Wednesday, October 26, 2022

‘Before the history disappears’

Another great night with The American Lodge of Research is in the books, with a stellar group in attendance too.

New York City’s lodge of Masonic research and education convened for its trimesterly—if that’s a word—stated communication, welcoming to the lectern MW Bill Sardone, who discussed the past fifty-five or so years of the Order of DeMolay in the state. He has written it for publication in our upcoming (early 2023!) book of transactions, making it a kind of sequel to a paper included in, if I’m not mistaken, the lodge’s twenty-fifth anniversary volume of papers from 1956.

Sardone’s autobiographical story in New York DeMolay essentially is the general history of the Order here since the late sixties. And he has the personal collection of regalia (including fezzes!), memorabilia, and artifacts to prove it, some of which he brought for display. Not only was Sardone the first State Master Councilor, but in that capacity he also became the first guest speaker at a Grand Lodge Communication who was not a Mason.

That kind of thing is taken for granted today, but in 1968 it was a singular occurrence. The Grand Master gave the State Master Councilor five minutes: one for his entrance, three for speaking, and one for his exit. To accommodate him, the Grand Lodge had to be closed. The brethren (so numerous that Grand Lodge met in the old Statler Hilton across from Madison Square Garden) were not amused, but the young Sardone was prepared, his written remarks honed to the 180-second specification, and, as they say in comedy, he killed. Attempting to exit within the five-minute constraint, he was intercepted by the Junior Grand Deacon on the order of the Grand Master, returned to the East, and received a thunderous ovation.

The late 1960s. Obviously not DeMolay’s zenith, and a time of ceaseless political violence and cultural revolution for this country. I’m guessing it was a challenge, to put it mildly, for young people then to adhere to traditions. We look at the way pop culture “history” presents those days today, with unanimous veneration of counter-culture Baby Boomers, whereby those who couldn’t know better are caused to believe that Sardone and his peers never could have existed. Of course they were part of American life too. One slide on the screen showed the McCandlish Phillips story in the March 19, 1970 New York Times with the headline “Boys Dedicated to Good Deeds.” Sardone also displayed photos of VIPs visiting DeMolay events, including Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, and broadcast journalists Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley. Pat Paulson figures somewhere in there as well.

Bill Sardone said he wrote his reflections on DeMolay to get them on paper so that this history doesn’t disappear. Write on, Grand Master!

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