DMC – Odd Fellows Time Machine

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

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC-History of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

It’s generally accepted that Odd Fellowship came to North America on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and his small group of brothers formed a Lodge in Baltimore. That was 200 years ago. What was life like 200 years ago in America?

At the start of the 1800’s, most everyone lived on a farm or in a rural existence. Folks spent most of their time planting, weeding and harvesting, and taking care of the farm animals. People typically went to bed when it was dark, and got up when the sun started peeking over the horizon. When folks wanted to go somewhere they generally walked, or they rode a horse or donkey, or took a boat. There was no electricity and no natural gas for lighting, cooking or warming. Many people were enslaved, or close to it, and virtually no one had the right to vote. Clothing was so expensive that the vast majority of people possessed only one outfit. In the North, cows and cattle provided milk, butter and beef. In the South (where cattle was less common) venison and other game provided meat. In the era before refrigeration, preserving food in 1819 required smoking, drying or salting meat. Vegetables were kept in a root cellar or pickled. Jobs on the farm included milking cows, churning butter, carrying buckets of water from a well to the house, bringing in wood for the stove, cooking, sewing and mending, feeding the livestock and chickens, and much more.

Very few people in 1819 went to school, and only about one out of ten people (most men) could read. Some children did manage to get an early education, and they typically learned to read, write and do math at home. Or if they were fortunate, they attended a one-room schoolhouse where one teacher taught all grades. Usually the teacher was a single woman, and she could be as young as 14 or 15 years old. Sometimes, children had to walk 2 or 3 miles to attend the schoolhouse, carrying a slate, a book or two, and a lunch pail. Many children in 1819 did not spend their days learning in school or playing. Quite a few children – some as young as 8 – had jobs where they worked all day long. Some of the jobs were hazardous.

“Bath day” in the early 1800’s was infrequent. At best, folks would bathe once a week (or on special occasions) in warm water with homemade soap, usually set up in a tub in the kitchen. The family would take turns in the bath. Fetching the water, the wood for heating, and preparing the bath was, in itself, a big chore.

Establishing a fraternal order, and setting up a Lodge, was challenging in the early 1800’s. Since transportation was primarily limited to walking or horses, Lodge Halls had to located close to the membership. Ritual books and rules necessarily had to be memorized because only a small minority of members could read. Keeping accounts of financial transactions was even more difficult as very few members had the skills to do so – and accordingly a complex system of checks and double-checks was instituted. In the early 1800’s, sickness was rampant, early deaths were frequent, and families were often bereft as a result of illness and death. Because government provided virtually no support to people when times were tough, Odd Fellowship stepped in and provided hospitals for the sick, orphanages for orphans, cemeteries to bury the dead, old folks’ homes for the elderly and infirm, support for widows, and even helped members find jobs. As a result, secret passwords and signs developed so that “frauds” who passed themselves off as Odd Fellows (in attempts to get benefits) could be discovered and exposed. In 2019, Odd Fellowship operates no orphanages in America, no hospitals, very few cemeteries and even fewer retirement communities.

Life in 1819 compared to life in 2019 was (and is) as different as night and day. And yet, in this day, the Codes till require memorization of parts of the ritual, secret passwords and signs are still mandatory, and the ancient admonitions of the Order (e.g. “educate the orphan” or “bury the dead”) are still recited even though they have little relevance or meaning in the 21st Century. To the young men and women of 2019, strange, curious and anachronistic concepts such as “educate the orphan” and “bury the dead” have little meaning, and may even be off-putting. How much more relevant would it be if the Order adopted new admonitions such as “help children in need” and “protect the environment”.

To advance in the coming years, the Order must look forward to the future, not backwards to the past.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC-Odd Fellows Time Machine

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

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

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Fellowship Night Sponsorship

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

It’s almost that time.

