The Care And Feeding Of Visiting Firemen

Jerry Marsengill

Grand Officers, like all Gaul, are divided into three kinds.

As Shakespeare, Bill, that is, puts it: "All the world's a stage. and all the men and women merely players, and each man in his life plays many parts. First the infant . . ."

Let us first consider the infant Grand Officer. This fellow is on his first visit to another Grand body. Perhaps he is a junior officer, representing the head of the body. Perhaps he is the Presiding Officer, making his first out of state visit. This is one who needs some guidance. There should be someone assigned to see that he is properly taken care of, that he finds his way to the Masonic Temple, and that he is properly instructed as to the times of the various events, whether or not formal dress will be required for a particular event, etc. To be blunt about it, this type should be led around by the hand. This is true only for his first one or two visits. After this he will become one of the second type of Grand Officers.

This is the Old Pro. He has been to so many different types of Masonic meetings, he can hardly count them. No matter where he goes, he knows a number of people and he can pretty well be depended on to make his own way. If he is assigned a host for a visit, he is grateful, but regards this host as something of a nuisance, someone who he has to drag around with him. He is self sufficient, and with a few minor courtesies, no one needs to worry about him. Most of our distinguished guests are of this second type.

Finally, we come at last to the third type of distinguished visitor. This guy is the "piece de resistance". He's the one who comes on wearing the little badge which says "Hi, My name's Jimmy. I'm the Grand High Priest." When you are introduced to him, he makes a point of letting you know that he's the Grand High Priest of something. No matter what clothes he wears, he always retains the little badge that says "Grand High Priest". (Twenty years ago, he'd probably have worn a necktie that lit up and said: "Will you kiss me in the dark, baby"). But regardless of what he wears, what he does, and how he acts, you are stuck with him. No matter what you do for him, it isn't enough. The proper courtesies due his exalted office are never properly rendered. One might as well forget about him, and go right ahead, because he can't be pleased. Thank Heaven these fellows are an infinitesimal minority of our distinguished guests.

Just in case any one wonders why I cal1 this one the Grand High Priest, instead of ridiculing one of the other bodies, the answer is fairly simple. I can't call him the Most Illustrious Grand Master, because I happen to be a Grand Council officer and my fearless leader might get irritated. Neither can I refer to him as a Grand Commander because a bolt of lightening might come down and strike me, therefore this leaves only the chapter for me to pick on.

Distinguished visitors should be given all the courtesies due their office, they shouldn't be allowed to interrupt the entire work of the body. We must face one fact before even considering the treatment of these visiting firemen. The annual meeting of any Grand body is run for the membership of that body. This is the time and place where the business of that body is transacted. The most important people in attendance are the three principal officers of the constituent bodies who have come to assist in transacting that business. When we allow these people to be shunted aside. ignored, and otherwise ill treated, in order to make the visiting dignitaries the primary focus of our attention, we are hurting and hampering the work of that particular Grand body.

Let us begin with the introduction and reception of distinguished visitors. We all have been to those bodies where they have at least twenty different parades to introduce visiting dignitaries. They sort their visitors by titles and bring them in in small groups according to their rank. Again we will single out the Chapter for our attention. They bring in the rank of Excellent then Right Excellent, then Most Excellent, then Presiding Grand High Priests. Following this they bring in the representatives of the other York Rite bodies of the state, then the Past Grand High Priests of their own jurisdiction. Interspersed with these they introduce the Prior of KYCH, the Intendent General of the Red Cross of Constantine and other dignitaries. Finally they bring in the representative of the General Grand Body and the Grand Master of Masons in the jurisdiction. Many times these introductions consume the entire morning, what with sending out committees, introducing distinguished visitors, and giving Grand Honors. Needless to say, this is not the greatest form of entertainment for the delegates who are in attendance and are endeavoring to run the business of the body.

For the past two years, in Iowa, we have set a certain time to receive distinguished guests. This is noted in the program which our guests receive well in advance of the meeting. If the notice says distinguished guests will be received at 9:00 A.M., they are received at promptly 9:00 A.M. Any Distinguished visitor arriving after that hour is merely introduced from the sidelines.

When the distinguished guests are received, they are all lined up together. The out of state guests, the heads of the other York Rite bodies, the Past Grand High Priests and other notables are all escorted in at one time. The only exception which we have made is that the General Grand Chapter representative and the Grand Master of Masons in Iowa are received separately.

Last year, at our Grand Chapter. we opened at 8:00 A.M. The Grand High Priest and his Grand Officers were received by the host chapter. And the Grand Chapter opened by 8:25 A.M.. The Distinguished guests had been notified to be present at 8:30 A.M. for reception. They were received introduced, the Grand Honors given, and by the time the Most Worshipful Grand Master, who was the last to be received, had finished his remarks, it was 8:50 A.M.. The Grand High Priest gave his address at this time and we picked up enough time that we were able to confer the Order of High Priesthood that morning. For the first time in many years, we had a full house for the Order of High Priesthood, and still finished the Chapter business at 4:30 P.M.. Normally the Order of High Priesthood would have started then, and closed just in time to make the banquet. Our present Grand High Priest has notified us, that the same general scheduling will take place in Ames, Iowa in 1973.

Grand visitors in attendance should be given all the honors due their respective stations but their reception and their talks should not be allowed to interfere with the normal transaction of business.

