A welcome flurry of Demolay and Rainbow activity this past week has inspired me to relate a small (clean and censored) bit of my Demolay story in hopes of encouraging others to share their stories and memories. Each of us has individual tales we can all relate to.
To this day my most fond memories are of my Demolay days. These friends, many who are still friends are the group of people I made that rite of passage into adulthood with. Together we made our first trips out into the world on our own, free from parents. We could drive, party, play music, and chase the opposite sex. Much of it was good fun and much of was less innocent, which is probably best left to conversations and personal e-mails.
I joined Van Nuys Demolay at the beginning of 1971. I was aware of Demolay through my Dad who had been in Demolay during the 1940's in Lakewood Ohio. I remember his stories about his Demolay days and in retrospect they echo what I experienced. I still keep his photo's and memorabilia in my office. By the time I had turned 15 my parents began to ask if I would be interested in joining Demolay. I said thanks but no, I am not a joiner. I had school and that seemed enough of a burden without adding to it. They continued to work on me until one day I decided to make them happy and join. Since they never asked much of me in that regard I decided to at least join and see what happened. They told me if I did not like it I did not have to stay in it. That seemed fair.
I was initiated in January of 1971. I learned my ritual and went through the degrees and then let it all slide through the summer of 1971. Then in September of 1971 I received a call from Chuck Fox asking if I would like to be Almoner for him. He told me the person who was slated for the office had dropped out and he needed to fill the position. My initial reaction was thank you but no. Finally Chuck came to visit me and I agreed to take the position. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I began to attend the Wednesday night meetings at Van Nuys Masonic Temple. Slowly I worked into the fabric of the chapter and began to attend official functions and non-official functions. Soon after becoming active I was asked to come to a band practice at Ken Winte's house. In the Winte garage I met Larry Thornhill and Brian Lincoln. Soon after we became the trio know as "The Destinations". We practiced and began playing parties and installations. Soon we had our own little part time clique which consisted of Me, Larry, Ken and Gary Zeiger. Or as my Mom referred to us, Stud, Dud, Mud and Crud. I remember Gary was Stud, but as for the rest I forget who was who. Which is probably a good thing. I know I will catch hell for letting this out.
While Demolay had its fun social side it also was a serious organization which taught us all some valuable lessons and skills. It's true we sometimes had fun with the ritual but it did reinforce core values, and it did teach us how to speak before a group of people, which has served many of us well in our careers. I will admit that even I, the lone wolf did feel the sense of belonging to a special community with other Demolay members whether we were close or not. I believe this because it was something I wanted to be active in and not something I had to belong to.
A few of us followed up Demolay by going into Freemasonry. I never did. My dad went into Van Nuys Zenith Lodge right after I joined Demolay. In later years he served as chapter dad and for a time was also active with Van Nuys Rainbow. He received the Demolay Legion of Honor in a ceremony which included the famous cowboy actor Roy Rogers. My dad's dad was also a Mason as well as a Knights Templar. His ceremonial sword hangs on the wall right beside my desk. So while I have avoided the lure of Freemasonry I am forever grateful for their youth group called Demolay.