Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Unchanging Light of Freemasonry

Bannack State Park, Montana-- Historic Masonic Lodge
I added an old book on Freemasonry to my collection over the weekend, and I was thumbing through it.  It was from the turn of the last century, and it was collection of essays on Freemasonry written by some of the fraternity's leading Masonic researchers and scholars of that time.  I use these old books a lot when I research ideas for an article or a blog post.  My wife asked me one time why I'd use such old books in my research.  "Aren't those books a little outdated?"

No, they are not.  Very little changes in Freemasonry.

There's something comforting in knowing you are part of a fraternity whose values and morals remain the same in an ever changing world--that the same values that George Washington held in high regard are still valued today by that same group of men.  Some might argue that the fraternity is outdated.  I disagree.  There are some time-honored tenets that do not change over time.  How we should represent ourselves to the world does not change.  How we should treat others.  Honesty and integrity are rare today, but still valued amongst Masons.  The hallmarks of good character have not changed over time.  How to harness and put our talents and skills to their best use hasn't changed over time.  That desire to improve ourselves--to learn from our mistakes and constantly strive to become better men has remained important to men for centuries.

Those things will never become outdated, and the further society drifts from these core fundamental principles, the more men will seek them out within the walls of a Masonic Lodge.

~Todd E. Creason

originally published 11/4/14

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

John Wayne's Last Great Honor

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara on the set of Big Jake in 1971
"Sure I wave the American flag.  
Do you know a better flag to wave?" 

~John Wayne
Marion McDaniel Lodge No. 56, Arizona

I was shopping in a local antique store recently, when I ran across something interesting.  Two large bronze medallions featuring John Wayne framed in two dark wood frames against a dark brown felt backing.  My wife made it pretty clear she thought they were ugly and they certainly wouldn't be gracing the walls of the living room.  I had to get them anyway.  The antique store didn't know what they were, but I sure did.  I had told the story about these "medallions" in my first book Famous American Freemasons.  In fact, the chapter on John Wayne was the first chapter I wrote in that book.  You see, these aren't just "medallions."  Let me tell you the story . . .

In 1976, John Wayne began filming the movie The Shootist.  It is a film about an aging gunfighter, J.B. Books, who learns from the local physician, played by Jimmy Stewart, that he is dying of cancer.  He decides that rather than die in bed, he was going out in a blaze of glory--and he was going to take a few really bad dudes with him.  And what a great cast!  Jimmy Stewart.  Lauren Bacall.  Harry Morgan.  Ronnie Howard.  Richard Boone.  John Carradine. 

The irony of that script was that John Wayne really was dying of cancer.  Although he didn't know it at the time, The Shootist would be the Duke's last movie.  His health was failing when he took the role, and it got worse as they filmed.  It was uncertain he would be able to finish it.  He was gone off the set for long periods of time . . . first one week, and then two.  But finishing that film was important to the Duke and he was determined to do so.  And with the help of the director and the assistance of the cast, he did just that.  Despite terminal stomach cancer, he finished what many believe to be one of his best screen roles.

By 1979, Hollywood knew their favorite leading man was about out of time.  A delegation of some of the best actors in Hollywood, including John Wayne's favorite leading lady, Maureen O'Hara, flew to Washington, D.C. and testified before Congress that they felt John Wayne should be honored for his contributions to America.  Congress agreed and awarded John Wayne the Congressional Gold Medal on his 72nd birthday on May 26, 1979.  The Congressional Gold Medal featured John Wayne on horseback on one side, and his portrait on the other accompanied by the words that Maureen O'Hara suggested before Congress--the United States Mint liked the simplicity of her words and used them.  Her words said everything that needed to be said.  The medal designed for John Wayne states simply "John Wayne - American."

Great story, huh?

They look a little better the way I framed them . . .
I was happy to stumble on a set of these bronze castings of John Wayne's Congressional Gold Medal finally.  They do look dramatically different since I re-framed them than they did when Valerie and I first saw them.  And it doesn't happen very often, but Valerie was wrong--these are hanging on the living room wall.  She hung them there! 

~Todd E. Creason

originally published 5/26/15

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Taking The Train

I attended a three day conference in Chicago last week.  It's about a three hour drive for me to Chicago.  One thing I hate is driving in Chicago.  Usually by the time I get to my hotel, I'm ticked off, stressed out, and exhausted.  I'd been dreading that drive for a couple weeks.  Then somebody gave me a great idea, and I immediately realized I was going to do it.  I took the train to Chicago and back.  Last time I rode the train I was about five years old and my family rode the train to Baltimore.  The station is a couple blocks from where I work in Champaign, IL.  It seemed like a perfect solution.

And it was the perfect solution.  I got to the station a few minutes before boarding.  There were no security hassles, boarding was very organized and the train was on time.  It wasn't like the airport.  The travelers on the train weren't all  anxious and worried and pushing to get to the front of the line like you get when you're boarding a plane.  What is usually a three hour drive for me, was a two hour train ride--for about $22.  I stepped off the train at Union Station, got a cab, and was checked into my hotel within twenty minutes.

It was the same thing going home.  Relaxed and easy.  Ten minute cab ride to Union Station, boarded the train, and was on my way.  No stress.  The train was delayed a few times by northward bound freight trains on the way home, but I wasn't in a hurry, so I didn't really mind.  It was early in the day, so I found the dining car, got a cup of coffee and sat at the booth and watched the countryside roll past the windows.

As I sat there, I couldn't help but think about all those old movies I love to watch, and how important a role trains played in moving people and freight back in earlier times.  How the pace of life is so much faster now than it was then.  In fact, it's faster now than it was even twenty years ago.  We're always in such a huge rush to get to the next thing.  We can't seem to spare a moment to appreciate where we are.  Even on the train, I noticed a few people glued to their phones.  But I also noticed strangers doing something you never see many other places these days--I saw them visiting with each other.  Talking about the trip they were going on or had been on.  Talking about shopping in Chicago, or visiting a nephew at the University of Illinois.  You just don't see that much anymore.  Strangers visiting--we don't seem to have a problem being friendly and sharing with each other on social media, but we don't like real people face-to-face as much.

Technology is a great thing, but I sometimes think if comes at a tremendous price.  Sometimes it's nice to just turn it off, and enjoy the journey.

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Michael R. Poll Lecture

I ran across this last night, and I thought I'd share it with you. This is an excellent lecture by Michael R. Poll. Take some time to enjoy it!

 ~Todd E. Creason
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