Who should be invited to these sessions? This is one of the thorny problems which face all Masonic bodies. What out of state guests will provide their own particular body in another jurisdiction? Many of our Grand jurisdictions, by resolution, have invited only the head of the body, while others continue to invite the Grand Secretary or Recorder. Some of these make it definite that only the head of the body is invited and that proxies will not be considered, while yet others are not definite and accept any guest, either a Past or Present Grand Officer, who cares to attend, invited or not. This can easily get out of hand. In Iowa, in one of our Grand bodies, the same out of state Past Grand Officer has come to our annual meetings for at least twenty years. When someone asked him about his continual attendance, he stated: "Oh, Iowa wouldn't feel right holding a meeting without me". How can we know this? He never gave us a chance to find out! The cold, hard, unassailable facts of the matter are, that Distinguished Guests, especially in these days of high priced hotel and motel rooms, are expensive. Personally, and this in only my personal opinion, I would not say that only the Presiding Head of the body should be invited or be in attendance. Many times, the second in command can derive much more profit from attending an out of state session that can be head of the body. The Presiding Officer is soon out of office, and, if these out of state visits are to be for mutual profit and not for merely forming a mutual admiration society, the King, Deputy Master, or Generalissimo, can gain much needed assistance for his own program for the coming years. I do think this. If the host body is to provide motel rooms etc. then the visiting body should have the common courtesy to see that only one representative from their state is in attendance.

As I stated earlier, the important people at these meetings are the representatives of the constituent bodies. A five year study of our own Grand Council expenses, taken from the proceedings of the Grand Council of Iowa shows that our expenses for visitors have gotten out of hand on some occasions. For example in the five years the expenses ran as follows:

1967 564.67 690.60
1968 574.21 666.40
1969 355.35 472.00
1970 695.37 635.80
1971 675.47 964.34
1972 813.72 748.40

The figures for 1972 are not published but are approximated from my serving as chairman of arrangements for the Grand Council session.

It can be noted here that twice, within six years, the expense for guests has exceeded that for delegates. Mainly this is due to rising prices for motel rooms, meals, etc. while the delegates are receiving the same per diem and mileage allowance. To combat this, in Iowa, our Grand Master. after much thought and much consultation with his Grand Officers and the Board of Trustees, issued an order that the expenses of visitors would be borne by the bodies which sent them, while his own expenses, while on out of state visitations, would be borne by the Grand Council of lowa. Not only has this served as a deterrent to too many uninvited guests, it has also given the junior Grand Officers an opportunity to visit other Grand jurisdictions without feeling like parasites. Since we pay our own expenses. our Grand Master has informed us that we can visit where we like, so long as we do not impose on the host bodies. Other states surrounding Iowa have taken the same step and conceivably, other bodies within the state will do likewise. It may not be the ideal solution, but it is working for Iowa.

Another thing which should receive attention, when we consider visiting firemen, is the custom of meeting every small group, or honorary society, at the same time as the Grand York Rite session.

The distinguished guests, most of whom belong to their other bodies. are invited to the various breakfasts and luncheons, while the delegates. and let me reiterate, these are the important people, are left to shift for themselves. In this same category, I place the breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners for the Grand Officers and distinguished guests, and the meals for the Grand Officers' ladies and the wives of distinguished visitors. These meals tend to set the Grand Officers apart from the delegates.

Far too many times there will be a breakfast for the Red Cross of Constantine, a luncheon for the K.Y.C.H., another breakfast for the HRAKTP and probably a luncheon for the Ring Tailed Order of Raccoons. (If this latter organization is not yet a reality, it's merely because no one has yet thought of it.) I do not intend to ridicule the honorary societies. I belong to a number of them and enjoy them. However, anything which occurs at these sessions which tends to segregate the delegates and the Grand Officers and distinguished visitors, causes these delegates to think that they have wasted their time in attending the Grand Session since it seems merely to be held for the benefit of the Grand Officers and the honored guests.

At our last Grand Council session, our Grand Master cancelled all breakfasts for the various bodies, and with the cooperation of the Prior of KYCH and Intendent General, and the Sovereign of the Red Cross of Constantine, sponsored a free breakfast, at the expense of the Grand Council for all in attendance. The menu consisted of orange juice, sausages, pancakes, eggs fried to order, and coffee. This breakfast was so successful that the Grand High Priest held a similar breakfast for all in attendance. Not only did this give the delegates a chance to visit with the distinguished visitors, it gave the Grand Officers a much more relaxed breakfast, and finally it saved money for the Grand bodies. At the 1971 Grand Chapter, the breakfast bill for the Grand Officers, their ladies, and the distinguished guests was approximately $143.00. At the 1972 session with over 250 persons in attendance the cost of the free breakfast was $100.00. Naturally this takes the cooperation of the various honorary bodies, which was freely given. We felt that, with this cooperation, the friendly feeling which this breakfast engendered, and the simple fact that the delegates, visitors, and their wives all had breakfast together. we gained a much larger crowd for our installation, and for the closing ceremonies of the bodies. We also feel that it is likely that we will profit by larger attendance at our Grand Sessions in the future. At least we heard far less of the usual lament: "The Grand meetings are held only for the Grand Officers, there's no reason for us to come."

What works in Iowa will not necessarily work everywhere, but people are pretty much the same all over. Visiting firemen have their place. They arc important, and the good will which they generate is important. But distinguished guests, while important, while welcome, are not the most important people at a Grand Session. The delegates from the constituent bodies are the really important people. If they are well treated. and made to feel as if they are in attendance for a purpose, then these delegates will go back to their bodies and will enthusiastically work for the success of that body which they have represented. Give all honor due to visiting firemen, make certain that they have an enjoyable time. but don't allow their reception and their attendance to obscure the primary fact of the meeting. These are business meetings and to those who are chosen to conduct that business we must give the most consideration. We must be always careful to consider the important people, the delegates from the constituent bodies.