Officers, it would still take 30%. If only more Odd Fellows could comprehend numbers...


To Be Modern

I just ran across this great article about a certain fraternal order that we all know about. I agree with many of the viewpoints expressed by this author from New Zealand.
I feel that if we are to turn our Odd Fellows around, we need to look at ways to make ourselves relevant to the 21st Century. Could the answer lie in the early 19th Century? I have been researching the postmodern influence on the Christian Church and its leading into a movement known as the Emerging Church. A simple mix of old and new traditions and customs, with an inclination towards casualness, seems to be what the current generations are looking for in their services. A disdain for formal hierarchies and institutions is causing the dwindling of mainline traditional denominations across the board. Does this sound familiar? Read this informative article and draw parallels to your own lodge's dilemna.

To Be Modern Article


Welcome to the Odd Fellows Blog

Welcome to the Odd Fellows Blog. First of all, this blog is not affiliated with any governing body of Odd Fellows. Second, the opinions discussed are not those of any official Odd Fellow body. Third, our primary purpose is to bring Odd Fellowship into the 21st Century by promoting open discussion about any Odd Fellow topic.

Feel free to blog as you wish, just keep it clean and thoughtful.