Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Want To Be A Leader – well maybe, i guess, maybe not, no absolutely not, who me, are you kidding, ok I suppose I can try, no way, whatever…

Hi Bill

For some strange reason I thought about my high school DeMolay experiences this morning. You remember that Dad was a Mason (not a stone mason, but a member of a Freemasonry lodge, which actually do have historic links to local fraternities of stonemasons, but that’s not important here). However, Dad encouraged me to become a member of DeMolay, which is not really connected to Freemasonry, but maybe its purpose and techniques are similar to those of Freemasonry. I also had a friend (John W - still a Facebook friend), who was a member of the Hollidaysburg chapter of DeMolay and he also encouraged me to join.

HS Senior Photo
If you don’t remember what DeMolay is all about here is a brief description from the DeMolay website at

DeMolay is the premier youth leadership organization building young men of character and dedicated to making young men better people and leaders. Providing a program based on timeless principles and practical experience, DeMolay strives to not only create the extraordinary leader, but a leader of character. DeMolays hold themselves to a higher moral standard, striving to constantly improve and be better each and every day.

I was reluctant, but I finally decided to give DeMolay a try during my high school years. I can’t remember how I got nominated to join the Hollidaysburg chapter, but I probably let John W know I was interested and he conveyed my interest to the membership committee. After a short time I was notified that the membership committee’s mystical qualifications examination proved that I was fit for DeMolay and they nominated me for membership. I still wasn’t all that sure about the leadership expectation. It seemed like more of an obligation to accept more responsibilities and stress, and I would have been okay if they had rejected me. However, the DeMolay membership voted to let me play with them, and I decided join them. Then I was given my black membership robe with gold embellishments (or maybe I just like to think it had gold embellishments). That made me feel like a “Leader of Character” or perhaps like the invincible Batman. I discovered later that some of the “Leaders of Character” (those who rose through the DeMolay leadership ranks) were more decorated than newbies like me and it took me a while to figure out how to improve my status and get more decorations. It turned out that there were many ways and several committees that offered opportunities for members to demonstrate their good character and leadership abilities.

Unfortunately, I was not really enamored about clawing my way to the higher echelons of our chapter’s membership. Therefore, I just sort of hung around and did what most other people did at the less-noticed peasant-level of membership. However, over time more of my friends, including Frank A and George W, and other new members made me feel more comfortable at DeMolay meetings and events. I also acquired many new friends from the continuing members of our DeMolay chapter, which was also reassuring. I was surprised that I kept getting appointed to committees of all kinds including membership, activities, fundraising, etc. Through it all I wondered how I had averted being relegated to the goof-off/nerd committees!

As I remember, our meetings were structured and included scripted phrases and activities, such as the opening portion, business portion, social activities portion, and closing portion. The meetings were chaired by the Master Councilor with help from the Senior Councilor and the Junior Councilor. There was also an adult Advisory Council that helped keep us on the right track. Over time I became very comfortable and friendly with mostly all the members and advisors. I also became very comfortable with participation in the general meetings and on committees. 

Fundraising was a very important role because we needed money to pay for events/activities like: Mother & Son Banquets, Rifle Team, Halloween (and other ) Parties, attending Penn State University Games, educational trips, and other miscellaneous events and expenses.

Hoagie sales were one of the main fundraising activities and all members participated in them. I believe all members hit up friends, acquaintances and strangers for hoagie orders. While the chapter paid for the ingredients, the necessary kitchen and equipment was borrowed. Luckily the Mothers Circle put the hoagies together, so they were sanitary and very tasty. I believe they let me try to help make a hoagie once, but I turned out to be an inept hoagie maker. In any case, I and the other DeMolay members took care of the sales and delivery of the hoagies, which suited us just fine. I liked driving (or riding with someone) around town delivering delicious, but sloppy, hoagies to hungry friends and their families. Clark never liked messing with preparing food or cooking. He still doesn’t like it, but he really likes to eat. Actually those hoagie sales generated a nice sum of money. I think we also sold some other things (maybe candy, etc.) to raise funds, but I can’t remember those activities.