Believe it or not, the annual Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly Sessions is coming up in just three months – May 15-18 in Visalia. A fair amount of business will be transacted, elections will be held, appointments will be made, acquaintances will be renewed, and there may even be some time for a bit of fun. And one of those fun activities will be the annual DMC Thursday Evening event. Please mark your calendars. That evening will be Thursday, May 16 at the Convention Center next to the Visalia Marriott Hotel. Details regarding the menu, the specific room location at the Convention Center and start time will be announced in the coming weeks. I can tell you that there will be a sumptuous display of good eats, a no-host bar, and lots of live entertainment. It’s the place to be on Thursday evening.

We keep the price tag on this event quite low because a number of generous Lodges contribute money as Sponsors of the event. Because of their sponsorship the expenses are subsidized and the cost to individual Odd Fellows, Rebekahs and their guests is reduced. The actual “admission fee” will be announced in the next few weeks as soon as we determine how much the sponsoring Lodges have contributed – but our plan is to keep it very, very low.

If YOUR Lodge wishes to be listed and recognized as a Sponsor of this fun event, and help reduce the cost for your brothers and sisters, please let me know in response to this e-mail. And mail your Lodge’s sponsorship check, payable to “Grand Lodge of California” to:

Dave Rosenberg, PGM
Odd Fellows Lodge
415 2nd Street
Davis CA 95616

Also, we wish to feature the musical talents of our members during the Thursday DMC evening. So if YOU wish to provide some musical entertainment during the event (either on your own or with your band-mates, please let me know!

We welcome the sponsorship of your Lodge, and the musical talents of members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Odd Fellows Pledge Process

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Approximately ten years ago, during my term as Noble Grand of my Lodge (Davis #169), I developed a “Pledge” system as a vehicle for membership development. It has worked, over this last decade, in spectacular fashion. My Lodge adds, on average, between 20 to 30 new members every year, and we have shown a net growth, without fail, year after year after year. I have been asked by several members of other Lodges to explain this Pledge system, because parts or all of it may be of benefit to other Lodges. It has worked remarkably well for my Lodge, and may work for yours as well. So here goes.

I used the term “Pledge” based on my experience with fraternities, which typically use that word when defining the class of new applicants, seeking admission into the fraternity. The dictionary defines “Pledge” in its noun form as follows: “A solemn promise or undertaking.” Synonyms include “vow, word, commitment, covenant.” To me, it denotes someone who has gone beyond the point of simply filling out an application form.

When an individual expresses an interest in joining my Lodge, members refer that potential applicant to me. I serve as Chair of the Lodge Membership Committee. An important aspect of membership development for a Lodge is to have such a Membership Committee, which focuses on all aspects of membership. As Chair, I chat with the potential new member, give them a tour of the Lodge, introduce them to a few of the members, sit down and answer their initial questions, talk about the significance and meaning of the three links, and discuss some of the things that we do in the Lodge and for the community, and then explain the Pledge process which, if successfully navigated, leads to admission to membership. You see, we don’t just admit everyone who applies. We require that they go through a process where they become more knowledgeable about the Lodge and about Odd Fellowship. Frankly, we don’t make it easy on the applicant. But if they make it through the process we know they are committed, they become educated about Odd Fellowship, and they tend to be active and involved once they become initiated in the Lodge.

So, once they have submitted an application, we put them in what we call a “Pledge Class”. In the beginning, we had one Pledge Class per year. Then, as our applications increased, we had two per year. Currently, we have three Pledge Classes per year, each averages about a dozen Pledges. The Pledge process takes 4 to 6 months to complete. And when completed, results in initiation into the Lodge. We have three such initiations each year. About 2 out of every 3 Pledges successfully makes it through the process and is ultimately initiated as a member of the Order. As a Pledge, they can participate in everything we do (except they cannot attend closed formal meetings – and no secrets are shared with them). The Pledges can attend (and are encouraged to attend) our social meetings and events, and they can even serve as members of Lodge social committees.

