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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Demolay Story

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.


Larry said...

OK....now i want to know who was crud, dud and mud....

and by the way....Gary ws the only one to think he was a stud.

Guitar Rat said...

Since it is available I claim "Dud" which I am sure my family will concur with. Of course they only know me as an Old coot, and not the young coot that I was.

Gary had a truck and a date almost every weekend, or so it seemed. I guess back then that qualified as a stud. Perception trumps reality.

But remember we were rock stars! and you were the "cute" drummer to quote a female who shall go nameless. And you had a van! Ok, now I remember, I hate you :) Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Rock Stars? Hummm not in my memory.
All I remember is you playing "One" by 3 Dog Night. It seemed to go on forever. Especially when you are dancing with someone you don't want to :-(

I really just wanted to send an update on my Dad Jack Thomas. He was real involved at Zenith Lodge and going thru the line when Multiple Sclerosis took him out of being able to fullfill his responsibilites. After my Mom's death in 1990; Dad moved to Newhall in the retirement area of Friendly Valley. He was so proud to be able to join the Old West Masonic Lodge, make new friends ande serve as their tiler for 6 years. He now unfortunately has the need for skilled nursing care and he lives at Woodland Care Center in Reseda. I feel like I spend half my teens at Van Nuys Masonic Temple. I belonged to the Northridge JD Bethel 322. But my brother Scott Thomas was in Van Nuys De Molay. As were many of my friends at the time. In fact I even married a Van Nuys DeMolay...Jim Crossman that hunk number 35 on the basketball court.

Sheryl Thomas Crossman

Guitar Rat said...

Thanks for the update Sheryl. I just received a letter from Hazel Schaefer, whose husband Keith was in Zenith lodge with your Dad and she was wondering about your Dad. I will update her. Everyone I talk to remembers him findly.

We never did play "One" but we did play that other awful Three Dog Night song. "Joy to the World". That one I agree went on forever, even if you were dancing with someone you liked.

Sheryl said...

I guess picking anonymous then putting my name was pretty stupid. Right up there with remembering the wrong song. Joy to the World, you're right. Thank you for your kind words about my Dad and for forwarding the info along to Hazel. She went to church with my Dad in Friendly Valley. I have sooo many memories. How fun!

LRT said...

Great to hear from Sheryl! Yeah we played Joy To The World (probably more than once per night). Say hi to Scott for me...

Sheryl said...

I can pass along a Hi to my brother when I know the identity of "lrat"....


radio rat said...

Larry... joannes brother

julie rose said...

Hi! my name is Julie Anne Merical. My sister and I were Job's Daughters Bethel 322 and I'm in a picture you posted on flicker. you have my name as Kim. I was one of the younger girls, so I am not sure I will be remembered? I was sad to see Paul Glassco has passed, what happened? I would love to hear from Curtis Thornton. I believe he and Cindy VanName got married? Sheryl, I'm not sure if you remember me? but I would love to hear from you also?? Anyone else we knew?
Julie Anne Merical Wells

Guitar Rat said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for your comments. Sorry I misidentified you. Which picture is it, so I can correct it.

Paul died about 5 years ago from brain cancer. He had moved, I think, to Wyoming and was married with kids. I'm not sure about Curtis.

If you email me at this blogs email address I can get you in contact with everyone. The list is growing since the reunion last week.

What years were you active? I sometimes think we should all put our initiation date after our names, in which case I would be the class of 1971.