As time went by I somehow got persuaded to begin climbing the leadership ladder of our DeMolay chapter. I was still somewhat skeptical about whether I wanted to do that. Actually I did not want a leadership role, but I was pressured to give it a try. I first chaired some committees and gradually moved on to being elected to the Junior Councilor position. The Junior Councilor assisted the Senior Councilor and Master Councilor in leading the chapter. The Junior Councilor was automatically elevated to the Senior Councilor post at the beginning of the new term and would later be elevated to the Master Councilor position - unless they turned out to be screw-ups. That meant that I was likely headed toward the “Big Cheese” position unless I could not control my proclivity for screw-ups, which was entirely possible. I don’t remember the duties of the Junior Councilor, but I must have figured out how to do them or worked out some scheme to get by. Then I moved to Senior Councilor, which had more responsibilities, and I somehow was also able to scam my way through that post. The next level was the Master Councilor (The Big Potentate of DeMolay chapters). I began that role during my senior year in high school, but it did not turn out to be totally fulfilling for me.

To get prepared for my Master Councilor duties, I went to a three-day DeMolay leadership conclave at Albright College in Reading PA during the summer of 1966. One of the three adult advisors of our chapter, Dad Jay M (all our adult advisors were referred to as Dad) drove me to the conclave. Dad Jay M was a wonderful man and I really liked him. We had a very nice conversation in the car and I was shocked to learn more about his life. He had been severely wounded while in the military during a war (I just can’t remember which war – maybe Korean or Vietnam) and he still suffered with physical challenges, including coping with a colostomy. I couldn’t imagine how terrifying that must have been for him and how painful and difficult his treatment and ongoing life was. However, he accepted his challenge and did not complain. It was just part of his life. Of course we talked about all kinds of other topics during that trip and I really came to like him very much and he continued to be a mentor to me during my DeMolay participation. The Conclave turned out to be interesting, and I suppose I learned something while I was there. However, I was again shocked because after the daytime lectures it was “Party Time.” I stayed in a dormitory with other DeMolay members from around Pennsylvania. That evening, I quickly learned that they were prepared to party after hours and had plenty of beer and liquor to fuel the festivities. We got really drunk and partied all over the campus. I don’t believe I got sick but many of my fellow conclavers did. It provided me with a new perception of DeMolay “Leaders of Character.” However, I suppose it was only degenerates like me that participated the debauchery.

After the conclave, I felt a little more comfortable about my upcoming Master Councilor term. I showed up at the first meeting in the Fall eager to present many activities and events for my term as “Supreme-Leader.” Unfortunately, before I could even begin presenting my options at the meeting, Dad C (the overall Chapter Advisor) took the floor and informed me (and the other members) that he and the other advisors had already planned all the activities for my term. He stated that I did not show up at a scheduled meeting during the summer to discuss my plans for my Master Councilor term with them. Therefore, they planned the entire term without me, and never even contacted me to talk about it. I was devastated, but I maintained my composure, apologized for missing the meeting, and continued as Master Councilor as best I could. Yes, I should not have missed that meeting. However, my father (who had suffered many health problems) had almost died during that summer and eventually had to have brain surgery at an out-of-state hospital. I had known about the meeting, but that memory just got blown away. Anyway, my term was planned without my participation, but I continued as Master Councilor and had a relatively satisfying experience.

Redacted to Protect the Innocent

Redacted to Protect the Innocent

Overall, my association with DeMolay was enjoyable and beneficial. I made some new friends and had many new experiences. I also learned a lot about organizations and leadership, and how to cope with disappointments and setbacks. I am grateful to have mostly positive memories of those times. I also acquired a new nickname for a few years – HallMolay!

Bill – I’m sure you already knew about my DeMolay exploits. I’m fairly sure that you were never a member of DeMolay. However, I know you were very active in Theta Chi (fraternity) during college, and I would like to hear about those experiences sometime.

Take care of your family and yourself. I believe you had some deep snow a few days ago. I hope you are not shoveling. 

Sincerely Clark

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