The Pledges have requirements they must achieve during their Pledge period. All the requirements are spelled out in the Pledge Book. Pledges can find the Pledge Book on line at our Davis Lodge website www.davislodge.org (on the home page put your cursor over “Lodge Info” then click on “Forms and Documents” scroll down and then click on “Davis Odd Fellows Pledge Book”). They are required to print it out and carry it with them when they come to the Lodge. The requirements include reading the Pledge Book, attending a minimum of 8 meetings or events of the Lodge, and interviewing a minimum of 13 members. Many Pledges exceed these minimum requirements. The purpose of attending social meetings or events is to familiarize them with the Lodge activities (and Pledges are involved in our many committees). The purpose of the interviews is to break the ice and help them meet members of the Lodge (the interview sheets are contained in the Pledge Book, and are simple one-page forms). Toward the end of the Pledge period, the Pledges are each interviewed by the Membership Committee and as part of the interview they are asked questions about the content of the Pledge Book, and the book is checked to ensure that they have attended the minimum number of meetings and events, and that they have conducted the minimum number of member interviews. The Membership Committee reports to the Lodge as a whole and recommends whether the Pledges should be admitted to membership. The Lodge then uses the ball ballot to determine if the Pledge will be admitted.

A number of other Lodges have printed out the Pledge Book from our website and have modified it for their own use. The reports I have received have been quite positive.

Of course, there are other important components to the success of any Pledge system. One important component is that your Lodge has to have some social meetings and other events that the Pledges can attend. The more active the Lodge is, the more successful this Pledge system will be.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Odd Fellows 200th Anniversary

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

This year – 2019 – is a significant and important year in the history of Odd Fellowship. This is the year generally recognized that Odd Fellowship began in North America, through the work of Thomas Wildey and his associates. So, it’s the 200th year of the founding of our Order. It’s also a unique opportunity to celebrate our Three-Links Fraternity, and to further expose your Lodge to your community. Shame on you if you let this opportunity slip by.

One of the best ways to increase the membership of your Lodge is to increase the visibility of your Lodge in the community. If your Lodge is invisible and inactive, then chances are you will not attract new applicants. On the other hand, if your Lodge is visible and active, the odds of new membership increase significantly. And our Bicentennial Anniversary as a fraternal Order is a unique opportunity to create some community visibility and interest.

Every Lodge should have at least one community event in commemoration of our fraternal bicentennial. The simplest and easiest such event is to have an open house. Invite the community into your Lodge for tours, and perhaps a brief historical presentation about the Order and the Lodge. Don’t be afraid to open your doors and windows to your community. Some Lodges have been in their communities for over a century, but are still virtually invisible to that community. It’s long overdue time to change that perspective.

But don’t stop there. Use your imagination to develop other ways to commemorate the milestone. Let me give you just one example to help get your creative juices flowing.

My own Lodge in Davis, California, has launched an imaginative way to commemorate this anniversary. We have started our “Walk the World” project. A committee of Lodge members has invited the brothers and sisters, the applicants for membership, and their families, to participate in the “Walk the World” project. Our intent is to collectively walk the circumference of the Earth. That circumference, at the equator, is 24,901 miles, which translates into 131,477,280 feet (at 5,280 feet to the mile). The average step by the average person covers 2.5 feet so that means it will take 65,740,092 steps to “walk the world”. The Lodge has created a spreadsheet to keep track of each participant’s steps, and an online link where participants can record their steps – it’s a very easy process where participants input just three things every time they use the link: their name, the week in which they walked, and the steps that they walked in that week.

We hope to have at least 50 people signed up to undertake the project, but could have over many more – perhaps as many as 200 (which would be a nice touch as it is our 200th anniversary). Clearly, it will take us a year, or more, to complete the effort. But it’s worth it. We will focus on our fraternal anniversary all year long, we will engage in serious walking which is a very healthy project for the participants, we will launch a project that has great appeal to younger members and applicants, and we will generate a fair amount of community visibility through press releases and social media.

Let’s not let this opportunity slip away. Happy 200th Birthday, Odd Fellows!

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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